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The Nine (not Five) Senses of a Human Being

Updated on February 10, 2011

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.

Girl balancing on a tree trunk.
Girl balancing on a tree trunk.

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:

  1. The sense of heat and its absence on our skin, called Thermoception.

  2. Our sense of balance, determined by the fluid-holding cavities in the inner ear, called Equilibrioception.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Owls have infra vision to help them hunt at night.
Owls have infra vision to help them hunt at night.

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.

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    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I guess the fight or flight syndrome would be a sense,thanks for opening the concept of what a sense can be Haunty.;)

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

      I'm open to any number of senses - just wish they were easier to pronounce! Thanks for this informative hub, Haunty! :)

    • melpor profile image

      Melvin Porter 6 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Good hub. But Equilibrioception, Norciception, Proprioception and Thermoception are all decriptions of the sense of touch. We all have five senses. Proprioception works with the equilibrium system in our ears. The ears not only help us maintain our balance but also help us determine the position of our body through other touch receptors distributed throughout our body. Electroception and Magnetoception in animal falls under the sense of touch, Echolocation in bats and fish falls under the sense of sound and infrared vision falls under the sense of sight. The owl is seeing light in another part of the electromagnetic spectrum. We see light in the visible part of the spectrum.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 6 years ago from West By God

      Oh yes and number 4 those who have limbs takenoff can still feel the limb there even when physically it isn't. Thanks for the article. Voted up useful and awesome.

    • profile image

      John Orton 6 years ago

      Vision, smell , taste , touch and hearing. Right

      Some one said that love is sixth sense which destroy all five senses...lol... just kidding :)

      Article was very nice and informative.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • lisadpreston profile image

      lisadpreston 5 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      I feel I learned something. Very interesting hub.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Nice hub, although these 4 are an extension of more than one of the 5 senses. The 5 senses are the basic senses and the other 4 senses have one of these as the parent senses.

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      jone,fiji islands 2 years ago

      Yes, 'm studying the skin.I found that it can sense and inform the brain on heat/cold,pain,vibration,pressure,sound/ultrasound...

    • profile image

      AC Esch 2 weeks ago

      I think this is brilliant. This article and the whole idea behind it has just expanded my universe. In not limiting the sense to five and instead giving room to more possibilities how we can experience the world, we suddently have also more possibilities to learn, to communicate, to experiment and to understand strengths and weaknesses in other people and in our self. I guess in the end we'll find a great number of senses and would be able to group them then back into "natural senses of the skin, the eyes, etc...". But grouping those senses is something completely different then only getting to know five.

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