The Nine (not Five) Senses of a Human Being
We often talk about the sixth sense of a person, that is, their unusual ability to grasp the inner nature of things intuitively. The name 6th sense is the result of the popular belief that a person has five "normal" senses. In fact, however, the human being has at least nine senses.
The understanding of the well-known five senses, that is, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, comes to us from from a listing by Aristotle. While he was without doubt a brilliant mind, Aristotle often misunderstood the nature and origin of things.
For instance, he taught that we used our hearts to process thought; that bees came from the rotting carcasses of bulls; and that flies possessed only four legs.
Beyond Aristotle's five senses, we now know of at least four additional commonly agreed senses. Although science identified these a long time ago, the myth of the five senses still hold firm in the mind of the public. The four additional sense are:
- The sense of heat and its absence on our skin, called Thermoception.
- Our sense of balance, determined by the fluid-holding cavities in the inner ear, called Equilibrioception.
- The perception of pain from the skin, joints, and body organs, called Nociception.
Note, this doesn't include the brain, which has no pain receptors at all. Headaches do not come from inside the brain, even if sometimes it feels that way.
- Body awareness, called Proprioception, which is the unconscious knowledge of where our body parts are when we are unable to feel or see them.
For instance, if you keep your eyes closed and waggle your foot in the air, you will still be aware where it is in relation to the rest of the body, even though you'll not be able to see it.
Every neurologist with an opinion (they are plenty) has their own take on whether there are actually more than these nine senses. Some of them even argue that we may possess up to twenty-one senses. Hunger or thirst, the sense of meaning, depth or language are all senses aren't they?
Not to mention the popular subject of synaesthesia, or when a sensation that normally occurs in one sense modality occurs when another modality is stimulated. In synaesthesia our senses collide and combine enabling us to perceive music in color?
Who could deny the sense of impending danger? We have discovered senses that some animals have but human beings do not.
- Sharks can sense electric fields via their keen electroception.
- Birds and insects use magnetoception, that is, the ability to detect magnetic fields, to help them navigate in the air.
- Fish use echolocation and the lateral line to sense pressure.
- Owls and deers use their infrared vision to feed or hunt in pitch black.