Incredible Facts About Your Five Senses That You Probably Take For Granted

When it comes to our five senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing – how much do you actually know? These five elements play an integral role in our everyday lives, so much so that we hardly even notice them. Did you know that our brains have a distorted “map” of the surface of our bodies? Or how about the fact that humans can literally smell fear? Both of these are true, according to many scientific studies. After reading all of these incredible facts about your five senses, you won’t ever take them for granted again.

The Reason We Like More Foods As Adults

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Steve Granitz/WireImage
Steve Granitz/WireImage

As we get older, our taste buds become less sensitive. This is why foods that you didn’t particularly like as a child become more palatable when you’re an adult.

Taste buds are like fingerprints in that no two people are exactly alike. On average, people can have anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds and aside from the tongue, they can be found on the roof and walls of your mouth, your throat, and even as far back as your esophagus.

Flavor Tasting Doesn’t Happen In The Mouth

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Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

If you think the delicious sensation you get from biting into a slice of chocolate cake or a juicy cheeseburger is happening all in your mouth, think again. What actually occurs when you taste something scrumptious is a dance between your taste buds and your cranial nerves.

They work together to send molecules of your food to the olfactory nerve endings at the back of your nose, which in turn sends smell signals back to your brain. Everything works together to give you the sensation of flavor.

If You Can’t Smell, You Can’t Taste

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Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There’s a reason you can hardly taste things when your nose is stuffed up as a result of a cold. When you smell something with your nose, your brain registers this as coming from your nose. Meanwhile, a lot of what you taste is perceived as a smell coming from the back of your throat, so your brain knows it’s coming from your mouth.

But if you can’t smell because of a stuffy or broken nose, your olfactory receptors are damaged, blocked, or inflamed, which prevents them from sending either of these signals to your brain.

The Scent Of Ham Will Make Your Food Saltier

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Alex Cheek/Flickr
Alex Cheek/Flickr

The food you eat on a daily basis might be less salty or sweet than you think they are. In order to avoid overconsumption of sodium and sugar, food scientists have been helping companies develop “phantom aromas” to create the impression of these tastes.

They’ve found that people associate ham flavors with saltiness and the same goes for vanilla when it comes to sweetness. By adding subtle ham or vanilla scents to foods, your brain will perceive these items as saltier or sweeter than they are made to be.

We Feel Things More In Different Parts Of The Body

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barbara w/Flickr
barbara w/Flickr

Our sense of touch is perhaps the most overlooked of the five senses. You’re never not physically feeling something on your body but a lot of it is tuned out. In fact, there’s a part of our brains that has a map of our body surface but according to neurobiologist David Linden, that map is distorted.

“It over-represents areas that have lots of fine touch receptors (like the face, the lips, the tongue, and the fingers) and under-represents areas that don’t have many receptors (like the small of your back, your chest, and your thighs),” Linden explained to Vox.

Our Sense Of Touch Peaks At Age 18

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Godong/UIG via Getty Images
Godong/UIG via Getty Images

We begin to lose our sense of touch as we age but don’t be too alarmed – this happens at an extremely slow rate. “It’s not like we have them until a certain age, then they suddenly disappear – we lose them very, very slowly. They peak around age 16 or 18, then disappear slowly,” Linden told Vox.

As a result, we become less sensitive to pain and temperature over time. It’s also why the elderly are more susceptible to falling because they lose sensation at the bottoms of their feet.

You Can Actually Be Blind To Touch

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Lana Priatna/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Lana Priatna/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Though our sense of touch is constantly working, there are some people out there who aren’t so lucky. Touch-blindness occurs as a result of a rare disorder called primary sensory neuropathy. Neurobiologist David Linden told Vox about a woman he studied who’d lost all her sensors for mechanical touch.

“She claims she can’t feel anything at all. She can’t read braille. If she puts her hands in her pockets, she can’t tell a penny from a quarter,” Linden said. In lab studies, however, this woman has been able to roughly discern caresses on her forearm or leg.

Touch Can Influence Your First Impressions

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Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Your sense of touch can also affect the first impressions you make about people – all without having to actually touch them. Psychologically, when we first meet someone, we decide whether or not we view them as a friend or a foe and touch can influence these perceptions, whether or not the information received from it is relevant.

In one study, for example, subjects would hold either a cold or an iced drink when meeting someone for the first time. Those who held the hot drink would rate the people they met as warmer, leading them to believe that person was more sociable.

Eyes Are Complex And Work Harder Than You Think

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Ben Brain/Digital Camera Magazine via Getty Images
Ben Brain/Digital Camera Magazine via Getty Images

The muscles in your eyes are both the strongest and fastest muscles in your body, relative to their main functions. There are six extraocular muscles in each of your eyes, which make movements that are often involuntary. This allows you to see things in your peripheral vision without necessarily looking in that direction.

As a whole, your eyes have more than two million working parts that allow them to adjust to different conditions and overcome disturbances at a moment’s notice.

Eyes Are Taking In Way Too Much Information

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Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Your eyes are so incredible, that under the most perfect conditions, they’d be able to recognize a candle from up to 14 miles away. When functioning at 100-percent capacity, the eyes are actually doing a lot more than you think.

Eyes can process 36,000 pieces of information per hour, delivering all this data to the brain, which contextualizes and evaluates it. Scientists estimate that over your lifetime, you will process 24 million images through your eyes, which contribute to 85-percent of your knowledge.

Animal Pupils Reveal Their Place In The Food Chain

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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

When it comes to animals, you can tell their place in the food chain just by looking at their eyes. Many animals have pupils that are shaped differently from humans’. Predatory animals, such as big cats and snakes, will often have vertical slits for pupils. This allows them to accurately discern the distance between themselves and their prey.

On the contrary, animals with pupils that are horizontal have them that way so they can look out for predators. These animals include herbivores, goats, deer, and cattle.

Your Eyesight Isn’t Affected By Watching TV Up Close

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edward stojakovic/Flickr
edward stojakovic/Flickr

As children, we were often warned not to sit to close to the television or read in dim lighting because of what it might do to our eyesight. As it turns out, however, doing either of these things might cause some strain but have nothing to do with deteriorating your vision.

The strength of your eyesight is partially determined by the length of your eye. Nearsighted folks have longer-than-average eyes, while farsighted people have shorter eyes. Other factors are the shape of your cornea and your lens.

We Can Smell At Least One Trillion Odors

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In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Humans are capable of smelling at least one trillion scents, according to some studies. While it has been widely believed that we could only discern up to 10,000 different odors, scientists have found that we are capable of smelling much more.

The number 10,000 has appeared in literature published on the subject of smell, but few scientists have actually tested that number. While trying to find 10,000 different tests would be a time-consuming study, studies in which researchers created various mixtures of 128 different scent molecules have suggested that humans’ noses are more powerful than we thought.

You Can’t Taste Without Saliva

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Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

You will hardly taste a thing if your mouth is dry. This is because our saliva plays a huge role into how we consume food. Saliva works to break down the chemicals in the food we eat, which then allows the receptors in our taste buds to receive them.

If your mouth is dry and you try to eat something sweet or salty, you likely wouldn’t taste anything. The receptors in your taste buds actually need a liquid medium to bind to the chemicals in the food.

We Can Literally Smell Fear

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FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images
FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Humans may actually be able to smell fear. In a 2012 study published in Psychological Science, researchers collected the sweat from male participants who watched movies that evoked feelings of fear and disgust.

They used scent-free products and abstained from smoking and alcohol to remain odor-neutral throughout the experience. Afterward, the sweat samples were given to women who would then smell them. Researchers found that women who smelled the “fear sweat” reacted with fearful expressions, while they reacted with disgust to the “disgust sweat.”

Females Have A Better Sense Of Smell

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giraudou laurent/Corbis via Getty Images
giraudou laurent/Corbis via Getty Images

Sorry guys, but women might always have a better sense of smell than males. Numerous studies have proven that women are better at detecting scents or odors at a higher rate than men. Some scientists believe that this may be due to the fact that females’ orbital prefrontal region of the brain is more developed.

This is especially true for a woman who is pregnant. Hormones during pregnancy cause some women to experience a heightened sense of smell that is so strong, they might find pleasant smells absolutely unbearable.

Sounds Can Cause Our Pupils To Dilate

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Peter King/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Peter King/Fox Photos/Getty Images

The smallest noises can apparently cause the pupils of our eyes to dilate. It’s no wonder that surgeons or other professionals need to work in general silence in order to perform delicate operations with intense focus. One slight noise could subtly blur their vision and mess things up.

In a somewhat related study conducted by Austrian researchers, music can also cause our pupils to dilate. Music can stimulate eye dilation depending on the listener’s personal attachment to and the emotional content of the song being played.

Tinnitus Has Been Around For Centuries

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BSIP/UIG via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

If you often hear a ringing or buzzing noise that comes and goes, you’re not alone. In fact, you may be part of the 15- to 20-percent of the American population that suffers from tinnitus. Tinnitus is one of the most ancient health concerns around, since ancient Assyrian clay tablets have described the symptoms of tinnitus.

Tinnitus isn’t itself a condition, but rather, it is the result of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss. It happens when the delicate hairs in your inner ear are bent or broken, which sends electrical signals to your brain that perceives them as sound.

Picky Eaters Are Just Supertasters

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Waring Abbott/Getty Images
Waring Abbott/Getty Images

If you’ve been pegged as a picky eater in your life, you can probably just say that you’re a supertaster instead! Some people have more taste buds than what is considered average and scientists have decided to call these people supertasters.

People who are considered supertasters will find food to have a stronger flavor, which is why they can have averse reactions to certain foods. Broccoli, cabbage, and spinach, for example, will taste very bitter to supertasters. The opposite of this is a non-taster, who have fewer taste buds than average and will find many foods bland.

Babies Aren’t Completely Color Blind

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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

There’s a common misconception that babies only see the world in black and white. Newborns do primarily see the world like a movie from the 1950s, but they also have the ability to detect red objects against a gray backdrop, according to Anna Franklin, the Baby Lab leader at the University of Sussex.

Babies’ photoreceptor cells, which are responsible for picking up colors, are too weak to pick up anything else, but they get stronger at a rapid rate. After two months or so, babies can see red, green, blue, and yellow.