A character is thinking something either unflattering or romantic about another character. He's rambling on via internal monologue without a care in the world... until he remembers that the character he's thinking about can read minds. Still speaking only in his head, he gasps, "Oh God, did she just hear that?" The answer is always "Of course she did."
Usually reserved for psychic characters who either have temporary powers or are hanging out with somebody new who isn't used to their abilities yet. A common subversion is for the thinker to be pretending not to know that his thoughts are being read.
Dirty Mind-Reading is a more lewd version of this trope.
- Dragon Ball Z: When Shin the Supreme Kai is describing how dangerous Majin Buu is, Vegeta thinks to himself that Buu would have made a good Saiyan. Shin immediately corrects him, saying that Buu was much more evil and dangerous than the Saiyans ever were. Vegeta didn't technically know that Shin could read his mind at this point, but he probably should have expected it, since he is a god.
- In Fairy Tail, Brain tells Cobra he did well against Natsu while Cobra can hear him thinking otherwise. Brain actually did know Cobra could hear him and said what he did simply to mock Cobra.
- Manabe defies this in Kotoura-san Episode 7 by not telling anybody else about his plans since his girlfriend is a telepath who should not know his Big Secret until The Reveal. Afterwards, he admits this as the reason behind his suspicious behavior to work around her Power Incontinence issue, and quite literally at that.
- Ouran High School Host Club: In episode 17 of the anime, this happens to Haruhi when she wonders how Tamaki and Kyouya complement each other so well. Kyouya, being the Shadow King that he is, repeats back her pondering almost word for word.
- Deliberately invoked in Overman King Gainer. When faced with an enemy Overman that can read minds (and broadcast them), Gainer throws the pilot off balance by loudly declaring what's really on his mind: Sara. Of course, that's when the "broadcast" part kicks in, letting everybody in the entire Exodus know it too (Sara included, of course).
- This is exactly what happens to Ranma in the climax of Ranma ½, as it's deliberately left ambiguous whether his declaration of love for Akane was internal or external. She reacts as though it was the latter, though.
- In an early issue of Gold Digger, Gina is introduced to Seance, her father's new apprentice. She's enjoying several naughty thoughts about him when he lets her know that one of his natural magic abilities is reading people's surface thoughts, and he still has no idea how to turn it off.
- The Plutonian from Irredeemable has Super-Hearing. While not the same as telepathy, it allows him to hear what everyone on Earth is saying about him, all the time. For the record, when he goes evil, one of the first things he does is kill the actual telepath among the heroes, keeping them from finding out more about who he is and forming a counter-strategy.
- This occurs in the first issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes Zero Hour reboot when Live Wire, upon meeting Saturn Girl, has a number of embarrassing thoughts about her before noticing the Saturn insignia that marks her as a Titanian telepath. In a later issue, he starts daydreaming about her while actually on Titan and surrounded by telepaths.
- Subverted in Ultimate Spider-Man. Spidey meets Storm, Jean Grey, and Kitty Pryde, and Jean makes the mistake of congratulating him on not mentally picturing her naked. Naturally, this causes him to do so... for the next 3 pages, as she gets progressively more annoyed.
Jean Grey: In fact, you're the first person in six months that hasn't pictured me naked, so I appreciate that... until now. Are you done yet?
Spider-Man: ...okay, I'm done. [Jean glares angrily at him] ...okay now I'm really done.
- X-Men: Doctor Nemesis of gets saddled with this problem in X-Club after a telepathic starfish bonds to his head and starts broadcasting his internal monologues. He and Doctor Rao discovered the starfish was telepathic when it broadcasted that Doctor Nemesis frequently admires Doctor Rao's "shapely behind". The starfish later broadcasts Nemesis' jealousy of Cyclops' costume, his craving for his co-worker Jeffries' friendship, and the fact that he's making up half the gibberish he comes out with.
- In this Dilbert cartoon, Dilbert is dating a telepath. He tries to reassure her his thoughts are completely normal for a guy... well, maybe not that last one. In the book, Scott Adams's commentary on the cartoon reads, "It's probably a good idea women don't know what men are thinking most of the time."
- Harry tends to grumble about this in the sequel of Child of the Storm, thanks to his powerful Psychic Powers and the fact that he lives in a school full of teenagers. To make things even better, by the time the powers are more or less mastered, Harry himself is Tall, Dark, and Handsome, quite muscular due to lots of Boxing Lessons for Superman, and a literal Prince Charming and Knight in Shining Armor (even if there's some Knight in Sour Armor tendencies there as well), leading to lots of said Hormone Addled Teenagers perving on him.
- Inverted in Eleutherophobia, as Tom sometimes addresses his thoughts to a Yeerk that's no longer there.
- Inverted and then played straight in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. Every time the four encounter someone they think is a telepath, they think nasty things at him or her, with no result. Until John, telepathically speaking with Trelayna, realizes what a whack job she is—and she immediately starts chiding him for slandering her with his half-formed thoughts and ideas. Also, after their unnerving discussion with the Pyar gods, the four have an anguished telepathic conference where the possibility of losing their souls comes up:
Ringo: THIS WOULD BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR ME! DON'T YOU SEE? THIS WAY I CAN HAVE EVERYTHING! I DON'T HAVE TO SACRIFICE ANYTHING!
George: Except your soul, maybe, but what's a soul compared to all that other stuff?
Ringo: GO FUCK YOURSELF, GEORGE.
George: You know I'm right. And I know you know I'm right. You can't hide it here, we all feel it off you. You're like a big emotional lighthouse.
Ringo: ... AHH, FUCK.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series Script Fic Plague Ship has Kirk and Spock mentally linked so that the latter can protect his non-telepathic captain from the effects of the titular insanity plague. However, Kirk seems to have some trouble keeping his thoughts on strictly mission-relevant matters...
Spock (mind voice betraying slight amusement): You need not concentrate so hard, sir. Our minds are linked. I can hear you think.
(Looks like he's trying to replay exactly what he had thought in the last few moments and apparently rather embarrassed)
Kirk (mind voice): Um, you know human thoughts have this habit of going off on weird tangents, right? Especially when things are getting tense... That bit about Risa...
Spock (amused tolerance of a stuck-babysitting-elder-brother): Your plans for the next shore leave are no concern of mine, Jim. And no, I certainly will not be accompanying you — the forms of entertainment offered at Risa holds no appeal for me.
- In Minority Report, main character Anderton kidnaps one of the three children used to predict future crimes and brings her to somebody to have her mind scanned, who wastes no time in wondering out loud if she's reading his mind right now and then blurts out this little gem: "Those thoughts about my cousin Elena, those were just — thoughts!"
- Played for serious dramatic effect in Serenity, wherein key members of the corrupt government's parliament are brought in to observe a Super-Soldier in the making. What everyone forgot is that the prototype soldier's brain had also been experimented on to make her a psychic, which led to a dangerous secret leaking out, and the Operative being unleashed to do everything in his power to murder an escaped River.
- For some reason, this keeps happening in What Women Want, even though most of the female characters have no idea that Nick has gained telepathy. One of the more painful examples has to be Darcy thinking "Oh, God, I just stared at his crotch!" — and covering her eyes, because that does not look suspicious at all.
- In one Animorphs book, the Animorphs morph into an alien creature that can read minds, and so the four characters who are present at the time are all suddenly thrust into the position of being able to hear all of each other's thoughts — and, of course, knowing that the others can read their thoughts. The narrating character, Ax, describes the other characters' private thoughts at that moment in much more detail than his own; this is probably explained by the fact that the Animorphs engage in Direct Line to the Author. (We can certainly assume that Ax's overheard thoughts were just as angsty as those of the other characters). Fortunately, they quickly figure out how to turn it off. Marco breaks the tension of the moment by saying:
"I would like you all to know that whatever thoughts of mine you're reading are totally made up. They aren't real."
- Subverted in the Artemis Fowl series. Villain Opal Koboi has her none-too-bright henchmen convinced to the point of paranoia that she can read minds, simply by turning on them at random and shrieking "I heard that!"... right up until one of them decides to test her with the thought "Holly Short is prettier than you" and gets no real reaction.
- Ciaphas Cain:
- Almost used in the first novel when Ciaphas realizes that Amberley Vail is a member of the Inquisition. His first thought is that she's a psyker, and is utterly terrified that she can read his mind, and will expose all the lies of his reputation as a Hero. It turns out that she's not a psyker, just really good at reading people.
- Later he finds out psykers can't just read people's minds like that, unless they want to (and kill the person).
- Besides, he most often stays in Gunner Ferik Jurgen's area of effect.
- He also needn't worry because although Amberley Vail is an Inquisitor, she knows enough about the universe that any self-serving cowardice that doesn't directly count as treason is perfectly justifiable. She also has a soft spot for him.
- Robin Wednesbury of The Stars My Destination is a reverse telepath, a telesend, who has to constantly worry that others are hearing what she thinks.
- The sparkly, occasionally psychic vampires in The Twilight Saga seem to experience a slight degree of this — grossly inflated in Fanon for cheap jokes. (Edward being forced to listen in on his vampire parents having vampire sex... squick! Of course, they're fully aware. Or... "Dear diary... today I made Carlisle think he was in love with Edward. AGAIN! Laterz ~ Jasper.")
- In The Wheel of Time, a male and female channeler accidentally form a Psychic Link strong enough to read each other's minds, then later fall in love. As the man reflects that some women are like expensive cloth (pretty but fragile), but his girl is tough like leather, the woman asks, "Did you just compare me to...an old strap of leather?"
- Something along these lines happens in The Witcher to Geralt. Because of his time spent with Yennefer, Geralt has become quite capable of handling the ubiquitous ability of sorcerers to read minds, even learning what it feels like when your mind is read. He is also aware that Yennefer loses control of her mind reading when she orgasms. In one scene he fills his thoughts with romantic pleasant imagery after having sex (waterfalls, fields of flowers, etc), unfortunately his mind wanders too far, and he lets slip the thought of him and Yennefer settling down in a cottage, and living like normal villagers/townsfolk. Geralt immediately regrets this and tries to cover it up, but Yennefer caught it and teases him relentlessly afterwards.
- A dramatic version from Angel, as Lorne can read people's auras and thoughts when they sing. Wesley is meant to be taking baby Connor for the night, picking him up from current babysitter Lorne, but actually plans on kidnapping him (for complicated, if well-intentioned, reasons). He nearly escapes without suspicion, but when Connor starts to fuss, Wesley unconsciously hums a lullaby to him, before meeting Lorne's eye and realizing that Lorne was reading his thoughts.
- Babylon 5:
- In one episode, resident telepath Talia Winters is explaining to someone that telepaths sometimes cannot avoid picking up particularly strong emotions and thoughts before entering a lift with Security Chief Garibaldi. Talia elbows Garibaldi in the gut before getting off. Garibaldi responds with, "I think I'm in love."
- One of them later mentions that they have to constantly recite poems/songs/whatever in their minds in order to keep from picking up every superficial thought. Then a group of rogue telepaths go on to blackmail people by telling them something along the lines of: "We followed every one of you for the past x days. Think, what we might know about you....".
- In another episode, Garibaldi is having an argument with the Psi Cop Bester, and as Garibaldi glares at him, Bester says, "Anatomically impossible, Mr. Garibaldi, but you're welcome to try, anytime."
- In another episode, the effect is evoked deliberately by maneuvering a kidnapping suspect into Talia's presence and "cautioning" him not to think about irrelevant facts such as the current location of the kidnapping victim.
- And exploited in another episode, where Garibaldi rescues some people from telepathic pursuers by telling them to keep thinking about where he says he's taking them, but actually taking them someplace else entirely.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Earshot":
- Buffy gets the 'temporary powers' version and finds out what Xander's really thinking:
Xander: What am I gonna do? I think about sex all the time! Sex! Help! Four times five is 30. Five times six is 32. Naked girls. Naked women! And naked Buffy! Oh, stop me!
- Wesley hangs a lampshade on it in the same scene, admonishing everyone that, unless they exercise mental discipline, they will very likely be thinking the things they really don't want Buffy to overhear — and immediately realizes that he is broadcasting his awkward attraction to Cordelia, and excuses himself, embarrassed.
- Cordelia, of course, is completely fine. Her thoughts exactly match what she says! Well, she thinks tact is just not saying true things.
- Needless to say, everyone (except Cordelia) tries to overcompensate for it. When Buffy finally retreats to her bedroom because the psychic din is getting to be too much, Joyce becomes the archetype of a mother caring for a sick child... in hopes that Buffy won't realize she had sex with Giles. On the hood of a police car. Twice.
- Buffy gets the 'temporary powers' version and finds out what Xander's really thinking:
- Kelly from Misfits is an involuntary telepath, and always seems to hone in specifically on Nathan's thoughts just as he's thinking something that really would've been best kept private. His panicky attempts to "control" his thought processes usually only make things worse. His fear is certainly justified though. Often, he's just fantasizing about sex, leading to mild embarrassment when he's overheard, but occasionally it's something even worse, and Kelly — being a rather... boisterous young lady — is more than likely to unthinkingly blurt out whatever secret she's just heard, or simply beat the crap out of him if his thoughts particularly offend her.
- In one episode of Mutant X, Emma has to fully open her mind, Jesse's thoughts are never shown explicitly, but we're shown that imaginary-Emma has also stripped off her shirt, leaving just the tank top underneath.
- The Ultroonian race depicted in My Hero (2000) has mind-reading as an optional extra power. When George uses it, many of the unsettling thoughts he hears are Janet's father constantly imagining killing his wife, and Dr. Piers Crispin thinking about sex while draining a cyst. The worst, perhaps, hearing cousin Arnie declaring of Janet "Boy, is she hot."
- Ta'Ra, the alien protagonist of Something is Out There, is telepathic; unfortunately, she's also a hot chick so she's constantly angry over how these Earth people want to "do that with her body" (her species has a somewhat different way of making love).
- Lwaxana Troi of Star Trek: The Next Generation loves pointing out embarrassing thoughts non-telepaths around her are thinking just to watch them squirm. On the other hand, she might just be making things up because she thinks it's funny and nobody has evidence to refute her.
- In an early Supernatural episode, a psychic named Missouri makes a mess of a house while exorcising a poltergeist. When the lady of the house returns, Missouri volunteers Dean to clean everything up. Apparently, he's none too happy about being ordered around:
Missouri: Get the mop, child... and don't cuss at me!
- In the Torchwood episode "Greeks Bearing Gifts", when Toshiko gets hold of an alien device that enables her to read minds, she's disgusted at the petty thoughts of her co-workers, more than a little upset about Gwen and Owen's selfish affair, and surprised by Ianto's pain. However, when she's unable to read Captain Jack's mind (unless he wants her to), she's seriously freaked out.note
- The X-Files: Subverted in the episode "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose". After being shooed out of a room by a TV psychic for his "negative energy", Mulder meets the psychic in the hallway and shows him what negative energy really is with three words: "Read this thought." However, Mr. Yappi's status as a Phony Psychic is deliberately played to be ambiguous. He replies "So's your old man!" Therefore, it's possibly double subverted.
- In City of Heroes, everyone in Paragon City seems to forget that it's pointless to try to keep things from Sister Psyche' since she is stuck listening to surface thoughts all day every day anyway.
- Mint Blancmanche from Galaxy Angel is a mind-reader, which lets her manipulate people very easily, but her telepathy is more prone to putting her in these situations with crew members. The third game switches it around — something happens with her powers so that she is broadcasting her thoughts to the entire crew, including some not-so-nice comments about her fellow Angels.
- Happens in Psychonauts, with Raz overhearing Lili's thoughts in a cut scene ("When are you going to shut up and kiss me?" "Shut up and do what?"), though near the end of the game this happens intentionally, in an Ironic Echo of the earlier scene:
Lili: [thinking] When are you going to shut up and kiss me?
Raz: Uhh... I can hear that, you know.
Lili: [flirtatiously] I know...
- Played straight, if externally, in StarCraft when Kerrigan cuts short her introduction to berate Jim Raynor on the thoughts he was having about her:
Kerrigan: ...and... you pig!
Raynor: Uhhh, what? I... I didn't even say anything to you yet!
Kerrigan: Yeah, but you were thinking about it.
Raynor: Oh, yeah, you're a telepath. Look, let's just get on with this, all right?
- Satori from Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism is a mind reader, to the point that nobody else will come near her. However, it's a bit of a surprise to the heroines when she's able to listen in on their thoughts, and in Marisa's case:
Alice: We still have a long way to go. Let's go the depths of the underworld. Hang in there!
Satori: "Before that, let's search the house...." you think. I won't allow that! Please head to the courtyard immediately.
- Inverted in a Ballerina Mafia comic in which a mummy curses an archaeologist by announcing to everyone nearby whatever's on his mind.
- Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Forgot about the entire school of mind readers.
Dan: [thinking] I mean, what all can Cubi really do? Can they control elements? What are they prone to? Can they read minds?
Ten surrounding Cubi, in unison: YES!
- The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Riboflavin realizes that Bob has overheard his tragic origin story.
- The Last Days of Foxhound:
- The trope is also defied when Revolver Ocelot gets outfitted with anti-telepathy nanites and walks up to Mantis thinking "I'm going to kill you" over and over while relishing the fact that Mantis can't hear him.
- This goes into Mind Screw territory later on when we learn that Mantis' mind reading never worked on Ocelot in the first place. Basically, Ocelot went around pretending to relish the fact that Mantis can't hear his thoughts while being immune already in order to put up a show for the person who gave him the anti-telepathy nanites.
- Discussed near the end of the comic. When Liquid executes Scratch, FOXHOUND's computer hacking specialist, for discovering the upcoming Shadow Moses terror plot, Ocelot comments that his partner Eddie will certainly notice Scratch's absence. Liquid states that he'll kill him too before suddenly remembering that Eddie's a psychic and therefore will see an ambush coming. Liquid has Mantis, a much more powerful psychic who overpowers Eddie's powers, ambush him instead.
- Reversed in a notable episode of Dexter's Laboratory. Dexter tries to gain telepathy to read his father's mind and find out what his birthday present is. He ends up having his every thought uncontrollably communicated to everyone, which leads numerous times to insult people. He finally gets around this by talking without pause so he has no thoughts to expose.
- Used in Family Guy when Peter turns the microphone on a listening device up way too high, allowing everyone to hear Quagmire's thoughts — including himself.
Quagmire: Man, this itches. I wonder who gave it to me. Probably that skank who needed a ride to the gas station. Last time I do somebody a favor. ...Oh, God, they must have heard me. Oh, God, I can hear me! Nananananananana!
- Occurs occasionally in Young Justice (2010), due to the tendency to use a telepathic link for group communication (and Superboy's super-hearing doesn't help either), but subverted in "Infiltration" when Artemis is admiring Superboy:
Miss Martian: He can hear you. We can all hear you.
Artemis: Oh, I know.