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Putting On My Thinking Cap

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"Those who knew [Violet] well knew that when she tied her hair up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes, it meant that the gears and levers of her inventing brain were whirring at top speed."

A character has something they do as an aid to thinking. Crosses into Bunny-Ears Lawyer territory if it's something really bizarre, such as a literal hat they put on their head.

See also Congruent Memory and Thinking Tic. Can be a specific character tic.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • L in Death Note claims that if he doesn't sit in the odd way he does, his reasoning ability drops by forty percent.
  • Inspector Lunge from Monster often twitches his fingers as though typing. When asked about it, he likens his brain to a computer - by 'hitting the keys', as he puts it, he can file away new information, then he hits them again to recall it.
  • Naruto: Shikamaru's hand movements and sitting position.
  • Yue in Negima! Magister Negi Magi seems to have the most going on in her head when she's calmly sipping an odd drink of some kind with a slightly blank look in her eyes. Although in dangerous situations where she has to think on her feet, she doesn't do anything in particular.
  • Saki:
    • While Nodoka is already a pretty good Mahjong player, she becomes absolutely phenomenal when she's hugging her penguin plushie, capable of figuring out plays that would bring about the highest efficiency at once. Almost, she's great when she's playing at home online, so hugging her plushy puts her in the same mindset.
    • Saki finds this in taking off her shoes.

    Comic Books 
  • In older Disney comics, Gyro Gearloose had a thinking cap he'd put on when he needed an idea for an invention. The cap looked like a roof of a house, complete with a little chimney, and there was a bird's nest with three crows on top of the said chimney. The hat seems to have disappeared from the comics at some point, probably because its role as a source of inspiration was replaced by Little Helper, Gyro's robot buddy.

    It was revived in a later comic, where he explained that he had indeed put it into storage, the reason for it was that the ideas that it gave were too random to be of much use. It's also shown that it works just as well on anyone else, and naturally Donald Duck "borrowed" it while Gyro wasn't present to try to solve his usual money problems by coming up with some sort of a revolutionary new idea he could sell and patent. Naturally, this being Donald, there's only one possible outcome...which results in Gyro having to save him by using the cap himself, causing him to come up with a mathematical formula that can be used to predict any future event with 100% accuracy. While he did write it down, the cleaner lady that he had hired in the beginning of the story ended up wiping the board he had written it on clean while he was away.
    • He really should have seen that coming.
    • In other comics, Gyro's thinking aid is hitting himself on the head with a hammer!
  • Léonard le Génie has a number of gadgets to help him concentrate. They usually involve strong coffee, or holding him upside down to improve the blood flow to his brain.
  • Reed Richards has been known to stretch into a ball inside a gravity-free sensory deprivation tank when he needs to solve a particularly difficult problem. Like human nature or entropy.
  • Golden Age DC Comics supervillain the Thinker had a "thinking cap" that not only boosted his intelligence, but allowed him to perform other effects such as minor mind control and telekinesis, Depending on the Writer. Post-Crisis, he died and his malevolent personality moved into the helmet, magnifying the negative personality traits of anyone else who wore it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Few Good Men: Tom Cruise's character — "Where's my bat? I think better with my bat." And later that scene, "He does think better with his bat."
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Zaphod Beeblebrox has a literal thinking cap, that keeps his brain powered by lemons once his second head is removed.
    Ford: This should give him some zest for a couple minutes.

  • Sherlock Holmes had a number of these, including smoking (in "The Red-Headed League", he explicitly rates the difficulty of a problem by how many pipefuls of tobacco he expects to get through before reaching a solution) and playing the violin.
  • Likewise, Erast Fandorin has his jade rosary beads to help his deductions along. They are so prominent, they even got their own origin story in a short story collection (that was named after them).
  • Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events will tie her hair up in a ribbon when she is concentrating on something.
  • Winnie the Pooh: Pooh Bear thumps his head while saying "think think think". He also had a Thoughtful Spot, where he went specifically to do this.
  • In the Discworld novel Men at Arms, Detritus the troll gets a literal thinking cap, in the form of a clockwork fan attached to his helmet that lets him cool his brain off (trolls think better in cold weather).
  • In Tom Sawyer, Detective, the lesser-known second sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, narrator Huckleberry Finn observes that the 17-year-old Tom has a tendency to trace a V-shape on his cheek or chin while he thinks.
  • In The Mad Scientists Club stories, you know Henry is working on a brilliant scheme whenever he tilts his chair backward. He says that sends more blood to the rear of his brain, which is where he keeps his best ideas.
  • In C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower novels, when the title character needs to think he starts pacing back and forth.
  • The sentient dinosaurs of Dinotopia can think best when they move their feet, due to their original technique of writing via leaving footprints in the sand. Because of this, reading machines for dinosaurs are treadmills which move the scroll the user wants to read.
  • Lyle of Simple Complications finds that writing on a white board helps him think.

    Live Action TV 
  • In The X-Files, when Mulder needs to think really hard about a problem he watches Plan 9 from Outer Space on the reasoning that the film is so bad it shuts down his logic and allows him to make his standard huge leaps of deduction.
  • A number of the Doctors in Doctor Who - the second played music on the flute or recorder, the tenth puts his glasses on, etc. The Eleventh Doctor seemingly has dozens of these, particularly quick (1-2 step) back and forth pacings, slapping his own forehead, and shutting people up.
  • Blue's Clues had the thinking chair.
  • Sen-chan, DekaGreen in Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger has his "thinking pose" where he stands on his hands. This quirk was retained for his American counterpart Bridge Carson in Power Rangers S.P.D..
  • NCIS: In Season 13's "Scope", Abby fashions her own "thinking cap" by combining a hardhat with a hydration rack loaded with two jumbo-size Caf-Pows!. After she reveals her latest breakthrough, Palmer puts on the cap, takes a sip of Caf-Pow, and (to his own surprise) anticipates Gibbs's next order: "This thing really works!"
  • Scrubs: Dr. Cox holds his hands behind his head or on top of his head when thinking or frustrated.
  • House: House has several such methods, including bouncing his ball in his office as he stares at his whiteboard. He does these things with such frequency that when he is unavailable other people try them out to force an epiphany. It doesn't work. Cuddy once tried bouncing his ball for inspiration and it hit her foot and rolled off.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Rodney sometimes resorts to fingersnapping and head bobbing.
  • BBC's Sherlock, like his literary counterpart plays the violin and uses nicotine patches instead of smoking, and also stops eating when he's figuring out a case. This can go on for days.
  • Worzel Gummidge didn't have a thinking cap, he had a literal thinking head. Being a living scarecrow, he was able to remove his own head and replace it with a more intelligent one when he needed to concentrate on something.

  • Whenever Fionn MacCumhaill sucked his thumb, he got access to great wisdom (though this was the result of him attempting to soothe a burn on his thumb from the Salmon of Wisdom as a child).

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin once built a literal thinking cap out of one of his ubiquitous cardboard boxes, some thread, and a colander.
  • FoxTrot: Jason wore an "external brain" (a cap resembling the surface of a brain) while helping Paige with her homework. However, it's pretty clear that he was just doing it to jerk her chain.

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    Video Games 


    Western Animation 
  • The Noodle Dance from PB&J Otter.
  • Family Guy: Peter Griffin has his Thinking Grenades.
  • South Park: When Towelie wants to think, he gets high (unfortunately, the ideas he comes up when he's high only inevitably get him into trouble).
  • In Fleischer Studios' Betty Boop shorts, Grampy has a literal thinking cap, essentially a mortarboard with a blinking Idea Bulb.
  • Ed of Ed, Edd n Eddy once tried to think whilst putting the tips of his thumb and forefinger together as though he was trying to literally grasp an idea. Another time when Eddy tells Ed to think (about a matches problem) Ed stands absolutely motionless for a whole day and night, his pose so unbreakable his pals resort to sleeping in the crook of his arm till the following morning. These aren't so much habits as they are humorous.
    • And the one time he actually has an idea "of his own"?
    Ed: *holds a tree root over his head, the root is still lodged in a clod of earth* BOING! It's a light bulb!
    Eddy: Well I'm stumped.
    Edd: I believe Ed has an idea.
  • In his silent cartoons, Felix the Cat paced back and forth with his hands clasped behind his back.
  • In a related ritual, Scrooge McDuck in DuckTales (1987) would retreat to a private room to pace around a stylized statue of "The Thinker"; he's done it so many times that the ground around the statue has recessed into a deep pit.
    • In "The Big Flub" Scrooge uses Fenton's newly acquired worry room that comes with a Lazy Susan Worry Runt for optimal pacing.
  • Parodied in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where Sokka is desperately looking for something to replace his missing boomerang as his icon and begins insisting on wearing his detective hat and using his bubble pipe while sleuthing.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: "I'd better put on my patented Stuponetron helmet."
  • Cyberchase: Jackie's catchphrase is "Make room! I gotta pace!" She gets annoyed if anyone else steals it. The other characters have their own habits; Inez stands on her head, and Matt plays with his yo-yo. Overlapping with Character Tics in Digit's case is the eyeball on his cap which sometimes flashes red.
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Jimmy has his "Think, think, think!" bit. Then it shows us his brain and a few tidbits from earlier (in case you forgot them) that usually help him solve... whatever.
  • Bugs Bunny puts on his thinking cap to get an idea to rid the island of Japanese Soldiers in the wartime Merrie Melodie cartoon, 'Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips'.
  • Futurama: Professor Farnsworth has the Chamber of Understanding which is just a small glass dome with a disco ball and accompanied disco music playing.
  • Tom Terrific uses an oversized funnel as a thinking cap. After he goes through some weird motions thinking, a plume of smoke emerges from the funnel's spout when he gets an idea.
  • In Bagpuss, Bagpuss has several thinking caps, depending on what he wants to think about. For instance in "The Hamish", he puts on a tartan tam o'shanter, in order to think Scottish thoughts.

    Real Life 
  • Swedish movie and theatrical producer Felix Alvo used to work as an acrobat, which might explain why he liked to stand on his head while pondering something (at least according to some colleagues).
  • According to research linked from this Cracked article, wearing a white lab coat can help people think better, as long as they believe that it's a lab coat and not a painter's coat.

Alternative Title(s): Thinking Cap