I Thought Everyone Could Do That
Haley: Celia... Humans can't shoot energy out of our fingers.
: What, not even lightning?
Someone has an unusual talent. The twist is, they don't know
it's a talent; it comes so naturally to them that they just assume that everyone else can do it too.
This can also apply to... rather more physical attributes.
Generally, characters like this are either a Cloudcuckoolander
, Captain Oblivious
, a Fish out of Water
, or very young and inexperienced. Depending on the feat, this can also be an Achievement in Ignorance
. Truth in Television
- you can only experience your own mind, so it makes sense to assume that other's minds work the same way unless proven otherwise.
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Anime & Manga
- Aisia from Da Capo Second Season starts off believing that the ability to use magic is so common that the school Asakura attends must be an academy for teaching magic. Obviously she is wrong.
- Goku of Dragon Ball thought that every boy has a tail. Amusingly, when he tells Bulma, she gets upset that she still doesn't know about the male anatomy at her age.
- When the group needs to get across a deadly booby-trapped hallway, Goku and Krillin easily jump across. Goku says to Bulma it's her turn, and Bulma angrily yells that there's no way she can jump that far. Goku is surprised.
- Gohan tries so hard to blend in with normal high school students. Then he jumps thirty feet in the air while trying to play baseball like they do- and then throws a bee-liner to third base to double-off a guy with a two foot lead while everyone is staring at him in shock, and he manages to knock the third-baseman down with the force of the throw.
- Nanami Jinnai in El-Hazard is immune to illusions, but doesn't detect them, so when she happens to warn her friends about one, it's through blind luck ("I thought everyone saw what I did")
- At the beginning of Hunter ◊ Hunter, Gon doesn't seem to know that most people can't follow a person in the middle of a forest by the scent of their aftershave.
- Tiger & Bunny's Keith Goodman sometimes forgets that other people can't fly
Keith: Why are you hesitating? Get up here!
Ivan: I can't!
Keith: Why not! Remember, you said you'd do your best!
Ivan: I don't have flight.
Keith: ...Ah, that explains it.
- A variant appears in Fullmetal Alchemist, during the first fight with Father. He turns off the alchemy, but Scar and May can still transmute.
Envy: How can you use alchemy here?!
(Scar and May glance at each other)
Scar: ...what do you mean?
- Ao in Eureka Seven AO has the ability to see trapar particles, which are invisible to the naked eye. He always assumed they were part of the wind and that everyone could see them.
- In his honeymoon edition, Spider-man lampshades the idea that he created his web fluid and thought any idiot could do the same, but Fireheart's scientists made one that breaks easily.
- Aquaman in the JLA Year One series expresses this. He doesn't think of his abilities as powers because everyone can do it where he comes from. Likewise, Martian Manhunter thinks of his abilities more as "skills" or "gifts of will" rather than powers.
- In the My Little Pony fanfic The Son Of The Emperor, Twilight is surprised by the fact that something as mundane as lifting books or opening a door with magic is unheard of outside of Equestria. This is because unicorns are not allowed to practice magic beyond certain strict limits, and most of them can't perform even the most basic tasks.
- Tristan of Yu Gi Oh The Abridged Series thinks that if you get angry, you turn into The Incredible Hulk. When told the truth, he says he thought everyone could do it.
- Rashmika from the Alastair Reynolds book Absolution Gap is a Living Lie Detector. Until her late teens, she never lies, and becomes known for it in her village. It's not for any moral reason, though; she just assumes everyone would be able to tell if she did.
- In the Dragonriders of Pern series, F'lar chastises Lessa for not telling him that she can hear the telepathic speech of other people's dragons. Her response boils down to "How was I supposed to know you couldn't?" She simply assumed that it was her dragonrider ancestry that accounted for it, and that all dragonriders (of whom she'd met none at that point) would have that ability.
- Harry Potter:
- Until the middle of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (when he does it in front of an audience for the first time), Harry assumes that all or most wizards can talk to snakes — in fact, he doesn't even realize he's speaking a different language when he does. In the sixth book, it takes him some time to understand than Morfin Gaunt is speaking Parseltongue in the Pensieve Flashback, as he only hears it as perfect English.
- Not an innate ability, but when Harry is told the legend of the Deathly Hallows, one of them is a mythical cloak which granted the wearer true invisibility and never lost its power... which Harry soon realizes is the cloak he'd had since his first year at Hogwarts, and had always assumed was an ordinary (if rare) magic cloak.
- Ayla from Earth's Children has an exceptionally well-trained memory for a Cro-Magnon. Of course, she was still considered to be "slow of memory" amongst her adoptive Neanderthal tribe. But once she is amongst her own people, they are constantly baffled by her surprising memory. Oh, and her ability to detect lies from body language. And her advanced gifts as a healer. And her domesticated animals. And...
- In the Foundation series, the Mule briefly mentions that it took him a while to realize he could control people's emotions, and even longer to realize other people couldn't.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Valentine Michael Smith thinks that all humans have his mental powers of making objects hover in the air or disappear; he doesn't realize that the abilities taught to him by the Martians are not known on Earth.
- In Hopscotch by Kevin J. Anderson, Darragon doesn't realize during the early part of his life that most people can't see auras. The subject only comes up when he notices a Body Swap, so this is closer to being justified than most examples.
- Early in the Ciaphas Cain books, he neglects to mention what his tunnel instincts are telling him because it doesn't occur to him that his companion can't tell. He's aware that it's a talent not everyone possesses, it just seems to slip his mind for a moment. Further complicated by the fact that during his childhood on a Hive World, everyone did actually have that same tunnel sense due to living underground.
- In the Discworld series:
- It's mentioned that Susan thought nothing of her ability to
walk through walls make herself unnoticeable, and assumed for the longest time that everyone could do that. Even in her second appearance (by which time she knows her origin), she finds stopping time to be so easy that she wonders why ordinary people can't do it. This is partially justified, in that many of Susan's (and Death's) "supernatural" abilities really are much more straightforward than the way regular humans approach reality. For instance, itís not that she can see things that arenít real, itís that everyone else can not see things that are.
- Tiffany Aching knows that being able to step out of your body and look at it from the outside isn't an ordinary thing for a human to do, but she's not sure if it's an ordinary thing for a witch to do. (It isn't.)
- Jeremy Clockson in Thief of Time not only doesn't realize that not everyone can intuitively tell what time it is, but he doesn't even seem to grasp that that's what the clocks he devotes himself to crafting are used for.
- Brutha from Small Gods never forgets anything, never has dreams, and always knows his exact location on land. He eventually does realize that the former isn't true of everybody, yet the concept of "forgetting" remains extremely perplexing to him.
- It's a more mundane ability than the above, but in Jingo an impressive display of juggling and other street theater tricks leads Colon to say to Vetinari "I didn't know you could juggle, my lord" and Vetinari to ask "Can't everyone?" It may just be a reference to how good Vetinari is at keeping everything going where he wants...
- Justified for Ax of Animorphs in that he's not human, but he's rather surprised when he learns that humans cannot tell time accurately or judge direction (North-East-South-West) innately. (Of course, with only a little training, they can.)
- Fitz's daughter Nettle in the Tawny Man trilogy is a DreamWeaver, but doesn't realize that this is anything special. She doesn't understand why other people have nightmares, because why would anyone want to stay in a dream they didn't like?
- Happens all the time in the setting of Orson Scott Card's The Tales Of Alvin Maker Alternate History. The narrator rambles in the fourth book:
Like a lot of folks, he has a knack and doesn't even know it because that's the way knacks work: it just feels as natural as can be to the person who's got it, as easy as breathing, so you don't think that could possibly be your unusual power because heck, that's easy. You don't know it's a knack till other people around you get all astonished about it or upset or excited or whatever feelings your knacks seems to provoke in folks. Then you go, "Boy howdy, other's folks can't do this! I got me a knack!" and from then on there's no putting up with you till you finally settle down and get back to normal life and stop bragging about how you can do this fool thing that you used to never be excited about back when you still had sense.
- Two-for-one example in The Riftwar Cycle: William and Gamina both know that William can communicate telepathically with animals. But he doesn't realize that this is unusual, and she doesn't realize that none of the adults know about it.
- Warrior Cats: Dovewing says this word for word when she finds out her super hearing is a special power.
- Honor Harrington isn't modest enough not to realize she's an outstanding military commander, but has difficulty believing that when she pulls off some kind of awe-inspiring feat (such as the mass prison escape from Cerberus) that people don't accept it was merely her duty to do so and thus she deserves no special accolades for it. She also has no idea how inspiring she is: she's astonished to learn that people who have served under her end up, on average, being better officers than their peers afterwards.
- Invoked in the X-Wing Series. When reforming Rogue Squadron, Wedge chooses one pilot over another to join the squad as his executive officer, even though the pilot that's suggested for him is renowned and the pilot he wants is a suspected traitor who will have severe restrictions placed on his behavior. Later, attrition catches up to Rogue Squadron, and he brings the other pilot in, though not as his XO, and explains to her that he's seen her fly before. Her skill as a pilot, he believes, can't be taught, and what he needs from his XO is, among other things, a trainer. Picking her would result in her being frustrated and his pilots bewildered (and possibly dead). But now there's room on the squadron, she's definitely earned a spot with her skill.
Live Action TV
- Alphas: Marcus Ayers' ability gives him enough Awesomeness by Analysis to create Disaster Dominoes on purpose and he's convinced that everyone else can do the same thing, thus believing that There Are No Coincidences, which drives his paranoia.
- In Sikozu's first appearance, she's rather surprised to discover that Crichton can't shift his centre of gravity, having presumed that all the species she had associated with so far (Scarran, Grudek, Sebacean, Human) were able to do so. Unfortunately, she only finds this out while bandaging Crichton's mauled legs — courtesy of the Monster of the Week Sikozu had easily escaped from.
- In another Farscape example (though this time more of "I Thought Everyone Couldn't Do That''), Crichton discovers that every member of Moya's crew has better eyesight than he does when he claims there's nothing written on a basin, and the others take turns reading the small warning text aloud.
- Fonzie of Happy Days is convinced that he's been given a class of subnormal students because they can't change a carburetor perfectly after being shown how once, as he was able to as a boy.
- Hyde in Jekyll. He knows that ordinary people aren't as strong or fast as him, but is still surprised when he learns that Jackman can't do things like detect drugs in his bloodstream or pull up photo-quality images from his memory.
"There's something new in our bloodstream, keeping me awake. Tickles."
"You can feel your blood?"
"You can't do that?"
- In one episode of Just Shoot Me!, Jack and Elliot discover that the small, overly delicate Dennis Finch (David Spade) has a penis whose size is such that it causes immediate crushing despair in other males at the sight of it, and apparently has no clue that it's anything special.
Jack: Dennis, how did you not KNOW? I mean, hadn't you ever seen other guys in the shower?
Dennis: No, I sat gym out because of my allergies. The only time I saw other guys naked was in porn. I just thought I was a little above average.
- Humorously, this is actually a rather wide-reaching (if funny) retcon; previous episodes had definitively established that Finch was on the extreme other end of the size scale, and was once confused for a woman when he was seen in a skin-tight bathing suit. For most of his life (until this episode) he really wasn't extra-big.
- In the Xenosaga series, Albedo is shocked to learn that other people can't regenerate, including his brothers. This occurs after a very disturbing scene in which a child Albedo blows his own head off in front of his brothers with an energy blast, or a gun in the Japanese version. For great Mood Whiplash, he was only trying to be funny.
- In Digger, Shadowchild is surprised to learn that not everyone can transform into large, demonic-looking monsters at will.
- In Girls In Space, Zoe doesn't mention to her employment councilor that she's an omniglot, because she thought everyone on Earth spoke all Earth languages.
- Celia from The Order of the Stick designs her summoning talisman to break from energy blasts, completely unaware that this was not something normal humans could do at will, which leads to some unfortunate consequences when her boyfriend fails to use it. She can also detect abjurations like the Cloister spell through the way her teeth tingle. Because she thinks everybody can do the same, she only mentions it in passing, assuming Haley already knows about it; when she finds out Haley doesn't, she actually gets angry about how worthless human(oid) senses seem to be compared to her own.
- For a while in Sluggy Freelance, Aylee keeps forgetting that earth creatures need things like sleep and oxygen to survive, and don't have quite her ability to heal.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-1454 is a set of four identical men who have a shared memory. They see nothing unusual about this; as far as they know, it's perfectly normal for a human being to have memories of working over 200 hours per week and having several wives at once.
- People with synesthesia tend to believe that everyone has it until told otherwise.
- As a child, Julian Asher, the famous neurologist and synesthesiac, assumed that the lights are dimmed during a concert so that the audience can see the light that emanates from the music better.
- So do people with absolute direction and absolute hearing.
- Schizophrenics who know the voices aren't real tend to believe everyone hears voices. Although most people do at least think in a dialog, so it isn't that far off, and in fact a significant portion of the population will experience auditory hallucinations which manifest as voices at some apoint in their lives. The difference is recognizing that they are imaginary and, of course, how long they may last for.
- In an inversion, around 1 in 40 people are believed to have congenital face blindness, but most don't know it because they aren't aware that they're supposed to be able to tell faces apart and go through life identifying people by other characteristics (voice, hair, etc.).
- Color blindness is also an inversion: Colorblind people are likely to think people see the world the same as they do, until proven wrong.
- And people with impaired or nonexistent depth perception.
- For that matter, mildly-nearsighted people seldom realize their vision is impaired until it's actually tested. Plenty of teens only learn they need glasses when they get their eyes checked while qualifying for a driver's permit. Even severely nearsighted children may not realize that they should be able to read a sign from across the room and that constant headaches aren't normal.
- Another example is people who were either born with or developed at an early age permanent tinnitus. It can come as a surprise for them that people aren't supposed to hear a high-pitched noise all the time.
- This is related to the common phenomenon known as "illusion of transparency", where you assume that others can accurately read your experiences and emotions because you already know it. Also known as You Know What You Did.
- One reason why working with geniuses can be annoying ("No dear, some of us can't integrate complex functions and drive at the same time.") It's also awkward to explain that 10-year-olds don't know integral calculus and it just confuses them when you work it into answers to their questions.
- Even children of above average intelligence who aren't classified as geniuses can be prone to this, such as children who learned to speak early and don't understand why others their age can't.
- This happens with jocks going into coaching, especially if they were great athletes. Larry Bird would forget at times that not everyone could hit crazy hard shots that he could hit on a consistent basis.
- For that matter, experts on any topic will often be wrong-footed when dealing with people who are not. This goes a ways towards explaining the disdain many people have for academics, especially among those who think you should be able to summarize entire fields into sound bytes.
- Artists of any kind can have trouble explaining abilities to people without the same level of aptitude.
- Draughtsmen and women simply looking at an image and sketching it easily: "You know, you just look at the lines and put them on the paper. It's right in front of you - you see it, then you put it down. That's it."
- Singers not understanding how some people don't have the same control over their voices.
- People with Autism and Aspergers are also rather tormented by this. It is actually so incredibly prevalent among people with ASDs that this trope could be named after them.
- Same for people on far side of the schizoid personality spectrum: to them, being a loner doesn't mean being alone, and the idea of needing social interaction for personal instead of practical reasons is bizarre.
- St. Pio, also known as "Padre Pio", spent his childhood thinking that everyone got visited by angels and saints on occasion.
- People with conditions that cause joint hypermobility often don't realize at first that not everybody's knees and elbows can bend backwards. This isn't too much of a problem most of the time, but people do not realize how much medicine is based on an understanding of how people's bodies work based upon your own. A medic with Ehlers-Danlos has to keep this in mind when testing range of motion for obvious reasons.
- Bookworms can often say something and have someone look at them in utter confusion. It's especially jarring when the confused party is older and the bookworm has reason to believe the person would know it.
- Many shy/socially awkward people can understand something perfectly in their head, have a plan on how to articulately explain it, and then- they open their mouth. Often, it ends with, "Never mind. Look, here's some websites, here's some book titles, I'm just going to go hide under a rock and die, now." Meanwhile, the person they were trying to explain things to can't understand why it's so hard for them to articulate what they claim to know.
- People talented (or sometimes just extremely experienced) with computers often have a hard time explaining things to others - it comes so naturally to them that they often are barely aware of several intermediate steps that others need carefully spelled out to them. This, though a joke, is actually pretty accurate as to what it feels like from the help desk's side.
- People who are deaf in one ear commonly don't know the effects of this disability. They'll commonly know they are partially deaf and that one side sounds louder but they don't find out about some more abstract affects such as not being able to detect direction from sound and why music will sometimes sound weird if they use headphones until later life.
- Prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize people's faces and to read emotions from faces) might go unnoticed by the sufferer for a long time. Documentary program The Science of the Senses described a man who never realized how different he was until late in his life, when his mate told him that all the "confusing" face close-ups in films aren't actually confusing for ordinary people.