Blame it on Aristotle. So far humanity has been coasting along the Greek philosopher’s five senses model to navigate the world. But when scientists that eternally curious breed are not all Professor Calculus, who is all knees and elbows, bumping into things and stubbing his toes. They are smart people who have now found that to avoid such disasters, you need to develop a hitherto undiscovered sense named proprioception. The British Psychological Society (BPS) Research Digest has added three more major senses—proprioception, interoception, and vestibular senses that take the total to eight, not to mention other body sensors.
It is proprioception that enables us to sense the location of our limbs, head and other parts in the space around us. “If you now shut your eyes, and extend a leg, it’s thanks to this sense that you know exactly where your leg is. To go for a run or work out in the gym, and not fall or injure yourself, you need a good sense of proprioception,” says the BPS. Proprioception can be developed or can fade away if not trained. Yoga is a perfect example since it involves complicated coordinated body movements. So are skiing, ballet and kayaking.
Interoception, which is linked to high EQ, is the proficiency to stay tuned in to your body—only 10 percent of people can sense their heartbeat without literally placing a finger on their pulse. “Research shows that people who are better at so-called ‘cardiac interoception’ experience emotions more intensely, enjoy more nuanced emotions, and are better at recognising other people’s emotions, which is a critical first step in empathy,” claims the BPS. “In contrast, people who don’t experience emotions in a typical way suffer from impairments in inner sensing.” Five to 10 percent of people in the world have low interoception sense while the rest 80 percent fall in between. They can experience more nuanced emotions and are better at empathising with other people’s feelings.
This is the reason why we instinctively sense; what is up (like the sky or a ceiling) or that a lift is going down is because of our vestibular senses that automatically know the direction of gravity’s pull. It is this sense that helps you maintain your balance during air turbulence or a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride. These are extreme examples but without vestibular sense, everyday tasks cannot be accomplished smoothly. Says BPS, “Research shows that a healthy vestibular system is important not only for balance but for our sense of being grounded inside a physical body; in fact, people with vestibular problems are more likely to report out-of-body experiences. They’re also more likely to get lost because a healthy vestibular system is important for a good sense of direction.” The study recommends tai chi to boost the system and stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
BPS has added temperature sensors with which our bodies keep track of time using light. Temperature affects us socially, the cooler it is, the more people seek human warmth. Stimulations of warmth-sensors in human skin that register temperatures within specific ranges have been linked to feeling less lonely, and feel warmer towards others.
Interoception development technique
Choose a quiet place and set a timer on your phone for one minute. Wait. Now start the timer, and try to count your heartbeats. Repeat while feeling for your pulse this time to get accurate feedback to boost interoceptive awareness. Repeat for 10 minutes.