"Your compliance is unnecessary."
One of the characters is captured and restrained. If they have information that the Big Bad
wants, or if their captors are just feeling a bit sadistic, the bad guys will break out the Mind Probe
This device will cause a) a lot of fancy flashing lights and electronic effects, b) frightening hallucinations for the captured hero, or c) both. These devices frequently have varying levels of intensity; inevitably, the hero has to suffer the highest one
. Confusing and terrifying flashbacks and nightmares are often a long-term result of the Probe, especially if the hero is being made to pay for past transgressions.
While not actually touching the character in any way, when turned on, their subjects will convulse in agony. Sometimes they actually result in usable information. If the character has Telepathy
, they can initiate this without
the device. A telepath might try to protect themselves with a Psychic Block Defense
Named for a device in Doctor Who
, where similar things were used several times.
Compare the more benign Journey to the Center of the Mind
. Compare/contrast Mind Rape
— different purpose, similar principle.
See also the Mind Reading Machine
. For a slightly different approach, there's the Agony Beam
, which doesn't get into a person's mind directly—it's just a good way to convince a person to tell you what you want to know.
Not to be confused with Mind Screw
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Anime & Manga
- Ultron, of Avengers fame, has his Encephalo Ray. Doubles as Mind Rape, because while it can be used painlessly, Ultron prefers to use the more painful settings.
- In Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, the MTM has one.
- Prior to Red Fire, Red Planet, Brokosh acquired entry codes to the Sol system by ripping them straight out of the mind of a Starfleet captain with his telepathy.
- In Mega Man Defenderof The Human Race, Bass has his brain hijacked by the Stardroids, giving them access to his memories and knowledge of Earth so they can prepare for the invasion. Even scarier is that they did so through his power source, and someone who wasn't the Stardroids actually possessed him briefly.
- Darth Vader, totally unaware that he's presiding over the torture of his own daughter, waves a floating black orb covered in syringes and vicious-looking doo-dads into Leia's cell aboard the Death Star in A New Hope. Interestingly, the novelization and radio drama adaptation have him dismiss the machine once they are alone and attack her mentally with The Dark Side.
- In the novel "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" Leia has a BSOD when faced with another round with a Mind Probe, meaning she almost lost it off-screen.
- One of the things he does is make her believe that her father needs that information - then, that she's burning alive and will die if she doesn't tell him. Huh.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe makes him able to do this to people casually, probing their minds long enough to know if they're up to something. It happens in Death Star; a character senses his attention and it freaks her out, so she instinctively shuts him out by concentrating on the image of a blast door closing and sealing. He decides that she's strong-minded, and although that interests him, ultimately he does nothing, because he managed to remind himself of Padme.
- "We're going to empty your memory as we might empty your pockets... Doctor." In the 1980 film Flash Gordon, Dr. Hans Zarkov is subjected to the effects of some sort of twisted alien gizmo◊ that's supposed to erase his mind; he must struggle valiantly to keep his memories intact.
- The President's Analyst starts to crack under the pressure of his job, imagining spies are out to get him (and they are). He anxiously rants about "Dr. Chin Hu and his electrodynamic process of thought reform." He's ultimately abducted by The Phone Company, whose mind probe technology is way more sophisticated and dangerous than Hu's.
- Inception is based on this. It is about a group of people who, using a special device, enter someone else's dreams, normally to extract key information.
- Used twice in the original film series for Planet of the Apes; the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes are able to do this with their Psychic Powers, and it is as painful as usual for the trope, while a mechanical version called the Authenticator appears in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, though there's apparently no pain involved.
- Tod uses one on Dick to figure out what it is that makes Marge love him in Mom and Dad Save the World. The device apparently reads surface thoughts, as the first thing that comes up on the machine is "My back hurts."
- In Man of Steel, Lois mentions that Zod and his followers used one on her off-screen. Superman says he was subjected to it as well. In his case this leads to a hallucination where Zod shows him his plans for Earth, and he sinks into a field of human skulls.
- The Chronicles of Riddick: When the Greater Order of the Quasi-Dead probe Riddick's mind to learn more about him.
- The Psychic Probe in Isaac Asimov's Robots-Empire-Foundation novels is very complicated. Because the series were originally independent from one another, there are multiple descriptions of what, exactly the probe does; in some cases it directly reads the subjects mind, whereas in others it provides information in the abstract that has to be interpreted by a psychologist. Universal across its portrayals, however, is the warning that it causes severe memory loss and brain damage if used improperly, although in skilled hands it does no worse than cause a few days of weakness. The one time a Psychic Probe does appear in actual usage (The Currents of Space), it is used to remove a surface emotion, except that, by mistake, it removed a similar, much deeper feeling - and everything in between, reducing the subject to an infantile state that could neither read, write, speak or even feed or clean himself. One of the main characters (a rich noble) has a secretary who has been probed into complete loyalty, while another is rumored to use such people for certain other purposes. Foundation and Empire showed that a probe could be blocked by technological interference, although the (technologically illiterate) users thought that the lack of results was because the subject had been isolated for so long that his brainwaves were too alien for the probe to understand. After the failure to probe Lathan Devers, the Emperor's Privy Secretary used his own "psychic probe" to get information from Devers: He offered him $100,000.00.
- Legilimency in Harry Potter, particularly as portrayed in the movies.
- It's actually portrayed a bit worse in the books, though you don't get to see it. Voldemort essentially destroys the mind of Bertha Jorkins through Legilimency (possibly combined with the Cruciatus curse) who had had a Memory Charm placed on her, shattering her mind in the process. Then he kills her, because she has no mind anymore and thus is now worthless.
- But it can also be used in a way similar to the use of veritaserum, as a much less painful and more reliable alternative to torture.
- Partially subverted in the Hammers Slammers series, particularly the story called Interrogation Team. There, the mind probe is semi-painless and takes the form of a directed hallucination. BOTH the interrogator and the person being interrogated are given the drug, and a second interrogator asks questions while the first, in rapport with the victim, experiences his/her memories as the questions are asked. The drug in question is a combination truth serum and hallucinogen, and is described by the first interrogator as akin to a drug high. In this particular story, the interrogat-ee comes from a heavily defended town, a "red-pill target" - and when the authorization to nuke the town is given, the interrogator shares one last vision with the interrogated person - as he envisions his baby girl melted by the nuclear blast. Both the interrogator and the interrogated individual were disconnected from the machine when it happened. Creator David Drake does not write nice stories - perhaps because he WAS a interrogator assigned to the 11th Cavalry during the Vietnam War.
- In Fingerprints, Rae can use her Psychic Powers to mind-probe people by pressing her fingertips against theirs. The person on the receiving end only feels a slight tingle.
- The Tunnels series has the Dark Light, a device used by the Styx for interrogation. It also has a Mind Rape setting which is much less frequently used, as it leaves victims in no condition to answer their questions.
- H. Beam Piper's future history usually used the polyencephalographic veridicator, an apparently unbeatable Lie Detector, but in The Cosmic Computer it turns out The Federation also had a mind probe (restricted to military/intelligence use):
"We'll get anything we want out of you," Conn told him. "You know what a mind-probe is? You should; your accomplices used one on my father's secretary. She's a hopeless imbecile now. You'll be, too, when we're through with you. But before then, you'll have given us everything you know."
Kelton began to protest. "Conn, you can't do a thing like that!"
"A mind-probe is utterly illegal; why, it's a capital offense!" Ledue exclaimed. "Conn I forbid you..."
"Judge, don't make me call those guards and have you removed," Conn said.
- Done twice by Wyrm in Wyrm. Both times it has an effect like Mind Rape — the first time, Wyrm wasn't expecting it to be so traumatizing; the second time, Wyrm intentionally made it is traumatizing as possible.
- In the Star Kings duology by Edmond Hamilton, the protagonist is captured by a villain, who tries to extract a valuable secret from him with a Mind Probe. According to the villain, a few hours would have left him a mindless husk, but since the first minute showed the subject is not the man they're looking for, he got away with just a very severe headache.
- Averted in the Lensman series. At one point Kinnison used a "Mind Ray Machine" that produced nothing but a light show, in order to hide his then-new Second-Stage Lensman abilities.
- In Andre Norton's Ordeal In Otherwhere, Thorvald, discussing Lantee's capture, tells Charis that he's not been mind-locked, and the Company men may use this on him. In fact, he put himself into a mental prison that at least kept them from using it.
- In Andre Norton's Catseye, Zul argues that killing the animals will be a mercy, since they will be subjected to this and then killed if the Patrol gets them.
- In Veniss Underground, there are professionals called Psychewitches who can use machines to extract memories from people in stasis and show them to others. Unusually for a mind probe, the process is actually more dangerous to the mind of the person receiving the memories than the mind of the person being probed.
Live Action TV
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Lords of Madness supplement the mind flayers have a device that will allow them to get truthful answers to any question they ask. They use their tentacles to make a hole, then stick the device in and start asking questions. Then when they take it out, there's a chance that the person they were questioning will go permanently insane. Definitely not fun.
- GURPS actually calls this Mind Probe.
- Some Magic: The Gathering cards seem to be based on this trope. Examples:Psychogenic Probe, Psychic Possession, Mind Extraction
- So does, Paranoia, as a mutant ability instead of a device. It's not particularly subtle, causing unconsciousness.
- The first Ape Escape game, despite its generally light-hearted and humorous nature throughout, features this just before the Final Boss fight. Specter, using his telekinetic powers, bombards Spike with plasma, goading him to become his Brainwashed servant, or experience greater pain. It's implied that this was the very method used to brainwash Spike's friend Jake. Fortunately, Spike has the Heroic Willpower to resist it.
- Halo: The Flood gain access to a host's memories when they infect a person, and they have a hive-mind. Therefore, when the Captain is infected, he has to make a a superhuman effort to keep the parasite from learning information integral to the survival of the good guys until the Master Chief shows up to put him out of his misery.
- In Betrayal at Krondor, Gorath is a dark elf who seeks out the humans to convince them to nip the war his kind is planning against them in the bud, because he knows his people can't risk the losses. After being escorted to someone in authority - Prince Arutha, Lord of the West - he is subjected to this to find out if he's being sincere. Which doesn't really work, as he apparently has subconscious defences, so the jury remains out on him for the rest of the game.
- The Ethelite of the Eltham family in Nasuverse (specifically, Melty Blood) is a mind-probe/control combination - because of how small and thin it is (a nano-filament) targets generally have no idea that information is being sucked out of them. Canonically, the reason why everyone hates them.
- X-Com - UFO Defense features Mind Probes, which tell you the rank/stats of enemy aliens.
- Those are just the non-attack version. The Psi-Amps and similar technology allows aliens and properly trained operatives to jump into a target's mind and have a rape old time.
- Albedo combines this with Mind Rape in Xenosaga's first Episode. It's more obvious in the (supposedly censored) U/C version (where it actually has all those flashy lights), but even in the JP version, the goal was to find the Y-Data in MOMO (supposedly the last complete copy). He added the Mind Rape for an apparent trap later on.
- Any, The Empath from M9 Girls!, can read the most prevalent emotion of a person, and can force her way into the most deep emotions. Strong wills can block Any's attempts at emotion reading.
- Schlock Mercenary has mind ripping, lets just say that they'd give up their PG rating if it was actually shown.
- Redcloak mentions using them on his prisoner O'Chul in The Order of the Stick. When it doesn't work, he just convinces himself O'Chul must have some special resistance.
- Alex's captor in Captain SNES: The Game Masta had been doing this to him for pretty much the entire comic.
- Eggplant goes into Samus' mind to force some information out of her. She breaks him instead. Merely by staring at him.
- "When trying to extract information using mental effects... make sure you have the stronger will."
- Elf Blood has TKO attempt a remote Mind Probe on Mara's father. He turns out to be an incredibly power mage, and is not too pleased at being spied on...
- Averted in Errant Story, as Sarine offers to submit to one to prove she isn't concealing anything about what her fellow elves were up to. The circumstances suggest that it's an unpleasant proposition. Fortunately, the Tsuirakuans don't take her up on it.
- Transformers occasionally uses this:
- Soundwave's toy bio states that he is "Able to read minds by monitoring electrical brain impulses." This ability is only used a couple of times in the first season of The Transformers.
- In a second-season episode of the original cartoon, Megatron tried to use the Psycho-Probe on an heiress to discover her father's energy formula; her Walking Techbane nature protected her, however. Amusingly, it was Soundwave himself who operated the device, foregoing (or forgetting about) his own mind-reading ability.
- In Transformers: Robots in Disguise the Predacons repeatedly mind-probed a kidnapped human scientist; sometimes this yielded useful information for them and sometimes...not. Despite claims of the probe's dangerous nature, he seemed to survive the experience pretty well. (In an awesome bit of homage, it's described in the exact terms as the G1 version, to the point where the TF Wiki puts both versions on one page.)
- Transformers Prime brings the Cortical Psychic Patch, allowing one character to enter another's mind. It's been used multiple times in the series for various reasons (usually Mind Rape).
- In the Kim Possible movie 'So the Drama', Doctor Drakken uses a mind probe to take the plans for the Hephaestus Project from Mr. Dr. Possible's mind and use them to make his Lil' Diablo toys. He also tried (and failed) to use lesser mind probing devices on one Dr. Freeman in the episode 'Car Trouble'.
- In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Buzz's blueskinned second in command, Mira Nova, has the ability (like all her race) to rummage through memories by literally sticking a hand in the person's brain. This is a side-effect of phasing powers, so all is good.
- Subverted in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, when Mentok tries to Mind Probe Ernie Devlin and can't because of a metal plate in the daredevil's head. He's also thwarted by cops wearing aluminum foil hats at one point.
- In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Triceraton invaders use this on Donatello to try and find out where the scientist they're pursuing has gone. But Splinter provides him with psychic assistance, and Don resists the probe.
- Parodied in various Looney Tunes cartoons, usually with Bugs Bunny outwitting the Evil Scientist trying to swap Bugs' brain with whatever happened to be at hand.
- A very literal example in Invader Zim, these seem to be fairly commonly used by the Irken Empire as screw-like probes jammed into victim's heads:
- In the episode "Zim Eats Waffles", Zim has a human test subject with a large happiness probe stuck in his head.
- The megadoomer episode also showed the enslaved workers on a conquered world turned into package shipping planet to all have these.
- Ultron from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has an AI patterned after the human brain. When he decides to eliminate chaos by eliminating everyone in the world, he confronts SHIELD's acting director, Maria Hill, and steals some nuclear missile codes from her brain (see the page pic).
- Some form of this is used on The Question in Justice League. It causes him to hallucinate about an alternate Bad Future. Question's only response (apparently even after a week of being tortured) is to repeat random theories.