Follow TV Tropes


It's Probably Nothing

Go To
"Unless it's a robot ninja rat, but that's besides the point."

"It's not just the wind. It's not all in your head. And it's definitely something to worry about."

... except when it's not!

One of the heroes receives a broad hint that something unpleasant might happen — any kind of bad thing, from the plans of a Mole to a debilitating disease. It could come in the form of a prophecy, an important clue picked up off a defeated enemy, an inconclusive medical test... the form varies depending on the context.

In a classic example of Genre Blindness, the hero carefully evaluates the hint and concludes almost immediately that it is most likely meaningless, regardless of the reliability of its source. And he will keep doing that even though additional, corroborating hints start showing up, until it is almost too late.

Because if he didn't, he'd solve the mystery, foil the criminal, or seek out proper treatment in the first act of the show, and then where would we be for the next forty-five minutes?

Which is why, on the rare circumstance that the hero does go after it — it proves to be a Red Herring.

Many security guards (especially in video games, for gameplay reasons) are prone to this as well. Hearing a noise or seeing something out of the corner of their eye, they'll investigate for a moment, or their "more experienced" partner will tell them it's just a rat, or a stray dog, or something else innocuous, and say something along the lines of "It's probably nothing". At which point they get knocked out/captured/killed/eaten. (See The Guards Must Be Crazy.)

This is an instance of someone holding the Idiot Ball, provided the event is out of the ordinary in some way. Expect The Great Detective to berate the fool for his casual dismissal of the occurrence, probably during The Reveal.

Possibly the opposite of a Cat Scare. Not to be confused with Within Parameters, which is related. Also related to Convenient Decoy Cat.

A case of some Truth in Television as each area has a large assortment of ambient sounds that individuals become familiar with and often ignore possibly at their detriment. Similarly, as a part of the "denial response" or "freeze response" that is just as much a reaction to danger as fight or flight, it is also Truth in Television that people tend to dismiss or ignore unusual bodily symptoms (even those of blatant heart attacks or strokes or obvious cancers), fail to call the fire department during the early stages of a potential fire, insist on ignoring tornado warnings until they can sight the tornado, often don't flee or shelter from disasters in general, and don't flee or defend against criminal attack (even to the degree of locking doors or calling police) until it's far too late. The key to not letting this trope kill you in real life is to keep in mind that if you are saying "it's probably nothing," something has made you say that, and further investigation (or in the case of a disaster, just getting the hell out of there and/or obeying the warnings) might be an inconvenience that proves it was nothing after all, or it might save your life.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Yotsuba Arc of Death Note, Memoryless!Light considers the possibility that he may be Kira, finds it a bit too likely for comfort and so dismisses it.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: The team has been chased around the world by characters with mysterious powers that manifest in all sorts of crazy ways, they end up in a strangely lifeless town covered in fog in India, and after being rudely brushed off by a store owner, Joseph notices roaches crawling on the man's neck. The natural reaction? "I must've been imagining things."
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: In the middle of a rainstorm, Josuke, Okuyasu, and Hayato are having a very loud confrontation with Kira that involves screaming and explosions. Standing just around the corner, Jotaro hears something but writes it off as the rain just sounding like Josuke.
  • Ranma ½:
    Genma: What's that?
    Soun: The wind, probably.
  • Rebuild World:
    • When Akira tests his forth set of Powered Armor and its Invisibility Cloak in the Higaraka Residence Ruins, the hunters there say things like this when he passes within range of them, since their Everything Sensor is set to pick up large monsters, and Akira's cloak is on the cheaper end. He never uses that suits cloak function again due to this.
    • Occasionally, when Sheryl wakes up in bed after having slept (chastely) with Akira, she seems to overhear Akira accidentally speaking out loud to his Virtual Sidekick Alpha, when he normally uses Telepathy, and Sheryl dismisses it as her imagination. With Sheryl having been spoken to by Alpha in a dream, it's an Ambiguous Situation as to whether Akira really spoke out loud or she overheard the telepathy.
  • Played with in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie. Sonic is relaxing on the beach and Tails goes out to the ocean to try his new machine, it goes out of control and he begins screaming for Sonic to help him. Sonic, who just wants to relax, dismisses it as "probably nothing". Tails continues screaming for Sonic, and he finally yells at him to shut up.
  • Spriggan: When Yu Ominae assumes this trope while in the Forest of No Return, Yoshino Somei fires at his feet to make him go and look! Then she's snatched up When Trees Attack while Yu is away.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Tristan somehow manages to sneak up on a guard while wearing a full suit of plate armor.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Occurs when the Ulysses picks up the Leviathan on sonar. Commander Rourke wonders if it could be a pod of whales, but it soon stops, leading Helga to say it's gone now. Seconds later the Leviathan attacks.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Bones (2001): In a flashback, Pearl reads Jimmy's palm and senses that he's in danger if he goes to the meeting with Eddie Mack, but he ignores her concerns.
  • In Duck Soup, spy Pinky thinks he's opening a wall safe, but instead turns on a radio that plays loud brass band music, leading to this exchange:
    Mrs. Teasdale: What's that?
    Rufus T. Firefly: Sounds to me like mice.
    Mrs. Teasdale: Mice? Mice don't play music.
    Rufus T. Firefly: No? How about the old mice-tro?
  • In Killdozer!, Kelly asks mechanic Chub to examine the bulldozer to determine why it went berserk. Chub reports back that he can't find anything mechanically wrong with the dozer, but there is mysterious humming emanating from the blade which he can't locate a source for. Kelly listens to the hum, then dismisses it as "probably nothing important".
  • In The Mystery of the Hooded Horsemen, Tex trails Blackie to the meeting place of the Riders. At one point, Blackie thinks he is being followed, but then dismisses it, saying "It's probably just a coyote".
  • Played with in Pan's Labyrinth. Early in the movie, Ofelia hears some creepy noises coming from the walls of the house at night, and her mother explains it as the sounds of the house settling. Later, Ofelia narrowly escapes the Pale Man's lair with the Pale Man chasing after her; and once she gets back into the house, the Pale Man pounding on the door behind her makes the exact same "house-settling" noises Ofelia heard earlier.
  • Scavenger Hunt (1979): This is Sam's reaction when her hears Dummitz breaking into the bidal boutique via the air vent. It is only when Dummitz tries to sneak past him disguised as a mannequin that he decides he should investigate.
  • Shackleton: After the Endurance is trapped in the Antarctic ice, the crew hears an ominous grinding sound and feels the ship move. Shackleton (Kenneth Branagh) insists that it's the result of a whale mistaking the ship for a hole in the ice. It isn't.
  • A common response used by Steven Glass in Shattered Glass when he's trying to keep his fellow journalists and anyone else interested from catching on to what he's up to.
  • Spider-Man 3, when Marko's presence in the test chamber is immediately dismissed as just a bird.
  • Played With in an odd way in Star Trek: First Contact—Zefram Cochrane quotes the trope when trying to remember what he might've forgotten to bring with him for the launch of the Phoenix. Just as the final countdown starts, he remembers what it is and starts panicking, saying they can't launch without it. They're about to abort the launch when he finds it in his pocket—a futuristic CD so he can play "Magic Carpet Ride" during the flight.
  • Star Wars:
    • The first time this happens in A New Hope, it's an Inversion. Obi-Wan uses a Jedi Mind Trick against two stormtroopers on the Death Star, and they do what competent guards should do, they investigate. Though in that case it really was nothing; Obi-Wan did it to cover his escape in the other direction.
    • In Revenge of the Sith, two Super Battle Droids are investigating the crashed Jedi starfighters in the hangar bay. When one hears Artoo lurking in a corner, the other stops him, saying it's nothing.
    • After the characters watch Star Wars 4-6 in Spaced, Tim declares that entire plot wouldn't have happened if the Imperial gunner in A New Hope hadn't dismissed the escape pod carrying R2-D2 and C-3PO down to Tatooine as nothing to worry about.
    • Humourously referenced in Family Guy: Blue Harvest. "Wait, hold your fire, there are no life forms aboard that vessel", "Wait, hold your fire? What, are we paying by the laser now?" "Hey Terry, you don't do the budget but I DO."
    • Also referenced and subverted in Darths & Droids:
      Gunnery Captain Bolvan: Shoot it! Shoot it!
      Lieutenant Hija: But it has no life forms, sir.
      Gunnery Captain Bolvan: Oh right... because there's no such things as sentient metallic beings with no life readings in this universe...
      Lieutenant Hija: I'll just shoot it down, shall I sir?
  • Subject of a brief gag in Superman, when a guy working in his skyscraper office catches a glimpse of Superman, or at least his red boots standing sideways on the guy's window, and dismisses it as his imagination.
  • In The Towering Inferno, a temperature sensor actually picks up the fire as it starts, but this is dismissed as a glitch in the system. As a result, the fire grows unchecked in a room full of flammable materials for hours until someone opens the door to the room.

  • The Dark Tower (2004): While in "Joe Collins"'s house, Susannah hears a noise which she tells herself must be the raging storm outside, even when she is also very convinced must be Mordred. Then, soon after, she realizes the noise is coming from inside the house...
  • Harris in DO NOT TAKE THE SHELLS insists there is a perfectly mundane explanation when he sees the strange woman disappear beneath the waves and not resurface. A variation in that he does go after her to investigate, but simply doesn't expect anything bad to happen.
  • James Ellroy typically does quite a convincing job of this, as we really can't blame the cops a lot of times for ignoring details that genuinely seem inconsequential. It's their bad luck that they're being written by a guy who loves coming up with insanely complicated stories where every little detail matters.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, the heroes notice that an alleged runaway slave doesn't behave like a slave, for example she hides her pain, which Ward (who had an abusive father) and Oreg (who has been a slave for the last few hundreds of years) know is strange because hiding your pain only provokes the one who caused it to beat you more. They talk about it but dismiss it as unimportant for the moment. It comes back to bite them when that person turns out to be ... actually a slave, though not at all escaped, but on a mission for her evil master. And she's a sadist herself. Possibly also a masochist, which would explain the pain thing.
  • I Want To Go Home!: At the beginning of the book Mr. Warden gets a letter from camper Rudy Miller's parents describing how he's a rebellious loner whose being forced to come to the camp by his guidance counselor and might care trouble. Warden throws away the letter, saying that everyone loves camp and the Millers' are over-reacting. After two weeks of putting up with Rudy's hijinks, head counselor Frank is not happy to find this out.
    Frank: There was a letter!
  • The Last Days of Krypton: Downplayed when Jor-El first tells the Kryptonian Council of his concerns that their sun may go supernova. Most of the Councilors doubt that the sun is in danger of exploding in their lifetimes. Still, several of them acknowledge it's a problem future generations should have a leg up in studying.
    Mauro-Ji: I say he should draw up his plans, document his ideas. Centuries from now, when and if the sun does become slightly more unstable, our descendants might be glad we had such foresight.
    Pol-Ev: That does seem prudent. Let the historical record show that we did indeed plan ahead.
  • Here's a fun Drinking Game: Take a sip every time someone in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) says, "It's only the wind" or something like.
  • In Remnants, the programmer of a computer-based perimeter security system puts in a backdoor — the program assumes that any intruder emitting a certain high-pitched tone is a wild pig. This is very useful when he needs to sneak onto a Space Shuttle.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: "If there's nothing out there, then what was that noise?"
  • In the Solomon Kane story "Footfalls Within", by Robert E. Howard, the titular footfalls are blithely dismissed as "nothing" by a bunch of slavers, with foreseeable consequences.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Quite common in Galaxy of Fear, even a few books into the series when you'd think, after constant hazards and all the times it was not nothing, people would be paying attention. Later they learn, a bit, but that just leads to more Red Herring moments.
    • In Kenobi, Orrin hears a sound from his office, but dismisses it as a "sand-mouse". The readers have already found out that Ben is snooping around, finding evidence of his embezzling.
  • In the Warrior Cats novel The Forgotten Warrior, Tigerheart warns Dovewing that Dawnpelt believes that Jayfeather killed Flametail, but she brushes it off as nothing several times. Near the climax of the book, Dawnpelt accuses Jayfeather of the murder at a gathering, causing an uproar and making many clan cats hate Jayfeather.
  • Subverted in late chapters of Water Margin. When Zhang Shun, one of the main characters, is scouting under the walls of Hangzhou, held by rebels under Fang La, he tests the guards' alertness by tossing a lump of clay over the wall. The guards respond by talking aloud that it is probably nothing but are in fact fully alerted, waiting for something out of ordinary to emerge. When Zhang Shun emerges from his hiding place thinking he is safe, he is struck by a hail of arrows.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Doomed", Giles dismisses an earthquake as "shifting landmasses". On the one hand, he is in Southern California. On the other hand, as Buffy points out, the last time they had a decent earthquake in Sunnydale, she died. Buffy is proven right, as it turns out to be a portent of the apocalypse.
  • In the first episode of The Crown (2016), King George VI coughs up an alarming amount of blood into his toilet, as an early foreshadowing of the lung cancer that will kill him. When he discusses it with his courtiers later, they assure him that it's probably just the cold. Although in their defence, the King downplayed the extent of the situation when discussing it with them, either out of stoicism or denial.
  • Doctor Who: Series 1 had the Arc Words "Bad Wolf" turning up constantly — Once an Episode, the words are slipped in somewherenote , and the characters don't notice for ten episodes. When they do notice it, the Doctor claims the words are following them wherever they go... and then he immediately dismisses it as a coincidence.
  • Full House:
    Steve: It's probably just the wind.
    Stephanie: Just the wind? Just the wind?! It's never JUST THE WIND!
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000, episode 904, "Werewolf":
    Natalie: What was that noise?
    Yuri: It was probably just a car on the highway.
    Crow T. Robot: Yes, a car that sounds just like a wolf.
  • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder: In the first episode, the three soon-to-be-Rangers hear the Mooks of the year coming for them. Kira suggests (without much hope) that it's the wind, and Ethan disagrees.
    Ethan: That ain't the wind. As much as we'd like it to be... it ain't.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: The "Everything is Fine" sketch has a mayor of a flooded town releasing a statement on how everything is alright at the moment, except for all the water, which he says will probably "go away after a bit".
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Purple Testament", three wounded soldiers conclude that the "explosion" sound must just be thunder.

  • The German song "Es wollt ein Bauer Früh aufstehn" has a farmer go home for lunch and hear noise upstairs. His wife says it's just the wind, the farmer investigates, and discovers a priest pulling his pants back on.
  • The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets' song "It Must Be The Wind" lists all the things that can't be the source of a mysterious noise, before concluding at the end of every verse that it must be the wind.

  • Played with in the Low German folk song Dat du mien Leevsten büst, in which a girl asks her lover to visit her at her family home between midnight and one a. m. In the final verse, she confidently says: "Knock on my chamber door, grasp the doorknob - father'll think, mother'll think that's just the wind."
  • The father in Der Erlkönig repeatedly explains away his son's insistence that the wicked Erl-King is nearby. He blames the valley mist, the slight breeze, and finally the tree trunks before the Erl-King suddenly kills the son.
  • The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:
    "While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping/As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door./"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door/Only this, and nothing more." (Technically, he was right.)

    Tabletop Games 

  • A famous operatic example is the scene in Hansel and Gretel (1893) where the children are busily taking pieces off the Gingerbread House and eating them. Twice, a voice from inside demands to know who's been nibbling at her house, the children think for a moment, and they declare it was the wind, the heavenly child.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan inflicted this on the entire crew of H.M.S. Pinafore as they try to sneak the eloping lovers off the ship:
    All: (much alarmed) Goodness me! Why, what was that?
    Dick: Silent be, it was the cat!
    All: (reassured) It was—it was the cat!
    Captain: (producing cat o' nine tails) They're right, it was the cat!
  • In Königskinder, the Goose-girl hears the noise of branches breaking in the distance, only to dismiss it as the wind blowing through the foliage. The horn-call Leitmotif heard twice at this moment is a bit of a Musical Spoiler that a major character is about to introduce himself to her.
  • The Pirates of Penzance, by the same team, has the song "With Catlike Tread". The titular pirates, while sneaking into Major-General Stanley's estate, sing at the top of their lungs about how they're being silent. The very next song starts with the Major-General mentioning that he "thought I heard a noise", and concluding that "it must have been the sighing of the breeze." (Pirates was, at the time of its release, criticized for having the same plot as Pinafore.)
    • Better yet, the Pirates and Policemen are making loud comments in the background "He thought he heard a noise. HA HA!" and then join in his song "Sighing Softly To The River" without him catching on right up until the finale kicks in.
  • In The Rainmaker and its musical adaptation 110 in the Shade, the entrance of Starbuck is initially dismissed this way:
    Noah: Who opened that door?
    Jim: Musta been the wind!
    Starbuck: [steps onto the threshold; he hears Jim's line about the wind] Wind?—did you say wind? There's not a breath of wind anywhere in the world!

    Theme Parks 
  • In Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast at Universal Studios, Jimmy, after just barely missing Ooblar on the security cam, believes that his lab's red alert was an error. He remarks that it's "probably a bug in the security system"... just before Ooblar cuts his way in.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Predator stage of the original Alien vs. Predator PC game, after gibbing a guard in the opening cutscene, you can hear the base's Mission Control: "Unit Two, report in... Report in, Unit Two... Unit Two, do you copy?! Damn, his comm must be down." You're doing these idiots a favor when you kill them.
  • Subverted in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Ezio had been told earlier that the men of Monteriggioni would be practising with the cannons at dawn, so his first thought when he hears cannon fire is that it is a training exercise. Then a cannonball goes through his room.
    • A version of this can also be seen throughout the game with the guards as long as you're not in a restricted area or actually on the roof/in sight of a roof guard.
      Guard: [seeing Ezio hanging on the wall] What is he doing? Bah! I can't be bothered with this now!
      [seconds later, after the patrol passes, the nearby target gets two hidden blades in the chest]
  • Assassin's Creed Origins: A note can be found with the writer saying how his friend is worried about rustling in the bushes nearby, with the writer telling him it's no biggie. You find the note surrounded by several very angry crocodiles, and no sign of the writer, with that previous statement being the first and only entry.
  • In the Batman: Arkham Series, This is Averted at low fear levels and Inverted at high fear levels. At the beginning of a stealth segment, the guards know that Batman is around somewhere, so they have the presence of mind to check anything out of the ordinary. Once they get panicky enough, they'll start freaking out at the slightest noise in fear that it might be Batman, whether or not it is.
  • Likewise, in Beyond Good & Evil you can hit a guard in his air tank — and the other guards will just fix the tank and declare "false alarm".
  • Averted in Death to Spies. While the enemy will brush off strange noises, (such as the sound of someone being punched in the head if they find nothing or thrown distractions.) if any enemy even spots a body, sees the player for too long, hears any noise (except the silenced pistol), or if the player has any visible Soviet gear on at all — even after changing uniform —, has a weapon out (unless dressed as a patrolman, and then only a weapon that the others have, usually an MP-40), is doing something that doesn't match the disguise's purpose or rank (stealing a truck without being in an officer or driver's uniform) or is a patrolman/officer who can recognize if you are not one of them, they will almost immediately upon entering their "sight confirmation" begin to fire, alerting any other nearby guards, and giving chase, usually for half of the map. In many cases, they will run to hit the alarm, which will effectively end the mission because every guard in the area will be alerted to you (often well over 20-30 people), and quickly open fire if they spot you as well as give chase, often killing you very quickly if there are any sharpshooters in the area, even faster if you are headshot. Oh, and don't try hiding: they'll stay on full alert, just waiting for the chance to find you, even on lower difficulties where alerts eventually stop, it takes much longer than other stealth games, an alarm is very hard to survive unless the player happens to get caught next to some hiding spot that lets them quickly lose their pursers, take alerted enemies out before a full scale alert happens or get lucky with the challenging combat.
  • Deus Ex downplays this. Guards will first investigate, then wonder where you are, before deciding you aren't around — but it takes all of ten seconds. Often they can be heard to utter "He's miles away by now" when J.C. hides behind a box in a dead end.
    • If you shoot a guard in the face with a tranquilizer dart and hide, he'll run around for a moment, then (because the drug in one dart isn't enough to knock them out) return to his patrol with the arrow sticking out of his face.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The series in general crosses this over with heaps of Artificial Stupidity when it comes to NPCs. As the AI has improved and gotten more sophisticated over the course of the series, this trope in particular has started to become downplayed, but it still extant.
    • Oblivion:
      • Oblivion has major issues with this trope, even beyond simply making noise or being seen while sneaking. It's entirely possible to be sneaking, fire an arrow, strike an enemy NPC, have them fail to detect you, and then hear them dismiss the arrow stuck in their back as "the wind".
      • NPCs often fail to react to the corpses of their friends you've already killed. It's even possible for a stealthy enough character to sneak up on two NPCs chatting away with each other, cut the conversation short by stabbing one in the back, and the other NPC won't so much as react to their friend being Killed Mid-Sentence.
      • One particular quest has you infiltrate a monastery full of blind NPCs, with the goal of sneaking past them to steal a particular object. If you do something that alerts them, such as making noise, but they fail to actually detect you, they may dismiss it as their "eyes playing tricks on them"...
    • This trope persists in Skyrim as well, though Bethesda seems to be making some progress. The AI reacts to sneak attacks from a warrior or a mage fairly competently: it's fairly hard to maintain the element of surprise or stay concealed when clanking around in heavy armor or throwing lightning bolts around. That said, there is still plenty of examples like NPCs dismissing arrows and not reacting to their buddies getting backstabbed in the same room as them.
      • If they come across a corpse they'll pause for a moment, solemnly vow revenge, and... get back to patrolling, acting like nothing's happened. It's an improvement from previous games, but still.
  • In a Shout-Out to this trope, the very nastiest event in Europa Universalis 2 ("The White Lotus Rebellion") has two options, one of which "It's likely just harmless talk." (Cue 30% revolt-risk.) The OTHER option gives you half that revolt-risk, but costs you an arm and a leg.
  • Usually averted in Fallout 3. If hostile guards hear you, they investigate and raise the alarm if they see you. If you're well hidden, though, the other guards will berate the first for crying wolf.
    • With high enough sneak and a stealth boy or Chinese Stealth armor, guards will react in this fashion even after being stabbed. Repeatedly.
    • Because of bad programming, if you get into a fight while you're a kid, your character will keep saying "I guess it was nothing." in between grunts of pain while being slowly killed & then continue saying it in dramatic slow motion while dead.
  • Enemies in Fallout 4 actually act fairly sensibly when targeted by sneak attacks (assuming they survived of course). Opening fire from a distance, even if the gun is suppressed, invites suppressive fire in your general direction even if the bad guys haven't fully detected you yet, and they'll usually try their best to get out of your line of fire. Alerted enemies in large areas will occasionally run off to alert more distant buddies to your presence. More intelligent enemies are also extremely paranoid and may go on a very long search for you, to the point that some never return to their normal routines until you leave the area for a while. That said, it's still hilariously easy to hide from them, often even in plain sight while clad in Powered Armor, once your sneak skill gets high enough.
  • Subverted in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn when the hero is hiding with her pet bird in a hole. The bird chirps and the guard notice. She lets the bird go as they are about to investigate and it flies out of the hole. The guards shrug, saying it was just a bird and our hero sighs a sigh of relief. Then the guards capture her and go "you didn't think we'd really fall for that, did you?" Of course, another hero shows up to save our first hero.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Gears of War, where Dom does not brush off the strange sound so easily. He's right.
    Dome: Yeah right, when was the last time the wind said hostiles!, to you?
  • Notably averted by the 2009 Ghostbusters game. Even when the PKE meter shows nothing, the Ghostbusters never assume that It's Probably Nothing. They always investigate. Of course, blowing up the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for the second time early in the game probably has them on their toes for the rest.
  • The Great Escape plays this to the point of ridiculousness. Having charged through a door and straight into the arms of a patroling German soldier, you dash straight into another room leaving the poor sod gawping after you. His words?
    "Must have been ze vind."
  • Half-Life is probably the trope namer for this one.
    • "Uh... it's probably not a problem... probably... but I'm showing a small discrepancy in the— well, no, it's well within acceptable bounds again. Sustaining sequence." For those who have never played the game, this is about 20 seconds before things hit the fan.
    • Beautifully averted at one point when Gordon is climbing through some vents and making noise. Soldiers down below hear him and, rather than dismiss the noise as a headcrab or something, shoot the hell out of it and cause it to fall off the ceiling. Another time a soldier hears Freeman climbing through a pipe, and responds by tossing a satchel charge into it. A refreshing case of the enemies not being total morons.
    • In Half-Life 2 Episode 2, Dr. Magnusson dispatches Freeman to the secondary silo where "damn crows have been nesting in the tracks all day", therefore setting off the silo alarms. Apparently no one thought to check on the non-responsive secondary silo staff until Gordon heads over there and finds a Combine invasion in-progress.
  • Invisible, Inc. plays with this. If a guard leaves their patrol route to investigate a tile but finds nothing, they'll go right back to patrolling. However, if they catch one of your agents (or wake up after you knock them out), they will be permanently alerted and won't stop searching for them, making them much harder to deal with.
    • Less obviously, this is happening constantly as your agents are moving in plain sight of random webcams not directly connected to the security net, making noise and vibration, affecting the heat regulation and air filtration systems... all of whose data are being continously scanned by security AI programmed to be paranoid and chase down any hint of intrusion. Invisible Incorporated's AI, Incognita, is simultaneously working to delay identification and confirmation of your presence by invoking this trope, but over time the residue of the deflections will themselves form a detectable pattern. This is why no matter how careful you're being security levels will still rise over time and resources will be diverted towards your location.
  • The Phantoms in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass: Once Link enters a safe-zone, he becomes invisible to them. No matter how clearly in their sight he was before that and how long they've been chasing him before he escaped, afterwards, after looking around for barely two seconds in a "Where'd he go?" fashion, they apparently dismiss it as "It was probably nothing" and turn around to start patrolling their regular route again, without even considering to keep an eye on the spot where he disappeared.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, there is an optional sequence in which you follow Mila as she goes to rob Zunari's safe. It is possible to get her attention and still be all right... if you are still hidden and make a cat noise.
    • Earlier, the first time through the Forsaken Fortress, there are places where you can move about, as long as you're in a barrel. (If you're seen by a Moblin or shone on by a light, or if your barrel is seen moving, you're thrown in a cell, even if you could have run away.) However, the Moblins have no particular sense that there's something wrong when a barrel was over there, but now it's over here, and there's no one around who could have moved it...
      • Somewhat justified in that Moblins are extremely stupid.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: A note found in the ruins of the failed colony on Eos has one of the colonists saying this, before admitting that it's not the wind. "Wind doesn't roar like it's hungry." It turns out to be a Fiend.
  • Averted in Metal Gear, where guards would always check to make sure it's actually "nothing". The ones in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty would actually search every nook and cranny of the room you were seen disappearing into, and even if they don't find you, extra guards would be sent to patrol that sector.
    • Though the entire series pretty much encompasses this trope with a catchphrase. Despite a random box just appearing in their patrol route that was clear 30 seconds prior... "Just a box."
    • The guards in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater play this straight sometimes. If they get a glimpse of you from a distance, they'll pull out a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. If you hide yourself quickly enough, they'll think it was "just their imagination".
  • Similarly to the Fallout example, making noise around hostile guards in Metro2033 and Metro: Last Light will result in them investigating (even switching on their headlamps to search better in dark environments) and raising an alarm if they spot you, either verbally or by ringing a bell. However, if you manage to hide from sight and stay perfectly still long enough, they'll decide it's "the damn drafts again" or "just the rats" and calm down. If you do something blatantly obvious though, like killing someone in view of their comrades or breaking a gas lamp and starting a fire, the best you can hope to do is stay out of sight while the guards go into hyper-aggressive "Search everywhere!" mode.
  • Referenced to in Mirror's Edge. During one of the vent sequences, you can hear someone complaining about rats infesting the ventilation system.
    • Justified, as one Easter Egg involves triggering a rat as big as a truck to run down a street. Something like that would HAVE to make some noise.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, your partner says something while you're listening to Grubba while in the air vent. He gets suspicious and you have a choice of sounds to make in an attempt to fool him.
  • The military in [PROTOTYPE]. There's a shape-shifter on the loose with extraordinary powers. Your commanding officer just ran straight up a building, and then started gliding through the air. If your response is "He may be around here", congratulations, you're apparently qualified for the military.
    • Oh, but it's far worse than that. Entering said building, said officer develops a nasty habit of sneaking up on people, following them behind boxes (out from behind which only one person leaves, and it's not an officer) and moving said boxes and cars. Probably for privacy. Not only that but after said officer enters the building, you can guarantee that shape-shifter is inside as well. After all, surely a "legit" soldier pointing his finger at a not-so-legit soldier and claiming that This is the creep! cannot be wrong...
      • By this point the entire building is almost empty. Oddly enough, this one guy keeps walking around and sneaking up behind people, kinda like that officer... Nah, it's just my imaginati-CRUNCH. Nom-nom-nom.
      • Letting him sneak around is probably more cost effective. Just let him take what he wants or he'll kill everyone and then take it.
  • The Quarry: On multiple occasions, a character will see something suspicious, comment about it, and reassure themselves with it probably being fine.
  • Averted in Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood. Guards always check every noise, explore every inch of the room, will free anyone who was tied up, and will report corpses that they haven't already seen to their captain.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, Guybrush has infiltrated the ghost-pirate LeChuck's ship, using a magic eyeball necklace that makes him invisible. The player has to get a key off of LeChuck's cabin wall, but every time Guybrush approaches, LeChuck turns and makes a comment about how someone must be behind him. When he sees that no one is there, he turns back around while invoking some version of this trope.
    LeChuck: The wind makes not such a creaking!
    LeChuck: Must be the wind.
  • Splinter Cell has guards as thorough as (if not more so than) the ones in Metal Gear Solid. Worse, they have far too many ways to remove the shadows you rely on. The guards early in the game have flashlights and flares. The Chinese soldiers have headband-mounted lights. Not to be outdone, the Georgian Special Forces have night-vision goggles. By Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, enemies with thermal-vision start showing up, complete with x-ray vision.
    • Of course, there are still mooks who have no special way of seeing in the dark, and they fit the trope perfectly. There is a co-op level in Chaos Theory where you can enter a room with two guards watching a sports game on TV. Shooting out the TV then quickly leaving the room results in them wandering around for a bit, then going back to the couch with a 'probably the wind' comment and watching their shot out TV. Good job guards.
    • This is actually lampshaded by the enemies: if the player makes a loud enough noise without being seen, there's a randomly-occurring exchange where one guard says "It's probably—" but is then abruptly cut off by his partner, who tells him that it's never "just nothing".
    • In Chaos Theory, messing with a guard enough will cause them to avert this trope entirely, making them paranoid enough to start shooting at any suspicious noises.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunter:
    • A cutscene has Jango Fett sneak onto the asteroid housing the Oovo IV Correctional Facility by flying his ship close enough to one of the prison's cargo ships in order to get past the energy field. One of the crewman takes notice.
      Crewman: Uh, Captain? Our scopes just picked up a ghost image on our sensor rig.
      Captain: Probably another glitch, like that false bio-signature we saw in the cargo hold earlier.
    • Said bio-signature turns out to be stowaway Zam Wesell, meaning the same ship's crew missed not one but two intruders thanks to this trope.
  • Taken to the point of utter farce in Tales of Symphonia.
    • Repeated quite ridiculously in a later game of the series, Tales of the Abyss. Jade(by far the worst offender), Tear, Guy, Ion and even Luke himself all gasp or draw attention to themselves only to say "No, it's nothing." It's *always* something. Always.
    • Here are some things in Abyss that are considered "nothing": Luke being a replica. Ion also being a replica. Largo being Natalia's father. Guy's desire to assassinate the fon Fabre family, including Luke. ("What do you have to live for?" "Revenge." "What?" "Just kidding!") Anise betraying the party and causing Ion's death. Jade realizing that the only way to stop the miasma is to sacrifice either Luke or Asch. Luke having a very limited time left to live after destroying the miasma. And...whatever Jade did to Dist in this scene.
  • In the game Tenchu, fighting a guard automatically raises the alarm. Guards who were, just a moment ago, attacked with katanas will dismiss the incident as being caused by a dog!
    • This is one of the more common and ridiculous occurrences in the Tenchu series. In Wrath of Heaven you can drop down on one guard's head, snap his neck with a sickening sound in front of another guard, then as the guard pursues, jump up on a roof and hide, only to hear the guard pause and say "Ah forget it."
  • The guards in Thief do this a lot. Torch that's been clearly doused with a water arrow, presumably leaving puddles of water all over the place? "Must've been the wind." Large metal object falling down, making a stupid amount of noise? "Hmm... must be my imagination." Et cetera.
    • A Running Gag in the series is everyone blaming mysterious noises on rats.
    • There are exceptions, though. Make the slightest noise on a metal surface, or shoot an arrow at a wall, and most of the time everyone in the immediate vicinity will be on full alert looking for you. If there's an alarm button nearby, they'll most likely be running for it as well.
  • Touhou character Koishi Komeiji, as a satori with the power to read the conscious mind and heart of others. She disabled herself in order to escape the contempt she and her sister earned only to find that she suddenly gained powers over the subconscious mind that effectively made her impossible to recognize or notice. On the off chance that anyone does see her, they will immediately forget about her once she leaves. Her power doesn't work on children, though, and she'll sometimes play with them, making her a Not-So-Imaginary Friend until they grow up and forget she existed in the first place.
    • This power is also used in a strange way by the oni Suika, whose ability of "gathering" lets her divide herself into mini-Suikas so small they are a functional mist and give suggestions to others as subtle mind control to form gatherings (as well as send out mini-Suikas that steal food and alcohol for her gatherings). Almost nobody could figure out why they kept meeting and dismissed the idea as simple whims of many people to do the same thing at once, although a few had the ability to recognize the mist for what sort of thing it was, if not the perpetrator or her motives.
  • In World of Warcraft, when your character is bitten by a Worgen, you dismiss it as just a scratch and nothing to be worried about. The end result of this is being taken by the transformation during a last stand, killing the allies unfortunate enough to not also be infected, and causing your final defenses to fall.
    • When you first get the bite, the debuff even says something along the lines of "It's probably nothing". If you check back on that debuff every so often, you'll see that the bite is slowly getting worse....
    • This is also a very odd case, where the player actually WANTS it to happen. Because it occurs in the starting zone, after specifically choosing Worgen as a race. Your character starts out human and becomes a Worgen during the starting zone.

  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace is explicitly hunted by a super orc right up until the Stealth-Based Game mechanic kicks in and the orc dismisses her presence as having been nothing since she hid for long enough.
  • Happens in a rather surreal way in Goblins, when an alternate-universe Minmax falls into a rift in reality and is erased from existence. His friends panic at first, but as he's also erased from their memories, they calm down and reassure themselves that they're both safe and no one fell in.
  • Happens twice in Nebula. Both times, people almost end up dead.
    • Everyone's reaction to Earth raising concerns about a meteor heading straight for her is to tell her to quit panicking, it's just some thing, no big deal.
    • And later, Sun brushes off the planets' concern about the thing that keeps watching them, saying that it's probably just some drifter like Pluto.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: When Haley tries to sneak in past curfew in "Bush Comes to Dinner":
    Stan: What was that?
    Francine: Probably just a loud noise.
  • Used for a plot point in Ben 10's "Perfect Day": Max says this about the Omnitrix acting up, but let's just say that he's not as he seems.
  • Inverted in Code Lyoko, when Jérémie gets an anomalous alert on the computer and instantly thinks, "It's probably bad news."
  • Futurama In the episode "The Honking":
    [Bender is in were-car form following two vandals at night, he loudly rolls over a manhole cover and quickly parks.]
    Vandal #1: Did you hear something?
    [They both look around then carry on walking.]
    Vandal #2: Ah, it was probably just a golden marmoset.
    [The were-car revs its engine.]
    Vandal #1: That don't sound like no golden marmoset I ever heard!
  • In Looney Tunes, when Bugs Bunny knocks on the floorboards of the house that's been built over his hole, Yosemite Sam first attributes it to mice before returning to his singing.
  • In Scared Shrekless, Donkey appears to hear the voice of Lord Farquaad's ghost.
    Donkey: It's just the wind.
    Voice: Donkey...
    Donkey: And apparently, it knows my name.
    • It turned out to be Fiona and the kids playing a prank.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): In Sonic and Sally, this trope is used, bizarrely, between two SWAT-bots — who you'd think would have no business having separate thoughts. The two bots are in a hoverpod which happens to detect Bunnie with a built in heat sensor. The pilot is about to open fire when the co-pilot mentions that substation electricity interferes with the heat sensors. They opt to ignore her heat signature and move on.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars plays this one for laughs, with Palpatine dismissing Grievous' clanking footsteps drawing nearer and then suddenly stopping, to the dismay of his Jedi protectors. Of course, the droid general's head appears in the window behind him even as he's delivering the line, hanging upside down on the outside of the building. One gets the impression that the scheming dark lord, who actually wants to be captured, plays the classic part with some glee.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Padawan Lost", Ahsoka, approaching the back wall of a Separatist outpost with a squad of clones, senses something in the surrounding forest, but eventually decides that it was just an animal. Moments later, when she's alone after all of the troopers have ascended the wall, she's ambushed by a Trandoshan hunter and dragged away, with no one realizing she's missing until after the battle is over.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Subverted in the "Art Attack" short:
    [Sabine is sneaking around an Imperial base as a stormtrooper hears her spraypaint cans]
    Stormtrooper #1: You hear that?
    Stormtrooper #2: I don't hear it. Wait... Yeah, what is that?
  • Steven Universe: At the beginning of "Catch and Release", Steven is saying goodnight to his stuffed animals before going to sleep, including an ominous Peridot-shaped triangle at the foot of his bed. When it disappears, he says, "Whatever," and closes his eyes. Two seconds later, he gets kidnapped by Peridot.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television — because, let's face it, when you hear a crack of a stick in the woods, the first thought that goes through your head is: "What's that?" and then when you look around and don't see a monstrous man-eating lady-killing psychotic freak of the beyond, you really don't try to linger on what kind of unspeakable horrors might be sneaking up on you right no... eh... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRCH!
    • The sounds made in your house at night comes from the fact that the house is actually shrinking a little bit due to how it's colder at night than at day — like how the best way to open a resilient jar is to run the lid under some hot water, causing it to expand and be easier to open.
    • Also some spooky sounds from the kitchen or street in the middle of the night — it's very probably only a falling towel or a bird respectively, but in a horror movie you'd think "Why the hell doesn't he get the hell out of there!!??"
    • That creepy tapping sound you hear at night is almost certainly a particular type of harmless beetle with the oh-so-reassuring name of the Deathwatch Beetle.
    • This is even worse when you are on a ship, which is basically a very large building made primarily from metal, which expands and contracts much more than does the wood that houses are typically made from. As you try to go to sleep at night, the entire ship is groaning and creaking and making weird sounds as the many metal parts contract and pull against each other.
      • Not to mention just sounds in a place you are unfamiliar with. To someone who hasn't gotten entirely bored with the novelty of air travel, a jetliner is incredibly noisy, what with the hums and the whines and the buzzes and the clanks and thumps and beeping sounds on the intercom. The sound of flaps lowering before landing can be particularly unsettling, combined with the plane banking and turning as it lines up its approach with a narrow concrete strip at several hundred knots. Not to mention the very unsettling sound you hear when the plane gets close enough to the ground for you to hear the sound of the engines echoing off the surface.
      • It would actually be more worrisome if, when trying to sleep on a plane, there was suddenly no sound at all.
      • Just watch the flight attendants. If they don't look nervous, everything is probably fine, no matter what noises you just heard or how badly the plane is shaking.
      • Anyone who has spent any time working, rather than traveling as a passenger, on a ship will attest to the fact that sudden silence will snap you wide awake in a second, as it indicates that the ship has suffered, at best, an electrical failure, and the possibilities get worse from there.
    • Justified after many long hours guarding; 90% of the time, it is nothing, another 9.99% it's nothing that can't be dealt with just by showing up and providing a security presence. If you can see a plausible source for a noise you heard, or it didn't sound significant enough to search for it, of course you'd write it off to watch for something more substantial.
    • The moral of the story: if you don't hear any usual noises often confused as unusual, you should probably be concerned.
  • Averted by real-life security personnel, who ideally will treat all alarms as real. Having a large number of false alarms can cause major problems.
  • Also averted in the case of emergency services - if you call them, they have to come, and they won't be amused if there's no actual emergency. This is also why if you live on campus at university, you will get such a hardcore lecture about not pulling the fire alarm as a prank. Firefighters will actually leave other fires to come put out a potential blaze at a high-density residence like a dormitory in order to save the most lives.
  • Radar spotted the Japanese planes heading in to attack Pearl Harbor, but it was a new technology and the radar station was still in training mode and wasn't fully operational yet. The person the radar operators tried to warn decided what was actually a huge armada of incoming planes must be a handful of American B-17s scheduled to arrive that day, and the radar operators themselves didn't know enough about their own equipment to be able to say "Sir, that's ridiculous!"
  • Michael Shermer discusses in his 2010 TED lecture why humans are prone to suspecting any odd event as extraordinary, dangerous and intentional, hence dismissal of them as mundane is the exception, due to deconditioning. He also explains why Skepticism Failure is often the norm in reality, not the exception.
  • Any pet owner could easily blame a noise on the cat/dog knocking something over. Even the rustling of a gerbil could be taken for granted.
  • There are many people who invoke this by leaving their TVs or music sets on in the background, even when they go to sleep so that they can be reassured of the movements and sounds instead of freaking out and jumping at shadows.
  • Played thankfully straight several times by both Soviet and Western radar operators during the Cold War. Several times the computers malfunctioned and detected massive nuclear attacks from the enemy. Every time the operators (correctly) dismissed this as a bug.
  • Babies. Because they're still low on memory, for the first few months you can get their attention with a toy then cover it up so that they'll wonder where it went until forgetting about it. That changes, eventually.
  • The people manning the Chernobyl power plant did this twice. First they ignored the obvious pieces of reactor fuel lying around and thought the explosion hadn't blown everything the hell up, then after several dosimeters were pegged at maximum and they brought in one that actually had the proper range, it read so high that they assumed it must be defective. It wasn't. Though by many accounts there was a degree of wilful self-delusion going on as well.
  • Car alarms. When you hear one go off, is your first thought "My God, a car is being stolen! I must inform the authorities!" or is it "Some idiot doesn't know how to use their car remote"?
  • Also, alarms in general. If you've ever lived near a building alarm that has a habit of going off in bad weather and never deactivating again, you are unlikely to even consider that it might be something you should investigate (and will probably be fervently hoping that the building in question actually is being burgled due to their antisocial — and probably illegal — false alarms.)
  • This was the last thing anyone said to Elizabeth Báthory before she died. For her crimes, she was put in a room by herself and walled in completely; the only openings to the outside were small slots for air and meals to come through. She lived that way during the last four years of her life, from 1610 to 1614. The night before she died, she complained to her bodyguard outside that her hands were cold; he replied, "It's nothing, Mistress. Just go lie down." She did and was found dead at the age of 54 the next day.