Random Thoughts: Only Five Senses?


At a young age, we learn that we have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. What if we had more?

I understand that references to “extra senses” sounds like new-age clap-trap, something that goes along with “healing crystals” or alien abductions. However, no unicorns were harmed in the writing of this post, and below are my suggestions for those extra senses.

Balance: It is easy to forget this (until you lose it) but balance is really something apart from the other senses. In the absence of other senses you will still be able to know which way is up. It can be fooled (e.g., pilots in zero visibility) but so can all the other senses.

Proprioception: This is the sense of where your body fits in space. It is what allows you touch your own nose, brush your own hair, and shift gears in a car. If you need to, you can do these things without looking, you do not use your other senses to guide your actions. It is probably far easier to touch your own nose than touch the nose of another person, whom you can see.

Intuition: If you were with me up to this, you might now be fearing for the safety of the unicorn. Intuition is knowing without knowing. It is the ability to take current sensory input and mix it memories of previous experience to make decisions. That understanding happens in the same way that you know up is up, the difference between cold and hot, sweet and bitter, etc. In other words, it more like a sensory input than a developed skill; you become aware of “something” without consciously trying to discern it in the same way you notice bitter before you put a name to it.

Proximity: Perhaps related to proprioception (or even intuition), it is the ability to know when someone (or something) is within your personal space without actually seeing them. It may be that subtle sensory clues (sound, subtle air movements, even smell) tipped you off, or it maybe another sense.

Sense of humor: I am not joking with this post, at least I am not intentionally attempting humor. What do you think, are my suggestions plausible, or should I kill the unicorn and toss the healing crystals?

This is another Random Thought in the Random Thoughts series of quickfire posts (more like comments than articles).

5 Responses to “Random Thoughts: Only Five Senses?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    There are dozens of senses, we learn about them in med school when we do Neurology, as very specific problems can subtly affect specific senses (like pressure sensation, thermoception etc etc)
    [DU: Very interesting. I hadn’t even considered those, but of course they make (dare I say it) sense. Unicorns or not, it seems I underestimated, rather than stretched possibilities.]

  2. Samson Says:

    What do you think, are my suggestions plausible, or should I kill the unicorn and toss the healing crystals?

    I think you’re spot-on. To your list I would add “religiosity”, or “the experience of God”, or whatever you want to call it.
    [DU: I suppose it could be a sense, it may be experienced as a sensation, or presence, but I had always considered such feelings as an emotional response. I have always considered religion to be para-rational: not irrational, as critics would claim, but not solely rational either. Considering it a sense, something experienced, is a good an explanation as mine]

  3. Hope Says:

    Excellent post, and good to see you back at blogging. It’s basically spot on, although I would use less “uncertain” language and just straight up proclaim it. No need to hem and haw around this topic. It is lesser beings who would disagree anyway. 😉
    [DU: This post was one of those things that popped into my head, less an aha moment and more of a what-if moment. I felt there was more speculation than science in my suggestion. While the first two (balance and proprioception) were plausible (perhaps even accepted – I have not looked), the others seemed a bit more uncertain. Lesser beings do not read this blog.]

  4. Bhetti Says:

    Touch has complicated subsets: pain, vibration, light touch, pressure and temperature are all considered differently. You have a sensor that tells you whether a hair follicle has been moved as well.

    For each classical sense, there’s also different subsets to them. Hearing isn’t just about hearing the noise, but in for example the case of human speech interpreting the tone, the inflections.

    There’s also all the unconscious monitoring you undertake yourself. If you aren’t consciously aware of it, is it still a sense? E.g. Hunger, thirst…?

    Have you read Oliver Sacks’ Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat? You will like it if not.
    [DU: I have heard of Sacks, and even heard of the book, however, I have not read it. I will keep an eye out for it.]

  5. Hope Says:

    Speaking of the hearing sense, I learned recently that recognizing speech and music are entirely different senses. Someone my friend knows got cochlear implants, and after some time she can hear speech, laughter and other noises just fine, but her brain literally cannot process music. When some simple song like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star gets played, she has no idea. She can imagine it in her head, but she does not hear it. The doctors say with time her brain will be able to adjust to the implants and be able to hear music — it’s like “relearning” how to hear all over again.
    [DU: Fascinating, thanks.
    Reminds me of a joke:
    Patient: Will I be able to play the piano after the operation?
    Doctor: Yes, of course.
    Patient: That’s good, I can’t play it now.]

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