We all have five senses (some say we have a sixth sense); yet, we don’t all have the same level of capability when it comes to our use of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Everyone has some level of heightened sensory perception with one or more of his or her senses and some diminished level of ability with others.
I clearly know my strengths and weaknesses regarding my means of perception. Ever since the sixth grade, I knew that perfect vision was something I couldn’t have without corrective lenses (or, the relatively recent development of LASIK). I’ve managed with glasses and contact lenses over the years, but I’ve always been envious of those with 20/20 vision, like my wife, cultural junkie.
I knew my vision was terrible, but I was taken aback during my last visit to the optometrist.
After he did some tests of my vision and determined my prescription, he said, “Oh, the blind man!” At first, I thought it was a bit of a joke, but after a moment of contemplation, I realized it wasn’t. I can’t see perfectly clear for more than a half a foot away from my face and after learning how visual acuity is measured, I came to the realization that I’m technically considered a blind person without corrective lenses. Keep in mind that this is not legal blindness, which is when a person’s visual acuity is greater than 20/200 with corrective lenses. Regardless, I can’t see a damn thing without my lenses; thus, constituting a seriously deprived sense of visual perception.
On the other hand, I posses a phenomenal ability to hear sounds. I’m no bat, bird, dolphin or cat, but I do have an uncanny talent for hearing things that others around me cannot. I’m not sure if this is related to my poor visual acuity or over-sized ears, but I do know that I have some level of elevated sense of hearing. In addition to hearing things others can’t, I can often distinguish specific types of sounds and precisely identify an object’s location, direction and physical make-up.
Regardless of this great auditory ability, I haven’t reached the level of mastering human echolocation, like many blind folks. It’s true, this sonar system that bats and dolphins use to navigate their surroundings has been utilized by a number of blind people. In fact, there’s a story of a blind boy who can shoot hoops by listening to the echoes of his palate clicks. Wow! A blind basketball player who can sink shots! I guess I have no excuses when I’m throwing up bricks. Check out this amazing video of human echolocation in action.
I’m sure you may have previously heard of supertasters, who have a highly acute sense of taste. From what I’ve read, it seems like this increased sensitivity to flavor compounds appears to be more of a headache than a superpower. Supertasters tend to strongly dislike bitter foods and receive less enjoyment from fatty and sugary foods. Nevertheless, it’s estimated that about 25% of the population of European decent are supertasters, with a higher incidence among women, Asians and Africans. Are you a supertaster? You can find out with this simple supertaster quiz on the BBC website. You may also perform your own self-diagnosis with a mirror and a little blue dye. This at home supertaster test can be done by measuring the density of fungiform papillae, which contain taste buds on their surface. If you have a high density of these papillae, then you’re a supertaster!
Another of our five sense that may not always be a superpower when enhanced is the sense of smell. Oh, it’s amazing how our ability to detect aromas can move our emotions and trigger long forgotten memories. Despite these pluses, do you want the ability to tune in on every aroma out there? My wife has an unbelievably powerful olfactory system. She smells all sorts of things that I can barely detect or even know are present. I’m sure this ties in strongly with her supertaster ability and makes the consumption of tasty foods and drinks a more enriching experience. Nonetheless, this super sense of smell often leads to her noticing highly unpleasant aromas to which most of us are oblivious. I can’t even recall the number of times she’s said, “What’s that smell?” with a crinkled nose, as if she just caught wind of some rancid flatulence. My response to this is almost always, “What smell?” and this isn’t because I dealt it, it’s because I really can’t smell it. Seriously!
Anyway, as far as superpowers go, that only covers four of the senses. I know I’ve excluded the sense of touch along with a whole host of ways in which we posses or exhibit superhuman ability. One could have phenomenally quick reflexes, an amazing sense of direction or internal GPS, super flexibility, superb equilibrioperception, bird-like magnetoperception, etc. There’s also common sense, to which one of my best friends always summed up in this way, “Common sense is the least common of all senses!” Let’s not forget the sense of self. Unfortunately, too many of my fellow humans do not know themselves and abstain from basic self-reflection. My main objective in creating and sustaining this blog is to develop a better sense of myself.
What’s your superpower?