Do Dancers Have a Sixth Sense?

January 24, 2018

Are dancers more perceptive than other people? Recent research in the journal Psychophysiology answered this question by putting 20 professional ballet dancers and 20 non-dancers to the test.

Often referred to as the “sixth sense,” interoception is the ability to perceive signals from within the body, like heart rate, and is linked to self-awareness. For the study, participants counted their heartbeats by “feeling it”—without touching their chest, wrist or neck—while electrodes recorded their pulse. Across multiple tests, the dancers were more accurate.

Researchers don’t yet know if arts training develops such self-awareness or if interoceptive individuals are drawn to dance, but the study confirms what we’ve long known: Dancers are more aware of their own bodies than most people. Other research has determined similar interoception in musicians, so that’s one more nod to the power of the arts.