We’ve all learned about the five senses of the human body: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. And that’s it, right? But think about it – your body does so much more than these five things. You can sense temperature, for example. You have an innate sense of your own body and how it exists in a space. In fact we have so many senses that the number is closer to 40 than to five. Here’s what we know about them.
What we call senses are really just all the ways our brain processes the information we receive about the outside world, and our bodies are designed to collect this information in many different ways. Take balance, for instance, which is all managed by fluids in your ears that help your body orient it in space and directly in relation to gravity. However as we learned when reading about the quietest place in the world, balance and our sense of space can also be thrown off by other senses, such as the absence of sound.
Some senses aren’t directly associated with a single organ or body part – take proprioception, for example, which is our awareness of how our body exists in space. Proprioception is the reason you can, for instance, close your eyes and still be able to touch your nose without looking to check where it is. It’s also one of the main senses that gets thrown off by experiences like VR games, where your sense of your body doesn’t match your sight of it.
Not everyone agrees on what should be called senses, of course. Some would argue that things like hunger and thirst are senses, or a need to go to the bathroom. There are also more abstract senses like time, which the human brain has rather complex systems to track.
So where did our simplified ‘five senses’ come from? The original theory is credited to Aristotle, though in later times it was popularised by artists and writers for whom the five senses well suited allegory. The five senses are mentioned often in Shakespeare’s works, and later were the subject of many allegorical artworks.
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