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The Five Senses & Their Functions

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  • 0:00 What Are the Five Senses?
  • 0:55 Functions of the Five Senses
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After completing this lesson, you should be able to describe the five senses that humans have and explain what functions they serve. A short quiz will follow.

What Are the Five Senses?

The five senses are the five main tools that humans use to perceive the world. Those senses are sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. We see with our eyes, we smell with our noses, we listen with our ears, we taste with our tongue, and we touch with our skin. Our brain receives signals from each of these organs, and interprets them to give us a sense of what's happening around us.

The Five Senses
The Five Senses

Neurologists might argue that in reality there are far more than five senses - anywhere from 9 to 21. These include things like perception of heat, pressure, pain, and balance, among others.

But the five basic senses are still useful to know and far easier to remember. They're vitally important to how our bodies operate. Without our senses, we wouldn't have any idea what was going on around us and the human body would be functionally useless. Each of the senses therefore provides important functions and serves a particular intended purpose. Let's talk about some of those functions.

What Are the Functions of the Five Senses?

Eyes obviously allow us to see. But if you break it down, they do more than just that. Using our eyes, we can judge depth, interpret new information, and identify color (the wavelengths of light that reflect off surfaces).

Noses are used to smell scents. They get a sense for what particles are traveling through the air, which can help us identify if dangerous chemicals are nearby. Smell also has the strongest connection to memory; a familiar smell can remind us of things long forgotten.

Ears allow us to hear sound - to detect vibrations in the air particles around us. But the inner ear also helps us maintain balance and regulate sinus pressure. This is especially useful when you change altitude (like, for example, when you are flying in an airplane).

If you include the inside of the ears, they sense sound, allow balance and regulate pressure.
If you include the inside of the ears, they sense sound, allow balance and regulate pressure.

Tongues are used to taste foods, allowing us to figure out if something is going to be useful to our bodies or poisonous. They also allow us to sense hot and cold in food and liquids.

Last of all is the skin, which is responsible for what may be the most important senses in the human body. The skin performs a huge number of functions. These include:

  • Perspiration (sweating) to cool the body
  • Protection from the elements
  • Sensing what's in contact with our bodies
  • Communication with other human beings through touch
  • Storage of water and lipids
  • Formation of vitamin D from the Sun
  • Water resistance
  • Heat regulation

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