Friday, December 30, 2005

A sense of time and a sense of direction

We are used to having five senses and sometimes to allow for the possibility of a sixth sense. The founders of neuro-linguistic programming were pragmatists: they grouped the sensory predicates we most commonly used and discovered three categories would be sufficient: visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic (which included smell, touch, taste and any other sense of living in and through a body). In essence, they took the limitations of language and used those limitations to further limit - or filter -what people would notice.

The logic has been questioned, and studies trying to prove the efficacy of noticing and responding to preferred sensory systems have generally been inconclusive. This does not mean that there is no point in becoming more aware of our senses and the impact they have on the way we understand and communicate. It does mean that there is room for further exploration.

If we assume that anything that is habitually put into language will either reflect something of which we are capable or become something of which we are capable, then it is worth noticing that our sense of time is expressed as frequently as our sense of sight or hearing. While it is not certain that we have sensory organs that govern how quickly or slowly time passes for us, it is clear that different centres in the brain cooperate to change the way we sense time and that we live in temporal information in the same way that we live in auditory, visual or kinaesthetic information.

Understanding how we are located in space is analogous to being able to locate ourselves in time. Our "sense" of direction is possibly a compilation of information from other sensory systems. If so, it is more than the sum of its parts: it contains some element of not only noticing what is external but relating it to inner landmarks that let us know not only where we are, but how our position relates to where we will be next. Direction implies both that there are some absolutes by which to navigate and that we are in constant motion.

How do you know which way you are going and how quickly you are moving?

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