Senses conversation questions
Note to teachers: The factoid that we have five senses is one thing that "everybody knows". The reality however is substantially more complicated. In 2005 a New Scientist article pointed out that, "there are at least 21 senses and possibly more." Whether teachers want to begin by explaining this to students using something like the introduction below, or simply challenge them to explain what senses they use to detect heat and cold will be up to each teacher.
Possible introduction: The traditional five senses, attributed to Aristotle, are sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. However, since then, scientists have concluded that there are many more senses including: nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance), proprioception & kinesthesia (joint motion and acceleration), sense of time, thermoception (temperature differences), with possibly an additional weak magnetoception (direction).
Care should be taken not to confuse the physical senses - which detect and interpret either internal or external physical events - with more subjective, or emotional ones such as a sense of humour, of honour, of duty, of perspective, common sense etc.
Five traditional senses
- Which do you think is our most important sense?
- Which do you think is our least important sense?
- Do you have good vision? Do you need to wear glasses or contact lenses?
- When you see a colour, how do you know that everyone else sees the same colour?
- Do you think there is a difference in the way in which men and women perceive and talk about colour?
- What are your favourite flavours?
- What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?
- What flavours do you dislike?
- Are there any foods or flavours which you didn't use to like when you were young but which you now do like?
- Are there any foods which you enjoyed very much as a child but which now don't seem the same?
- Do you associate any smells with any time in the past? Which smells?
- What smells from the countryside do you like or dislike?
- What smells from the town do you like or dislike?
- What is your opinion of the smell of cigarettes?
- Which do you find most offensive - cigarette smoke or body odour? (Which could kill you?)
- A dog's sense of smell is an incredible two thousand times more acute than a human's. What sort of a world do you imagine it perceives?
- What things are the most pleasant to touch?
- What things don't you like touching? (Many people don't like the sensation of raw fish, for example.)
- Which part of your body do you think is least sensitive to touch?
- Can you only touch things with your skin or are there other ways to touch things?
- Do any sounds put your teeth on edge?
- What music do you enjoy listening to?
How many senses?
- How many senses do you have?
- What does the word "feel" mean? Does it only mean "touch"; or can it "also mean experience in a general way", or "have a sensation" - as in, "feel happy"?
- Which sense do you use to experience pain?
- Which sense do you use to perceive a headache or a stomach-ache?
- Which sense do you use to sense heat or cold?
- Which sense controls your sense of balance?
- Which sense do you use to feel nauseous?
- We are able to perceive shades of black and white, intensity of light and different colours. We have different sensory mechanisms in the eye for doing these things. Is "sight" one sense or many?
- In what way does a "sense of smell or taste" differ from a "sense of humour or duty"? What does "sense" mean in each case?