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Whenever someone uses their Psychic Powers, they put a hand up to their head (most traditionally with the middle and fore fingers on the brow and thumb on the cheek or mandibular joint, and the other fingers folded). If they're doing something really hard, it takes both hands on their temples. If they're using telekinesis, they gesture at what they're affecting, and the power acts as a sympathetic parallel of their hands. For a Crystal Ball, lots of swishing is involved as if to polish the ball enough to see through clearly. Again, if it's something difficult, then they have to use both hands -- and quiver, and maybe their nose will bleed.
Anime & Manga
- In Akira, Tetsuo plays this trope straight, gesturing when moving water glasses, dismembering people, crushing bridges, etc.
- Naruto: Gaara largely averts this. While he can make his sand move (and kill people) with various gestures, the hands-to-head thing usually doesn't happen unless he's having a psychic argument with Shukaku.
- Played with in Black Blood Brothers; Jiro uses his "Hide Hand" ability by pointing at things...with his middle finger.
- Jun Lee from Genesis of Aquarion uses a slightly modified version of the Pstandard Psychic Pstance when applying his "psychography" skill to see the unseen: rather than putting his fingers to his temples, he puts his fingers just above his eyebrows, forming a triangular bridge over his eyes.
- Actually, he's pointing his fingers to the center of his forehead, which is said to be where the 'third eye' is in yoga, or something like that.
- In early X-Men comics, Professor X was often depicted (as an icon on the cover, but seldom in an actual story) doing a double hand-to-temple gesture, like someone trying to salute with both hands at once. However, Jean Grey rarely used hand gestures with her telekinetic powers. This is because they're using two different powers: Professor Xavier is the most powerful telepath in the Marvel Universe, but he has no telekinesis whatsoever. Prof. Xavier, Jean Grey and almost every other telepathic character (see Emma Frost) depicted in the Marvel Universe do the hand-to-head gesture when using the telepathy -- but not when using TK (see: Hellion).
- In Bone, Thorn holds two fingers directly in front of her eye when using her Veni-yan-cari powers.
- Mastermind Excello of The Twelve, being a forties sensitive, constantly has this pose. Either because he's doing his ultra-senses thing, or because he's having headaches from all the noise he inadvertently senses.
- Averted in With Strings Attached. After Ringo discovers that he's telekinetic, he starts to play with it by pointing at stuff, frowning at it, etc. He quickly learns that all this nonsense distracts him from the concentration required to actually move things. Later, people are unnerved when he just sits there with his eyes closed and stuff happens. (Also, the power is completely invisible, so no wiggly lines or power glow or anything.)
Films -- Live-Action
- Star Wars: Most Force powers seem to operate this way. Telekinesis uses one or both hands to "grab" or "push" the object. Mind-trick usually uses a wave or a point. Blocking energy attacks involves holding out your hand to stop them. Force-choking involves holding your thumb and forefinger out in a "pinching" gesture. Force Lighting always shoots out of the fingertips rather than anywhere else.
- In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, when Yoda was holding up a pillar to prevent some other Jedi from being crushed by it, he was using both hands and shaking besides.
- An interesting variation in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. When Anakin's synthetic arm is destroyed, he uses force crush by lifting up what was left of his forearm.
- And on the other end, Luke has his hands tied up at one point in Return of the Jedi, so he just levitates C-3PO without using any gestures. Waving your arms around just seems to be a concentration aid for the Force -- it isn't actually necessary.
- Luke states openly in the Jedi Academy Book series when instructing a potential recruit, that the motions are used to help visualize the action but not required. People that do them after they've mastered a power are doing so out of habit.
- Toth-Amon does this in Conan the Destroyer, complete with silly mannerisms. So do Akiro and the leader of the Dagoth worshipers.
- Dark City uses this one, especially late on. When the main character uses his Tuning ability, he usually just points his forehead at the target. Sounds subtle, but makes the final fight look a bit like a neanderthal Staring Contest with ripple effects.
- In the film version of Matilda, the eponymous telekinetic girl usually would use the stare and squint version to use her powers, though she frequently slipped into gesture-based invocation. One particular example is near the end, when she twirls her forearm around in a circle to make the globe that the Evil principal was on top of spin rapidly.
- Similarly, Fin Raziel in Willow, when using Elora Danaan's wand to toss Bavmorda around, uses gestures along with some sort of magic words. Abruptly becomes very funny when she shouts "Nananananana!" while twirling the wand to spin Bavmorda in midair.
- Early on in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Irina Spalko exhibits this, replete with creepy theremin music in the background.
- Averted in the Resident Evil film series. When Alice uses a power, she never moves her hands.
- Firestarter. Andy does this when 'pushing' someone. After he's been captured by The Shop, Cap (the villain played by Martin Sheen) sees him doing this and realises too late that Andy is no longer drugged -- Andy takes control of Cap's mind before he can signal a guard.
- Zapped. Barney Springboro is your typical 80's nerdy virgin teen who gains the ability to move objects using only the power of his half-assed glare. Given that he's played by Scott Baio, it's hard to say if it's being subverted or played straight.
- Carrie does this subtly -- usually, all she does is look at her target, as evidenced when she throws the asshole kid off his bike, or locks down the school gym at the start of her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. However, when she slams shut all the windows and doors in her house, she doesn't even do this. Justified in that (at least in the R Emake) by that point, Carrie had practiced enough with her powers that she wouldn't need to see an object to affect it.
- Quite a lot of this in the X-Men film series, really. Jean is probably the biggest source, though Magneto, Storm and Xavier all do this to some degree. Professor X is shown doing this in all the posters for X-Men: First Class. As it's set before he lost his hair or used a wheelchair, you wouldn't be able to tell who he was otherwise.
- Lampshaded in Ten Little Wizards, a Lord Darcy fantasy/mystery by Michael Kurland, when Darcy voices his concern that Master Sean's ritualized object-levitating stance looks extremely uncomfortable. Standing with his legs spread wide and arms extended out fully, sorcerer Sean replies that it's not so bad: during their training, apprentice wizards are required to hold such positions for hours at a time.
- Subverted in Mistborn. Vin automatically uses the palm out gesture when pushing on things telekinetically, before her mentore reminds her that it's completely unecessary and makes her drop her weapon.
- Used to an extent in The Dresden Files with evocation. With enough willpower, it's possible to skip this entirely, and the stronger a wizard is, the more he can do with a simpler motion. The Archive is good enough that she can have multiple spells going with one motion.
- Sylar "flicks" things out of the way. In fact, his gestures are so slight compared to the common psychic hand motions that it borders on trope subversion (tipping over the vehicle carrying Ted is no biggie).
- Peter plays the trope straight, with wide arm movements and full open palm hand gestures whenever he uses his telekinesis.
- Of course, the people with the ability to read minds can do this almost passively. But if they need to focus at all (for example reading an unwilling person's mind, or trying to read another mind reader's mind), it seems they need a sudden twitch movement of their head (and intensive staring) to kick their power into action. And there is the Psychic Nosebleed if they have to try too hard. Again, Peter always needs this head flick to use the power.
- In the episode "The Eclipse, Part 1", Hilarity Ensues when the titular eclipse nullifies everyone's powers, but people still try to use their Pstandard Psychic Pstances. Leading to Sylar flicking his fingers uselessly, and Matt to try to mind-control Daphne's dad, only for him to say "Why're you turning your head sideways? What's wrong with you, son?"
- Whenever Hiro uses his teleporting or time freezing powers, he usually scrunches up his face and blinks his eyes. At one point, Hiro is actually forced to teleport when Ando presses his face into this stance. Also lampshaded when Ando tries to teach a memory-wiped-to-eight-years-old Hiro how to use his powers by showing his stance, only for Hiro to reply, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen".
- When Ando injects himself with a Super Serum to get an ability in order to save a now powerless Hiro who's stuck in the past, he tries to do what Hiro does. Not his stance.
- Used multiple times in the Stargate Verse, by various Advanced Humans (tm).
- In Chuck, the title character makes a distinctive face when the supercomputer in his brain "flashes." Played for laughs when he and his girlfriend make "flash faces" without the accompanying visual and sound effects.
- Shawn Spencer of Psych has amazing detective skills and Hyper Awareness, but such a lousy professional manner that he can't make it as a detective. So he pretends to be a psychic and really hams up the gestures while using his powers of observation instead.
- Babylon 5 telepaths don't use their hands; they just stare at the intended target. Of course, it's explicitly stated that (for human teeps, at least) line of sight with their target is needed (or at least makes things easier), so it's justified.
- When Bester used his P-12 telepathy to crush his victim mentally, he clenched one gloved fist.
- Doctor Who
- During the First Doctor's tenure, happens when his granddaughter Susan shows telepathic abilities.
- When, much later, the Tenth Doctor does some telepathy, he puts his hands on the other person's temples.
- The Eleventh Doctor prefers to knock his head with the other person's head.
- The telekinesis-by-handwave version also appears on this series. Prue only developed this later on, after first moving things by squinting at them real hard.
- Paige also goes through the usual hand-motions, with the added need to call out whatever object she wanted to move. Her telekinesis was a little different. It seems that she could teleport things without touching them with a combination of this trope and using the name of the object, but also alter the object's direction if it was moving.
- That's So Raven's star Raven has her own nonstandard psychic stance -- whenever she gets a vision, she shakes her head slightly and stares into the camera with a shocked look on her face.
- Lampshaded in the Crossover That's So Suite Life of Hanna Montanta:
Zack: Hey Raven, you OK? You had this weird look on your face.
- On The Tonight Show there was of course Carnac the Magnificent, embodied by Johnny Carson, with the dramatic envelope-to-forehead gesture.
- An early television example of this comes from Uncle Martin the psionic Martian in My Favorite Martian. Telepathy and clairvoyance required he put his fingers to his temples. Telekinesis required the use of his finger, to the point that he couldn't use his telekinesis if he couldn't move his finger -- although he once managed to use his nose instead of his finger, inspired by "some television show he saw" in which a woman twitched her noses for her powers (Bewitched).
- Doyle and Cordelia on Angel put a hand to their heads whenever they got a vision -- but that's because it gives them a giant fricking headache every time. However, when the latter becomes a demon to carry the power (as it will kill a human with enough time), she doesn't do this, as it's completely painless.
- Sheldon does this on The Big Bang Theory in an attempt to blow up Leonard's head psychically, a la Scanners.
Leonard: My head's not going to blow up, Sheldon.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Guinan goes into one of these when Q offers to "relocate" her. We never do really find out what that was about.
- Averted in one episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Kes slowly walks through a corridor, which she shreds with her powers.
- Supernatural has the demons pinning people against the wall with a flick of their hand. When Sam uses his Psychic Powers to exorcise and/or kill demons, he stretches out his hand and sometimes puts a hand to his head. Ava put her hands up to her head when controlling demons, and tried to pass it off as a headache.
- In the "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" episode of The X-Files, the eponymous psychic doesn't really do this, but parodies it at one point; when he reveals he's been sent a mysterious letter promising further bloodshed (from, presumably, the killer) and the agents ask him who it was from, he grabs it, puts it to his forehead and yells "The killer!" in a sarcastic tone of voice.
He does place objects up against his head during the interrogation scene... where he's unable to get a single reading from any of them. Also parodied when the psychic, having just failed to predict the winning lottery number, buries his face in his hands and from there forsees that the person who just entered the room is Fox Mulder come to ask him for more psychic clues while his skeptical partner does an autopsy.
- Invoked in the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Blind Girl's Bluff", wherein a blind girl feigns clairvoyance with the help of a friend and a two-way radio.
Audrey: Alright, Lisa, now put your fingers on your temples and clench your eyes. Act like you're thinking real hard.
- Averted in Dungeons and Dragons, where one of the advantages of Psionics over Magic is the utter lack of any Somatic, Verbal and Material components, allowing use even when unable to move or speak.
They may not have required, functional gestures of this kind, but its still quite common for such characters to be described with such actions simply as mannerisms. A particular dwarf psion in the group may well be perfectly capable of blasting enemies without moving a muscle, even when bound and gagged, but when his hands are free, he still usually holds one out toward whatever he's blasting.
- In The World Ends With You, Neku does this when scanning NPCs and when using any of his Psychic Powers in battle that don't require him to move. It's a variant, as rather then putting his hands directly on his temples, he places them so that they cover his headphones. For bonus points, he levitates while doing it.
- Sophia Hapgood did it in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, except when she really IS communing with spirits.
- Many characters in Psychonauts strike this pose when using various psychic powers, especially telekinesis and pyrokinesis.
- Ness from Earthbound touches both his temples when using his powers in the Super Smash Bros series. Mewtwo doesn't usually bother with this trope, but makes an exception when wielding a hammer.
- In contrast, in Super Smash Bros Brawl, Lucas uses hand signs and other hand motions when using his powers.
- Heavily used in City of Heroes and City of Villains, as is to be expected from a game based on western comics. The psychic powers there run the gamut of such poses, from the pose (affectionately named "I'm shooting you with mind bullets!" by the community), through screaming, touching the target of a mind probe, and much gesturing when using telekinetic powers. In a possible partial subversion, most of those are offensive psychic powers. Those that deal with sleeping/stunning/controlling enemies actually do not use the Pstandard Psyhic Pstance.
- Mass Effect kind of justifies this trope, saying that the various poses struck by a biotic character when they use their powers is part of their training. Biotics are surgically implanted to give them direct and focused control over their powers, and these implants are wired to various nerves, meaning the best way to activate the eezo nodules in their bodies that actually produce biotic powers (eezo + electricity = Applied Phlebotinum in the Mass Effect universe) is to make actual movements, thus triggering the nerves.
- It may also help that some implants are noted to give the user splitting headaches. Rubbing at the temples may help to stem the pain.
- In Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+, Vexen's usual pose during battle involves him holding his hand to his forehead while his shield floats directly in front of him. He moves his hand away when gesturing for his actual attacks, though.
- Psi Ops the Mindgate Conspiracy only uses this for powers that cause you to lose control of your body, such as remote viewing and mind control. Telekinesis still involves arm gestures, though how wild the flailing is seems to depend on how hammy the character is feeling at the time.
- In the Dead Money DLC of Fallout: New Vegas, all holograms capable of offensive attack assume this stance before firing their deadly lasers.
- Psycho Mantis, in Metal Gear Solid, does this all the time. When we see later psychics who don't do this, it just cements Mantis as an arrogant Large Ham.
- Whether disguised or not, Crpyto (that's you) out of Destroy All Humans! often takes this posture when using his abilities.
- Final Fantasy VIII: Squall's magic-casting animation involves him putting his hand to his forehead, and then outstretching his arm towards the enemy.
- Champions Online is guilty of this as well, though characters are able to switch between different emission points for their powers. One could emit psychic blasts from their chest, and fire from their foreheads for example. The Ego Choke power is notable as a very graphically similar gesture to Darth Vader while maintaining it, causing the target to flail and grab their throat.
- Second Sight has several of these, including kneeling down with hand pressed to your head.
- Psyduck, a Pokémon with access to psychic abilities such as Confusion, is always depicted looking off into space with both paws on his temples. Oddly enough, despite the "Psy" part of its name, it isn't actually a Psychic-type Pokémon, nor is its evolved form Golduck (both are pure Water-type Pokémon). That's mostly because Psyduck also always have constant headaches. It's sort of a double meaning. They're holding their heads because it well, hurts. It just so happens they're doing this when using their psychic powers, too.
- Shadow Priests of World of Warcraft avert this completely -- the casting animations for mind-targeting Shadow spells are the same as those used for all other spells.
- Mentor of Freedom Force uses this in all of its hammy goodness of Silver Age comics when using his abilities.
- Parsee of Touhou Project gestures with both hands to activate her spellcards. With the ability to manipulate jealousy, she's one of the psychic-like characters in the cast. Though the actual mindreader does nothing of the sort.
- Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire: Dominic sometimes holds a hand to his forehead when using his second sight. This usually happens when he's a) purposely trying to have visions, rather than having them spontaneously, b) not using a Crystal Ball as a focus, or c) exasperated. Maybe trying to have visions makes his head hurt. Possibly, considering how many Psychic Nosebleeds he's had after particularly rough uses of his second sight.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, Parley uses this position to try to communicate with a ghost. Which, of course, leads to the ghost asking one of the other characters why she's acting like this.
- Subverted (betcha didn't think that was even possible for this one, huh?) in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip.
- Tavros, Vriska, and Aradia all utilize this. Tavros uses it when communing with native Alternian fauna and Underlings, Vriska uses it while exerting her Mind Control, and Aradia uses it when summoning the spirits of the dead.
- Also Played for Laughs when Vriska tries REALLY hard to manipulate John.
- Used in Sluggy Freelance in a simplified flashback scene recapping the chapter "bROKEN" for when Oasis uses pyrokinesis. She didn't actually do it like that when it happened, particularly as she can only do in unconsciously. As seen here, but mind the further spoilers in the surrounding comics unless you've read up to chapter 63 ("Safe House").
- In El Goonish Shive, Dan uses this here when he discovers he can communicate telepathically (i.e. use the chat function) while playing a Multi User Dungeon.
- About half of the character art for the various mentalists in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe depicted them using some variation on the Pstandard Psychic Pstance, despite the fact that in the actual text, they were never actually depicted as bothering with it. In point of fact, most mentalists avoided calling attention to their use of an undetectable (by non-mentalists), invisible (to non-mentalists) superpower in front of non-mentalists.
- Averted in the e-novel E.H.U.D.: Prelude to Apocalypse, as the narration goes out of its way to show that the characters do NOT shown any physical signs of using psychic abilities.
- Martian Manhunter did this in the first season finale of Justice League Unlimited. "Flash is still alive! I'm in telepathic contact with him... his spirit is weak, and growing weaker... but he's still here." All while holding his right hand to his head and moving the left one around like he's dowsing for water. Of course, the hand-waving may be justified, as when Hawkgirl does it, she reaches into the speedsters' afterlife (or the way to it, or the way Flash went, or whatever) and grabs ahold of him.
- In The Venture Brothers, Doctor Orpheus does this whenever he necromances. Or says hello, or uses telekinesis to make fritatas.
- In Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Mentok the Mindtaker often does this, but mainly because he's a big showoff.
- Elektra often did this on Space Stars, not only as a member of the Teen Force, but also when she crossed over to Space Ghost's segments.
- Cartman from South Park and a bunch of other phony psychics engage in this, as well as a bunch of hokey "special effects" sounds. Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya! Pashooo!
- Raven from Teen Titans will frequently assume the pose while using her powers outside combat. And occasionally, while in combat.
- Yumi of Code Lyoko puts both hands to her head when she uses telekinesis on Lyoko. She is also surrounded by an aura and initially closes eyes, but open them and wave with a hand when directing the object (generally a boulder set on a course to crush a monster).
- The g-speak platform is a gesture-based interface system. The two-fingers-to-temple gesture is a usable gesture for rearranging files or objects en masse, invoking this trope.