Human sensory perception

Aristotle was wrong about many things but one of the more enduring legacies has been his belief about the number of human senses. Granted, Aristotle only identified 4 senses, 1 for each of his proposed “elements” (seeing = water, hearing = air, smelling = fire, touching = earth) [On Sense and the Sensible by Aristotle], but his beliefs seemed to have largely shaped the notion of “the 5 senses” that would be taught in the following centuries.

The definition of what constitutes a sense is still debated so counting the number of senses depends entirely on that definition. I’ve seen counts from 3 to over 20 depending on the definition of sense. But I think it is important to understand the nature of some of the additional sensory information the human body possesses. These include:

  • equilibrioception – perception of balance, acceleration, gravity
  • thermoception – perception of heat, cold, rate of heat flow
  • proprioception – perception of where one’s own body is relative to itself
  • nociception – perception of pain
  • chronoception – perception of the passage of time

You can read more about these, and other senses here: Sense – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is not a closed subject but, rather, still being debated and researched. I would expect understandings of human sensory perception to continue to expand given time.

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