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Great Myths of the Brain by Christian Jarrett

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7Brain Myths Concerning Perception and Action

Our conscious experience of the world has a feel of live theater about it. It's as though we're sat somewhere behind the front of our skulls from where we enjoy an honest depiction of life outside, filtered only through the prism of our trusted five senses. This is a myth. Not only do we have many more than five senses, but the brain's representation of reality is far more like a special effects movie than live theater. What we experience is a heavily edited construction created by the brain. Patchy, delayed sensory information is stitched together to create the illusion of a seamless interface with the world. I'll begin this chapter by debunking the centuries-old fixation on humans having five senses, then move on to show the distortions in our sensory experience, not only related to the outside world but to our sense of our own bodies.

Myth #32 The Brain Receives Information from Five Separate Senses

The mistaken idea that we have precisely five senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste – is so widely accepted that it's become for most people a taken-for-granted fact. The misconception is found across nearly all cultures and it appears not just in everyday conversation, but in scientific contexts too. “The main incoming signals are dispatched by our five senses,” says The Rough Guide to The Brain. Or consider an article published in Scientific American in 20121 about sensory cross talk (of which more later) – it begins: “Our five ...

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