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phoenyx's avatar

Why do we claim to have only five senses when it is obvious that we have more?

Asked by phoenyx (7380points) February 11th, 2010

The five senses being sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.

It’s not that simple, though, is it? When I touch a hot pan I’m experiencing it tactilely, but I’m also sensing the heat of the pan (thermoception) and pain. Our skin can sense a lot.

I can close my eyes and still touch my nose (propioception).

I can stand up and I don’t fall over because I have a sense of balance. My vestibular system also helps me feel linear acceleration, angular momentum, and orientation.

I can estimate intervals of time.

There are probably even more that I’m not thinking of right now.

Why do we ignore them?

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46 Answers

smokeweedeveryday's avatar

Yeah but aren’t those the five main senses?

njnyjobs's avatar

The five senses could probably be considered as primordial senses, wherein the perceptions you listed originate from depending on the brains ability to process the stimulus.

smokeweedeveryday's avatar

Oh and also a mother’s intuition. Does that count?

phoenyx's avatar

@njnyjobs aren’t all of our senses “the brain processing stimulii”?

phoenyx's avatar

What distinguishes a “main” sense? I’d rather give up my sense of smell than my sense of balance. Without my sense of balance I’d have a hard time functioning.

ucme's avatar

Yeah I’m hearing what you say.Just to touch on one point,I have the foresight to smell a good question,as long as it’s in good taste.

erichw1504's avatar

I was going to say what @smokeweedeveryday said. The other ones you listed stem from the five main ones. Although, I do believe at least some of us have a sixth sense of ESP.

Dr_C's avatar

#1 Thermoception and nociception are forms (variants if you will) of your sense of touch…
#2 “your sense of balance” regulated by your vestibular system is regulated in the same way as your sense of hearing.. by gauging varying pressure (air pressure) fluctuation between the outer and inner ear essentially the same mechanism that causes your eardrums to vibrate (i.e. sound).

Propioception is linked to both touch and balance, as well as muscle memory which is not a sense.

The ability to tell time is cognitive reasoning and is not a “sense”.

DrC's avatar

Estimating periods of time is a function of cognition. Some of the others you mentioned seem to be a combination of our sense of touch (which includes pain, temperature, vibration, position sense, etc.) and the brain processing these to make sense of them. When you talk about senses, I believe that it refers to a neurological phenomenon based on receptors – visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, touch.

Qingu's avatar

The other senses don’t generate as rich of experiences or connect you with the “outside world” as much as the so-called “five” senses.

If your body were a city, the five senses would be ambassadors and explorers of outside realms, while the other senses you mentioned would be more like bureaucrats in charge of the city’s internal functions.

Snarp's avatar

All those things your skin can sense are still touch really, aren’t they? I can see blue, red, green, bright, dim, near, far – but those aren’t all senses. I can hear tone, volume, pitch – but that’s all still hearing.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Today,I am claiming numbness.That’s it.So there.;)

bellusfemina's avatar

When you can feel someone looking at you- this is an example of an extra sense.

Cruiser's avatar

There is ESP which fascinates the hell out of me. I firmly believe we can feel and sense things that may be a hyper combination of all the senses or some other yet undefined sense or ability.

njnyjobs's avatar

ESP, acronym for Extra Sensory Perception, is only that, a perception…. a product of the minds’ ability to process the combination of the senses

mattbrowne's avatar

Some neuroscientists consider memory to be the sixth sense.

Sorry to be so frank, but ESP is New Age pseudoscience.

grumpyfish's avatar

Why do we claim to have four elements, when it’s clear we have many more?

I mean, it’s not just Earth Air Fire and Water anymore, right?

davidbetterman's avatar

Actually, ESP is quite extraordinarily real. I see it all the time on the Ghost Whisperer show.

grumpyfish's avatar

@davidbetterman Uh, hope you’re joking, that’s fiction =)

ESP falls under something that works great until you start to test it, then it stops working. Therefore, is some combination of other effects (subconcious cueing, etc.), not the mechanism that’s assumed to work by those who believe it.

phoenyx's avatar

@grumpyfish don’t forget aether

(which is what I first thought when I heard of the movie The Fifth Element)

grumpyfish's avatar

@phoenyx Aether doesn’t exist, Einstein proved that.

phoenyx's avatar

doh, I’m hijacking my own thread

erichw1504's avatar

And what about umami… oh wait, that’s something else.

phoebusg's avatar

@DrC – well put. There are many brain systems that can tell intervals or “time”. Higher level systems (cognition) depends upon them. So you could say we do sense time, or respond to the intervals we see and adapt our own intervals to that.

I like how the brain ties in multi-use, and makes best use of all sensors for as many things as they can do.

nikipedia's avatar

I love your questions.

I agree that proprioception and the vestibular sense should be considered separately. But the tactile experiences you describe fall under the umbrella term of “touch.”

Whether something is considered a “sense” is also going to depend on how we’re defining the word. It seems to me that our senses all have to do with interpreting something tangible in our environment. Since time is intangible, it is hard to argue we have a specific sense devoted to it. Same goes for memory.

I’m not saying time and memory don’t exist. But to call them “senses” really broadens the definition of the word “sense”, perhaps to the point that it loses meaning.

phoebusg's avatar

@nikipedia good point. They are perceptions – analysis and interpretation of what comes through the primary senses. Good distinction – for many reasons.

mangeons's avatar

Could it be that perhaps all of the other senses we posses stem off of the five main senses- taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound- so we categorize them under the five dominant senses?

njnyjobs's avatar

@mangeons what other senses do you speak of? . . . all the other things presented here are perceptions, hence the suffix “ception”?

mangeons's avatar

@njnyjobs For example, in the question, @phoenyx mentions a “sense of balance”. Would it not be much harder to have a sense of balance if we couldn’t feel, or see, for example?

njnyjobs's avatar

@mangeons well, if we follow your reasoning that includes feel and see, wouldn’t that then fall under touch (feel) and sight (see)? so, you use up 2 senses to experience another one?

mangeons's avatar

@njnyjobs Correct. Many of our other senses can and will depend on at least one or more of the five dominant senses. Not all, but many.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

I believe that we have many dormant or sleeping senses that we could awaken.
And if Astrology could point to possibilities, might there be 12 or even 24? Perhaps 360 even?

I seriously know that no one believes in Vampires, but just look at all the extra senses that Vampires have. Where do they get it from? The DNA in the Blood.

Look at all the extra senses Jesus (Yeshua) had, and he said that all that he could do, we could do too. And then there’s that my blood and my body communion thing he wanted us to re-member him by. hhhmmmmmm….....I wonder if there’s a connection somewhere there…..

Qingu's avatar

@OneMoreMinute, it is statistically phenomenal that in the entirety of your 110-word response you managed to not say a single thing that is correct.

I mean I would have expected at least an accidental or random true statement but no.

Snarp's avatar

You know, of all the bizarre interpretations of things in the Bible, I think transubstantiation is the craziest. @Qingu is the expert on taking the Bible literally (and using that literal interpretation as a rapier against religion), but I think even he will agree that one cannot take the things that come out of Jesus’ mouth literally. Jesus made it quite clear he spoke in parables, he was the king of cryptic metaphor and simile, so even if you believe that everything the Apostles wrote was true, why would you believe the wine literally became his blood and the bread his body? Where is the suggestion that it is anything more than Jesus being a drama queen? Now if the apostles suddenly said: “woah! This really is blood!”, then you would have a case.

Qingu's avatar

Yeah, I don’t think taking “this bread is my body” etc literally makes a damn bit of sense.

However, transubstantiation can be delicious.

phoebusg's avatar

@Snarp I disagree. The king of cryptic to my knowledge were the Greeks, many still don’t get some of the ‘cryptography’ – Jesus, if he existed was only a disciple in that respect :)
Alright, maybe a prince – how is that?

Snarp's avatar

@phoebusg “cryptic metaphor and simile” where “cryptic” is an adjective describing both “metaphor” and “simile”, not just “cryptic” or “cryptography”.

phoebusg's avatar

@Snarp yes. Look up each word you just used in OED. You may be amazed by the etymology and origin.

Soubresaut's avatar

I was actually wondering about this because of my psych textbook—it lists six senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and balance… but then says the ‘5 senses’. I don’t get it.

The ‘balance sense’ is a combo of 2, in a way—the vestibular sense is the inner ear, telling you of your orientation in the world based on how liquid sloshes around in some tubes. And then there’s kinesthetic sense, your body’s awareness of where all your body parts are in relation to each other: you have receptors in all of your joints to tell which way that part of your body is turning, and then your brain compiles what all the different joints are telling it, connects the dots (probably fills in with tactile sensations….) So personally, I’d call it a legit sense.
And going further, you can in fact train yourself to balance without the use of sight or the inner ear—that’s actually something you strive for in dance, because you won’t always be able to see, and your head won’t always be still.

And all these people saying that the other senses @phoenyx mentioned aren’t real because they benefit from the 5 accepted ones? The 5 accepted ones rely on each other, too: taste would be really boring if you didn’t have scent receptors a floor above adding some life to the party. And hearing and sight are both interpreting electromagnetic waves, just of slightly different frequencies, and the brain interprets them differently. But in way they’re the same thing—some animals’ eyes are their ears…. All senses overlap and enhance each other. And thank goodness they do!

I think it’s kinda limiting if we just decide we know all about perception, especially since we don’t even fully know how the 5 (or 6? (: ) we’re aware of work yet… the 5 we talk about just so happen to conveniently have rather obvious entry points (nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hands) but what’s to say there aren’t more? Do we really know? Have we proved there aren’t? No. We don’t know… so I like to keep an open mind. : )

phoebusg's avatar

@DancingMind nice reply. But it’s not like we don’t know how they work. Look at neuroscience or physiological psychology – there is nauseating detail as to how much we know. But it’s a question of semantics. A sense is something that comes with direct – and initial interaction with the environment – in the derived semantic.

davidbetterman's avatar

@Qingu It is simply amazing that someone would actually count the words in a response he feels to be ignorant.

Qingu's avatar

I didn’t count them, the robots did after I C&P’d it. I’m not that lame!

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