Only 5 senses? There’s actually 6 more, and here’s how they work

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Aristotle’s desperately outdated five sense model may still be popular, but it vastly under-estimates our extraordinary human capacity for sensing.

1. Proprioception — the sensing of the location of our body parts in space — has been relatively ignored, but it’s critical for confidence in using our bodies…

2. Our vestibular system allows us to sense the direction of gravity (and so which way is up), as well as horizontal and vertical movement (as in a car or a lift) and in three dimensions (as on a rollercoaster)…

3. We know that our eyes are not just for seeing. When melanopsin-expressing cells in the retina are exposed to light, they send signals to the master body-clock, in the brain’s hypothalamus…


4. Smell is not hugely regarded, or developed, in many people in Western cultures. But research with hunter-gatherer groups… shows that we have the biological capacity to smell extraordinarily well…

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5. We have receptors in our skin that register temperatures within specific ranges. Stimulation of our “warmth-sensors”, in particular, has been linked to feeling less lonely…

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6. About 10% of us are really good at sensing our own heartbeat without feeling for a pulse, 5-10% of us are terrible at it, and the rest fall in between. Research shows that people who are better at so-called “cardiac interoception” experience emotions more intensely.


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