What is the sixth sense?

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The sixth sense is another term for extrasensory perception. Extrasensory perception (ESP) would involve the reception of information not gained through the recognized senses and not internally originated. According to the National Science Foundation extrasensory perception is listed as pseudoscience.[1]

The expression "sixth sense" is a misnomer that falsely suggests that there is only one additional sense besides the traditional five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, a classification attributed to Aristotle.[2] Humans have at least five additional senses that include: nociception (pain); equilibrioception (balance); proprioception and kinaesthesia (joint motion and acceleration); sense of time; thermoception (temperature differences); and possibly an additional weak magnetoception (direction).[3]

There is no firm agreement among neurologists as to the number of senses because of differing definitions of what constitutes a sense. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably Neuroscience cognitive psychology, and philosophy of perception. The nervous system has a specific sensory system, or organ, that manages each sense.

One categorization for human senses is as follows: chemoreception; photoreception; mechanoreception; and thermoception. This categorization has been criticized as too restrictive, however, as it does not include categories for accepted senses such as the sense of time and sense of pain.

Some animals possess senses that are absent or weak in humans, such as electroreception[4] and detection of polarized light.[5] Humans have only a weak sense of polarization.


  1. Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, National Science Board, National Science Foundation. Belief in Pseudoscience. See Note 29. The 10 items are extrasensory perception (ESP), that houses can be haunted, ghostss, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, that people can communicate mentally with someone who has died, witches, reincarnation, and channelling.
  2. JewishEncyclopedia.com - Senses, the five
  3. Magnetic fields and the central nervous system, Clinical Neurophysiology, Volume 111, Issue 11, Pages 1934 - 1935, A . Voustianiouk
  4. Pettigrew, John D. (1999). "Electroreception in Monotremes" (PDF). The Journal of Experimental Biology (202): 1447–1454. http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/202/10/1447.pdf. Retrieved 19 September 2006. 
  5. Sonja Kleinlogel, Andrew White (2008). "The secret world of shrimps: polarisation vision at its best". PLoS ONE 3: e2190. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002190.