Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sensory Differences Can Save Lives

       I mentioned a little on how sensory differences can be a major "hidden" albatross, but there is also a silver lining.
       We all appreciate how useful dogs can be to mankind due to their advanced hearing and smell. Unfortunately they don't have the color visions that humans and non-human primates have. The same differences in humans can be useful too. I tend to be one of the first people to detect if milk is going bad. That save save myself and others a few hours of major discomfort and inconvenience. Hyper-sensitivity to sound and danger also be useful for obvious reasons even while they can make life more stressful for those who use them. Hypochondria tends to be seen as a negative thing, but perhaps some people are more in tune with subtle changes in their bodies and be able to save their own lives by knowing the early signs of a serious illness. A profound sense of small can also save hundreds of lives by detecting a fire in a large building and alerting others before anyone else would have noticed. This diversity in how we perceive our environment may have a lot to do with why some people are more accident-prone than others.
       Sensory insensitivities can also be useful. In many necessary fields such as health care and sanitation work having a weaker sense of smell an enable people to work around in smells and conditions that no one else can stomach even for a day. It can be an aid in being calm and rational in emergencies or in working in dangerous situations. It would nice if we can shut our senses off and on at will or adjust them with dials but unfortunately we can't as of now. A weaker sense of taste may give people the opportunity to eat healthy foods that most people wouldn't be able to pallate with less assistance from less healthy condiments.
       There have been studies addressing the sensory differences between men and women, though I think the variances among individuals is even greater. There is also new discoveries on our ability to detect pheromones on others and have our behavior influenced by them- something once associated with animals. That's one of those topics than can be awkward to discuss or even think about but nevertheless fascinating and important to understand. Unfortunately many humans are uncomfortable with the thought of having too many things in common with non-humans unless it's something "cute".
       In general, these differences can all be a double-edged sword depending on how one looks at it.

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