They believe that I canWhenever 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 or very near the cheek. If they're doing something really hard, it takes both hands on their temples. If it's something really difficult, they have to use both hands — and quiver, and maybe bleed from the nose. This is a type of Magical Gesture. Healing Hands is a similar standard-gesture power. Not to be confused with the Face Palm. Compare Blasting Time. Compare and contrast Gotta Get Your Head Together, which generally happens to a person on the receiving end of Psychic Powers.
Raise a finger to my head
See the past, read a mind
And can mingle with the dead
Raise a finger to my head
See the past, read a mind
And can mingle with the dead
— Shawn Spencer, Psych, "Psych: The Musical"
open/close all folders
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 there's a variation: Thorn and Gran'ma Ben hold two fingers vertically in front of one eye when using their Veni-yan-cari powers.
- In her first solo book Supergirl befriends a telepath and precognitive called Wanda. Wanda takes both hands on their temples when she uses her psychic 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.
- Subverted by Maddie Sullivan of Astro City. When she uses her telekinetic powers, she extends her thumb and pinkie, then puts the thumb to her lips.
- 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.)
- Also averted in Ultraman Moedari: it is stated that neither Father Leo/Ultraman Lugeno or Madame Kandakai/Ultrawoman Lunaram need to move at all when using mental powers, the former holding an ultra still with his mind while standing motionless.
- Done by Lieutenant Commander Cadrat Vareni in Golden Age when the Alternian Empire attacks Excelsis-Five. This is lampshaded by Karkat.
Films — Animated
- The flower girl from Epic tries and fails to move a twig with the hands-to-head version in an attempt to prove that she's capable of becoming queen of the forest (the twig was actually a stickbug-person). At the end, when she does become queen, she does the same thing when she un-shrinks MK.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars:
- 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 Trunchbull 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 Remake) 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.
- In X-Men: First Class, it seems to be a personal favorite for Charles.
- Almost every time Xavier uses his telepathy in X-Men: Days of Future Past, McAvoy accentuates it by placing his fingers against his temple.
- Or, when using Logan as a conduit to the future, on Logan's temple.
- McAvoy said in an interview that he specifically chose to use the Pstandard Psychic Pstance because whenever Charles used his powers on film it was just closeups and adding his hand made the shot more dynamic. And also because Patrick Stewart never did anything similar in his tenure as Professor X.
- The girl in Escape to Witch Mountain used the hands-to-temple stance for concentrated telepathic activity. Her brother favoured the stare-and-squint version
- Bela Lugosi used grand arm gestures in various movies when his characters used their hypnotic powers. Movies in which he does this include White Zombie, Dracula (1931), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Bride of the Monster.
- 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 mentor reminds her that it's completely unecessary and makes her drop her weapon.
- Similarly subverted in the first The Immortals book when Daine is having her first formal lesson in magic. Her impulse at first is to emphasise her mental movements physically but her teacher tells her it's not necessary.
- Both of the above are likely influenced by David Eddings' The Belgariad series, in which it is noted several times that gestures are not necessary to use sorcery, but that most people tend to use them anyway.
- 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.
- In Smallville, Imra a.k.a. Saturn Girl does this whenever she uses telepathy.
- 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.
Sarah: It kind of looks like you saw something really bright and tasted something really sour at the same time.
- This also serves as a plotpoint a few times. Once, Chuck figures out that a villain has his own Intersect by the same facial tics.
- Shawn Spencer of Psych has eidetic memory, Hyper Awareness and his deductive reasoning skills honed to ana amazing degree thanks to being trained by his policeman father. However, he does not become a cop (he used to want to) but he still desires to help people out in a similar fasion so he pretends to be a psychic and really hams up the gestures while using his powers of observation instead.
- This is actually a tic of his as he uses a more subtle version when he is recalling a specific memory, even when no one is around to. He just exaggerates it for presentation purposes.
- 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 Fourth Doctor does this (hands to her temples) to Sarah Jane, to hypnotize her, at least once. The Roger Delgado Master, on the other hand, just stares with a hypnotic glare.
- The Eleventh Doctor prefers to knock his head with the other person's head.
- In "The Doctor's Wife," Amy and Rory both do this: Amy likely because that's how she's always seen it, but Rory's is justified as it clearly gave him a headache.
- 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.
Zack: Hey Raven, you OK? You had this weird look on your face.
- Lampshaded in the Crossover That's So Suite Life of Hanna Montanta:
Raven: No, I didn't.
Cody: Yes, you did. You were doing this. (makes Raven's vision face)
Raven: I've never made that face before in my life.
- 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.
Sheldon: Then I'll settle for an aneurysm.
- 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.
- It may confirm a fan theory that Guinan has telepathy or empathy or something, quite possibly on a higher level that anyone could imagine.
- 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.
- "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" of The X-Files:
- Mr Bruckman, a real deal 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.
- Subverted: Mr Bruckman places objects up against his head during the interrogation scene. He's unable to get a single reading from any of them, even though it has been established that he really can see past and future deaths.
- Parodied again when the psychic, having just failed to predict the winning lottery number, buries his face in his hands and from there foresees 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.
Lisa: Mmmmm... I'm thinking real hard... mmmmm....
- Averted in Dungeons & 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 Dark Sun setting, magic is illegal, so mages try to pass themselves off as psychics (complete with this stance) to excuse the lobbing of fireballs and other magical effects. Results may vary depending on how familiar the surrounding populace are with actual psychics or illegal mages, and it's usually not helped that magic drains life energy from the environment.
- In Rocket Age every depiction of the various psychic powers shows practitioners in very traditional poses. Favourites include the hand to brow, the directional gesture and the guru styled lotus position.
- 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 Psychic 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.
- And then in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, we see a young Mantis who never does this. And he's way more powerful.
- Whether disguised or not, Crypto (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 moves such as Confusion, is always depicted looking off into space with both paws on its 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.
- In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the pose the trainer performs to make his or her Pokémon use the Psychic-type Z-Move consists of placing both index fingers on his/her temples, keeping one finger in that position while extending the other arm in front of him/her with an outward-facing palm.
- 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.
- WildStar: The Esper's combat-ready idle stance has a hand to their head and the other outstretched towards their target.
- They also hold both hands by their temples when charging up certain moves (like Soothe).
- Mentor of Freedom Force uses this in all of its hammy goodness of Silver Age comics when using his abilities.
- Parsee of Touhou 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.
- In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan is seen holding fingers to her forehead in some of the cutscenes.
- Averted in the novel Starcraft: Ghost: Nova, where the titular character (one of the strongest terran psychics) doesn't do much in terms of hand gestures, even when she's levitating herself with her telekinesis. Then again, it's a book, so this is not necessary.
- Webcomic Dominic Deegan 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 EHUD 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 Speed Force and grabs ahold of him.
- In The Venture Bros., 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).
- Steven Universe has a variation. Whenever Garnet uses her Future Vision, she lifts her visor a little.