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Reflexive Response

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Whether it is via the use of a Berserk Button or a Restraining Bolt, you know you can get a very precise reaction from a character if you do the right thing. Sometimes there's Animal Stereotype involved, but typically, it's according to the Rule of Funny or the Law of Disproportionate Response.

See also the subtrope Reflexive Remark of Reverence, the trope Damn You, Muscle Memory! for a real-life version, You Just Told Me for a related phenomenon. See Never Say That Again for a vocal version, and Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer for another. Compare Freudian Slip. Overlaps with Don't Sneak Up on Me Like That!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • There is a long list of things you shouldn't do if you want to survive a meeting with Golgo 13. Among them: do not touch his right hand, do not reach into your coat, and do not open a handbag. (He will attack at all of these.) His habit of standing when he meets a client comes from an early occasion where he killed a client's aide — the poor man made the mistake of walking up behind him while he was seated.
  • Naru from Love Hina has a He Is Not My Boyfriend! reflex, whenever someone mentions Keitaro. She even does it after they're engaged.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Miu was trained at a young age to automatically flip anyone who approaches her from behind.
  • Pokémon: The Series
    • Team Rocket's Jessie and James have an urge to say the motto can be triggered by anyone saying the words "prepare" and "trouble" in close succession. Try as they may to resist, they will blow their cover.
    • A late XY episode had Pikachu electrocute them when Team Rocket ambushed him in a snowy forest. Team Rocket are just about to cry "We're blasting off again!" until they realize that Pikachu's shocks didn't have any juice to send them flying. They told Pikachu to try shocking them again, but it still isn't enough to send them off.
    • Their rival Butch is on the receiving end of Accidental Misnaming so much that when someone identifies him correctly, he initially tries to correct them, before catching himself and realizing he didn't have to.
      Butch: The name's Bu—! Oh, wait, that's what you said!
    • Mallow's Bounsweet/Steenee's response to Rowlet getting close to her is to Rapid Spin it away with her leaves (likely due to an earlier incident where the owl mistook Bounsweet for an actual fruit). Unfortunately, this became part of a Disaster Dominoes in one episode that led to Rowlet and Popplio getting blown away in a bubble.
  • Sgt. Frog: Keroro's natural showmanship gives him an irresistible need to run, slip and fall on any Banana Peel he sees.
  • One Piece had a similar incident during the Whole Cake Island arc: Luffy had a habit of Accidental Misnaming his hostage Charlotte Brulee, causing her to angrily correct him. But when Brulee manages to escape, the instant Luffy called out his "pet" name for her, she pops out of her hiding place to instinctively correct him again.

  • An old comedy sketch, made popular by The Three Stooges, had one man explaining to a stranger how his wife ran off with another man. Since he caught up with them at Niagara Falls, he goes berserk every time he hears those words...
    • Compounded when the hapless bystander meets that same man, who also has that particular Berserk Button. By the end of the bit, the two nemeses finally see each other... and promptly shake hands, having buried the hatchet years ago. "But what about Niagara Falls?!"
  • A similar sketch, performed by Abbott and Costello among others, involves a guy being roped into selling hats for the Susquehanna Hat Company. He goes up to various customers, trying to sell a hat, only to have them react in shock, horror and outrage at the mention of their name for various reasons ("my wife was wearing a Susquehanna hat when she died!", etc.). This happens several times, and when his last customer approaches him and asks him if he's selling Susquehanna hats, it doesn't end well.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: One Christmas comic sees Robin (Tim Drake) getting overwhelmed by thugs; a car drives up, the door flings open, and the driver shouts "Quick, Robin! Get in!" Taking his chances, Tim leaps into the car... and sees that the driver is the Joker. Oh, Crap!...

    Fan Works 
  • The Desert Storm series:
    • In The Desert Storm arc, Ben instinctively shoves Obi-Wan behind him and takes out his lightsaber when Master Tahl calls out his name while his back was turned. Ben is mortified when he realizes that he nearly cut down Tahl for no reason other than surprising him.
    • During his time on Tatooine, Ben taught himself to redirect the lightning from the planet's electrical storms. When Plo Koon shoots Emerald Lightning at Ben during their sparring match, he instinctively absorbs the attack, only to then remember that he's inside a crowded arena and has nowhere to safely release the Force lightning to.
  • After their confrontation with the Slender Man in Don't Look, Misato and Shinji both have lethal responses to certain triggers for them. Misato will immediately shoot anyone she sees in a suit and Shinji will attack anyone who sneaks up on him with his box cutter. Only the other stopping them will halt their attack.
  • Discussed in Dragon Knight when Willow wants to throw a surprise party for Buffy and plans to lead her to the party by telling her about a demon attack. Xander's wife Audrey points out that surprising a warrior after you've warned them about a deadly threat is guaranteed to invoke a lethal response.
  • FURTHERFELL: In Drama! Romance! Bloodshed!, Burgerpants has been constantly greeting fast-food restaurant customers with the same phrase for six years, to the point that he instinctively says it when Hare walks up to him while he's taking a break.
    Burgerpants: Welcome to Glamburger. Home of the Glamburger. What can I get you? ...Oh, fuck. Sorry little buddy, force of habit. I've been saying that 30 times an hour, 8 hours a day, every weekday for 6 years.
  • In Mare Genius, when Pinkie tries to surprise Agatha with a Party Cannon, the latter's combat training automatically kicks in at what looks like a weapon being pointed at her.
  • Jaune in Not this time, Fate has centuries of combat experience due to a "Groundhog Day" Loop. So when his sister leaps at him out of the bushes with a fake roar, he backhands her without even thinking.
  • Shaggy the Handler: An old steam train's whistle sounds just similar enough to an incoming artillery shell to send the title character diving for cover, kicking off the plot of the second story in the trilogy.
  • In chapter 12 of Water On My Window, a kid at Anne's school intentionally shoves her. Anne, who spent the last 5 months fighting monsters (and occasionally people), reflexively punches him in the face and breaks his nose.
  • Xendra:
    • Even when enthralled by Dracula, the titular character (Xander turned into a teenage Xena) still immediately dives to the side upon hearing a Dramatic Gun Cock.
    • Later Buffy automatically attacks an invisible person she senses during her meeting with Quentin Travers. It's only after the invisibility spell fails that she realizes he's a Council member. Fortunately, between her holding back and him wearing body armor, Buffy only badly bruised his ribs rather than driving them into his lungs. Later subverted when it's revealed she did it on purpose.

    Films — Animation 
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: The Thug Tug's owner uses the Goofy Goober song to identify immature patrons, who will reflexively chime in and finish the song.
  • Zootopia:
    • Midway through the film Judy takes advantage of the wolves guarding Cliffside being vulnerable to howling. Once she starts howling the wolves cannot resist chiming in, allowing Judy and Nick to sneak past them.
    • More dramatically, this is how Nick outs Judy's unconscious prejudices—after a few insensitive comments about predators at a public hearing, Nick chews Judy out and bluff-lunges at her. This move causes Judy to reach for her predator repellent without thinking about it, causing their Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Martial Arts Movie Duel to the Death, a group of Ninja ambush an Old Master Shaolin monk. He's doing well in fending them off until one of them abruptly completely strips, revealing that she's a woman. The monk does what you'd expect an honorable Buddhist monk to do and averts his eyes... giving the ninja an opening to capture him with an Inescapable Net.
  • US Marshal Gerard exploits this in The Fugitive when he isn't 100% certain that he's spotted Richard Kimble, the titular character. So he calls out to him—"Richard!". Kimble involuntarily looks up, instantly giving himself away.
    • In the original script Kimble actually manages to check this. He doesn't look up, but he does freeze in place for a few seconds before continuing down the stairs. The lack of response tips Gerard off just the same, especially since others in the stairwell display this trope by looking up.
  • Godmothered: When stabbed with an Epi-Pen, Eleanor reflexively casts a spell that creates a huge, magic firework in the sky.
  • The Great Escape: Escape leader Bartlett and his second-in-command MacDonald are caught right when they were almost home free because MacDonald instinctively replies in English to an English statement made by a German soldier, even though the pair is supposedly French (which is more than a little ironic because an earlier scene showed MacDonald warning another officer not to fall for that trick). This is Truth in Television; Roger Bushell (on whom the Bartlett character is heavily based) was caught because his traveling companion made a similar error.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, Czaka laughs at a joke told in German, revealing that he understands the language (not knowing German had cleared him of suspicions of betraying the Resistance previously). He unsuccessfully tries to pass it off as laughing at something else.
  • In Hold That Ghost, one of the heroines is being followed down the stairs by a man with a sheet over his head who's miming her footsteps to hide his own. She gets suspicious, and taps out "shave and a haircut" with her feet and his cover is blown when he finishes with the "two bits."
  • In Inception, Dom and Eames use this to find out where Dream!Saito has hidden his secrets. When they mention concealing secrets, Saito's eyes immediately flick towards a wall panel, behind which is a safe containing said secrets.
  • Inglorious Basterds: Archie Hicox instinctively uses the English hand gesture to signal "Three", providing the final proof to a suspicious German officer that he's not who he's claiming to be. A lot of people die because one man raised three fingers instead of two fingers and a thumb.
  • In Legally Blonde, the lawyer played by Luke Wilson confirms Elle's suspicion of a witness's homosexuality (he claimed to be having an affair with the defendant, a woman) by asking rapid fire, innocuous questions ("How long have you been working for the defendant? What was your job?" etc.) before ending with, "And your boyfriend's name is?" The witness answers reflexively, outing himself. His subsequent attempts at recanting are met with another young man standing up in the courtroom, angrily screaming "You bitch!" at him, and running out.
  • In Operation Finale, the Nazi hunter Mossad agents go to a house where they suspect former Nazis are living. The residents are smart enough to hide their Nazi books and iconography, but when questioning them, one agent suddenly drops a "Heil Hitler", which makes the Nazis' kids jump to attention and repeat it back.
  • The Tuxedo:
    • The title tux always sends someone flying if they tap on its shoulder.
    • And smoothly pulls out a lighter if someone puts an unlit cig in their mouth.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit

  • Inverted in an urban legend about the trial of a man accused of murdering his wife, though no body was found. The defense attorney said "You can't know she's dead. She could walk through that door right now!" and pointed with at the courtroom door with such energy that everyone in the room turned to look. The prosecuting attorney responded that he saw every head turned — except the defendant's. "He knew she wasn't going to walk in. He killed her."

  • According to Himaruya, the author of Hetalia: Axis Powers, a German army decided to bait out an Italian soldier by calling out a relatively common Italian name. The soldier with that name came out and said, "I'm here!" and the Germans got him. Later when the Italians decided to do it back to them, they had an Italian soldier yell out a common German name. The German soldier with that name came out and said, "Who called me?" "Me!" replied the Italian soldier. The German shot him right there. This joke in fact predates World War I.

  • In the book The Wooden Horse, telling Mostly True Story of a WWII POW escape, the two British escapees are talking with Polish partisans trying to get aboard a ship leaving German territory. The partisans ask them a number of questions to ferret out if they are German spies, when one suddenly reaches out and slaps one of the escapees. His exclamation of "What the bloody!" in English is the final confirmation for them.
  • Discworld:
    • In Men at Arms, Gaspode the wonder dog uses his ability to "speak human" on a pack of feral dogs by taking advantage of a Dog's instinct to obey a sharp human voice to SIT. In the air.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes kills a werewolf by throwing a flare that the wolf instinctively tries to fetch. Ouch.
      Earlier in the book, he determines that a character is more than they seem by their lack of a reflexive response to having an orange thrown at them. A fellow copper ducks, whereas this character, who is a trained Assassin, neither ducks nor attempts to catch the orange, but merely observes that the projectile isn't a threat and lets it harmlessly bounce off him.
  • In an early Animorphs story, Jake ends up with a Yeerk in his head. The Yeerk manages to pass off as Jake for a while, but when Ax shows up in his Andalite body, the Yeerk can't keep a look af deep loathing from flashing across Jake's face, which Ax notices. When Ax suggests tying Jake up for three days (which would starve any Yeerk to death while leaving the host unharmed) and offers to morph into Jake to cover for him during this time, the Yeerk hysterically snaps when Ax goes to touch Jake to absorb his DNA and calls him "Andalite filth!" out loud, which naturally is the last proof the rest of the gang need to know that Ax is right.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Shalash is one of the ten Heralds (immortals worshipped as quasi-divinities by most of Roshar, secretly Walking the Earth after abandoning their duties), and part of her madness is that whenever she sees a religious depiction of herself, she has to stop whatever she's doing and destroy it. One character who is trying to locate her takes advantage of this to lure her out of hiding, putting out a very nice painting of Shalash and setting some agents to keep an eye on it until Shalash shows up to destroy it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Friends, Phoebe uses this as a game to help people make decisions, asking them a series of unrelated questions until hitting them with the choice they've been struggling with. Ross later uses this to work out why Phoebe is mad at him (she dreamt that he insulted her), and it lands Chandler in hot water with Joey when he reflexively reveals that he doesn't think the movie Joey's been cast in will be his big break, contrary to his supportive words earlier in the episode.
    • Ross and Rachel teach Chandler to learn a series of reflexive responses to questions his girlfriend might ask ("Does this make me look fat?", "Is she prettier than me?" etc) in order to avoid arguments.
  • Agent 99 of Get Smart instinctively judo throws anyone who sneaks up behind her. She also does it when she attempts to explain this.
  • In season 6 of How I Met Your Mother, when Lily announces that she is pregnant, Barney immediately screams "I've never slept with that woman before in my life!"
  • In an episode of Full House, DJ gives her father a very mature and well thought out presentation on why she should have her own room. Danny asks for a few minutes to think it over, then tells her he's made his decision. DJ immediately yelps, "Dad, that is completely unfair!" A perplexed Danny tells her he hasn't even said anything yet, at which point a sheepish DJ admits that it's "force of habit". Apparently, years of watching her father take her younger sisters' side over hers had conditioned her reaction — indeed, she's downright stunned when Danny agrees with her.
  • In an episode of Sherlock, "A Scandal in Belgravia", Sherlock is looking for Irene Adler's cell phone, which has incriminating pictures on it. While he talks to her, John steps outside and lights a magazine on fire, triggering the smoke alarm. When Irene hears the alarm, she instinctively looks at a mirror on the wall that conceals a hidden safe, pointing Sherlock directly to the phone.
  • In one "Weekend Update" sketch from Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon believes that Tina Fey is about to tell the viewers that he has a small penis, and suckerpunches her in the face. She asks if his paranoia is proof that it's true, and he hits her again. She then blurts out "small penis" and gets hit yet again. When she glares at him, he giggles nervously and explains that "It's an instinct."
  • On QI, this is one way the producers trip up the contestants in the General Ignorance round (where giving the obvious answer is usually the incorrect one and will cost points).
  • On WKRP in Cincinnati, Les rewrote the station's emergency handbook so that it only covers Soviet invasions. When a tornado hits Cincinnati he's forced to improvise by reading it on the air and replacing the word "communist" with "tornado," so he urges Cincinnatians to stand up to the "godless tornados."
  • Law & Order: UK. Detectives Brooks and Devlin have arrived at a junkyard to look for a murder suspect. When they're told the man in question isn't there, they suspect otherwise. Devlin casually calls out, "Oi, Freddy!". Sure enough, Freddy looks up at the sound of his name, then further confirms his identity by bolting when he sees the cops.
  • Stargate SG-1, when SG-1 accidentally time travels to The '60s, they are captured on the suspicion of being Soviet spies. When one of them asks in Russian if they're Russian spies. Daniel, being a linguist, instinctively answers "no"... also in Russian.
  • Garrett does this on Superstore when he's DJing at Cheyenne's wedding to Beau. After making an announcement to the crowd, he follows up with "Thank you for shopping at Cloud 9. Dammit. Force of habit."
  • In the season 1 finale of Jack Ryan, Jack is chasing the Big Bad into a crowded train station. Not seeing him, he shouts "I have your son" in Arabic. The terrorist spins around to look at him, revealing himself to Jack.
  • In a second season episode of Cobra Kai, Johnny reunites with his teenage friends Jimmy, Bobby, and Tommy, and they go on a little road trip together. When they stop at a bar they're caught up in a Bar Brawl, and despite likely being decades out of practice with karate, when one of the brawlers tries to punch Jimmy, his old training kicks in and he reflexively performs a martial arts block and throws a counterpunch simultaneously. Right after he does this he stares at his own hands in shock and amazement, obviously just as surprised by this as his opponent was.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In a Shadowrun sourcebook, iconic character Hatchetman is telling of his slow evolution from street punk to cyber samurai. At one point, he comments on how he used to snicker at older streetsams who would normally stand with their backs to the wall for being paranoid, only to get the "wired reflexes" mods himself, and finding himself doing the same thing to keep himself from reflexively striking somebody coming up behind him. He isn't paranoid of being hurt, but of hurting an innocent.

    Video Games 
  • Elden Ring: For anyone who's any familiar with the Dark Souls series, you know any chest could be a Mimic, and while there are visual cues that let you tell the difference between Mimics and real chests, it's easier to check it by hitting it first. Elden Ring, being a Dark Souls Spiritual Successor, caused many players to hit every chest they see to make sure it wasn't a Mimic. There are no Mimics in this game.
  • An early encounter in Improbable Island is with a professional romance writer, who you involuntarily punch the instant she says so. She takes it in good stride, surprisingly, mentioning that she seems to get that reaction from everyone she meets, directly suggesting that it must be a conditioned response. What starts the obligatory fight is when you utter the phrase "professional romance writer", and she has the same reaction. Much later, you learn that even the sneaky bastard lion can't resist this impulse.
  • Pokémon Masters: In one story event, Steven, Shauna, and Looker are investigating a series of Pokémon thefts. Shauna, who's noticed a pattern among the victims, asks one of them (a Lass) whether they're involved with Team Flare. The girl denies it, but when Shauna begins reciting the Team Flare chant, she reflexively joins in, outing herself.
  • In Senran Kagura, even Shinobi trainees are at risk of being attacked by rivals while going about their business in public spaces, so one of their first conditioned reflexes is to pull their primary weapon and smack an enemy who gets within arm's reach without thinking about it. This is why Peach Beach Splash permits bladed weapons and brutal punches as melee attacks in an explicitly bloodless water-gun tournament, the reflex to use weapons at close range is too powerful to be outlawed.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • Many Scouts have it drilled into themselves that a Scout standing still is a dead Scout because of his Fragile Speedster status. But it makes it hard for allies to try and heal him or extinguish any fire on him.
    • It's usually best to steer clear of a Pyro lest you get caught in their flames and die a fiery death. But when you're a Spy and disguised as an enemy player, being too cautious around other Pyros can give the disguise away and mark you for a spycheck very quickly.
    • When you're approached by someone brandishing a melee weapon, it's instinctive to keep your distance while you still have ranged ammo. This works to the favor of a Heavy with the Fists of Steel, as the weapon gives them resistance to ranged weapon damage but raises their melee damage vulnerability.
  • Since the very beginning, World of Warcraft features damage zones, glowing circles of poison, fire, darkness, whatever. The message ingrained into every competent player's head is that if a glowing circle appeared under you, move out of it immediately or die. In the Cataclysm expansion they give several healing classes an area of effect, over time heal that took the form of... a glowing circle on the ground. Unsurprisingly, everyone is having to fight the urge to move out them. It's probably worst for druids; while shamans have blue and priests have yellow, neither of which is a common boss damage circle color, druids' circles are green, and thus resemble a cloud of poison.
  • Galaxy Angel: On Ranpha's route in Eternal Lovers, she suffers a mental breakdown caused by her Emblem Frame being sabotaged, which results in her punching Tact with all her strength whenever he touches her. This causes her an endless amount of angst over not being able to show physical affection to her boyfriend anymore. Thankfully, she manages to overcome it towards the end, when Tact saves her life.

    Web Animation 
  • One episode of the Gotham Girls web series has Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy playing Keep Away with some loot, keeping it from Batgirl. Batgirl gets it by yelling out "Over here!" to Harley who, caught up in the game, tosses it over before she realizes what she's doing.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Green Lantern episode of Duck Dodgers, when Dodgers actually agrees to Sinestro's hero-villain seduction speech, Sinestro goes on to call him a fool for rejecting before realizing that this time, someone actually said yes.
  • In one episode of Bonkers a toon criminal forces Bonkers to activate a deathtrap by placing a "Do Not Press This Button" sign on the activation button. As a toon, Bonkers is incapable of resisting a temptation like that.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Lisa is doing something bad for a change:
      Marge: Bart, nooooo!
      Bart: [standing right beside her] What?!
      Marge: Sorry, force of habit. Lisa, nooooo!
    • Both The Movie and "Homerland" have Bart reflexively preparing to be strangled after doing something that would typically get this reaction from Homer.
  • American Dad! has a similar joke in an earlier episode, where Steve gets impregnated by Roger. When Stan finds out, his immediate response is to yell at Hayley for "tarting around town". She angrily points out that she didn't do anything, and Stan says that he always assumed this would happen to Hayley, so it's what he's prepared for.
    • In "Four Little Words", Bullock accidentally kills his new girlfriend when she playfully sneaks up on him from behind, causing his CIA training to kick in and make him snap her neck without even turning around.
    • In "Lincoln Lover", when Stan and Steve go to a Republican convention, every visitor must pass the "gay check". This usually includes things that look for this trope, such as asking the visitor to look at his nails (according to Stan, a "real man" does it palm up, while bending fingers, while a homosexual does is the feminine way - palm down and stretching out the fingers), asking what "ERA" stands for (once again, a "real man" would say "earned run average", a baseball term, while a homosexual would say "Equal Rights Amendment"), or saying a few words from a musical (a homosexual would sing the rest).
      Guard: [monotone] Clang, clang, clang.
      Visitor: [cheerfully singing, as if on stage] Went the trolley! [being carried off by guards] No, I just like musicals!
  • Tom and Jerry: Tom has used a dog's urge to fetch to get Spike off his back, only to come across the problem that once a dog starts fetching, they won't stop.
  • Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck has pulled the fetch stunt on a few hunting dogs a few times during their career as well.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: Monterey Jack's Follow Your Nose reactions upon smelling cheese.
  • Family Guy characters know Brian can't resist fetching objects.
  • Steven Universe: In "Mindful Education", Connie instinctively flips a student that bumped into her due to her months of training with the Crystal Gems. Once she realizes that she just injured an innocent person for no reason, Connie is completely mortified and runs off in fear and shame.
  • In Gravity Falls, when Dipper, Mabel, and Soos go into Grunkle Stan's mind, Dipper sees how Stan's dad tried to toughen up a nerdy and weak young Stan by having Stan take Boxing Lessons. Years later when a young woman near him was being mugged, Stan was able save (and impress) her by reflexively throwing a left hook at the would be mugger. The guy immediately fled after getting hit and it made Stan a hero.
  • Humorous example from King of the Hill where Dale exacerbates a Third-Act Misunderstanding with his long-estranged father, Bug. Due to a Sustained Misunderstanding, Bug thinks Dale is angry over Bug being a Gay Cowboy... while Dale is actually going back to his Conspiracy Theorist roots and actually thinks that his dad is a federal deep cover agent, upsetting him deeply. Dale goes to Bug's gay rodeo to try and 'out' him as a fed, when Bug realizes how stupid his son is being and hogties him... but not before putting women's underwear on him out of reflex, as Bug has a rodeo act where he subdues goats by putting lingerie on them.
    Dale: (completely confused)....panties?
    Bug: Force of habit! Now zip it mister! You are embarrassing me in front of the whole community! (meanwhile, the crowd is applauding both Gribbles)

    Real Life 
  • The studies of Ivan Pavlov have become famous for demonstrating this in dogs. He would ring a bell every time that food was served to the dogs, and eventually the sound of the bell would connect instantly to the idea of food being brought; hence, when he rang the bell, the dogs would salivate more and expect the food to be brought out even if there wasn't any.
  • Some torturers have been known to use Coca-Cola bottles to beat or sodomize victims, because they know that the Coca-Cola franchise is one of the most prevalent in the world. Even if their victim is released, they will be confronted with reminders of their terrible torture forever onward through advertising.
  • The ever-popular "Check her out!" "Who, where?" Especially funny when the person being baited is married and/or in a serious relationship, and his wife/girlfriend is right there, forcing him to backpedal. "Whoever she is, she can't be as pretty as you are!" or "Who cares, I have the most beautiful woman in the world right here!"
  • Most every bicycle in Japan has a bell to warn pedestrians that someone is rapidly approaching, at which point the walking pedestrian, used to the sheer amount of cyclists in the nation, will move to the side. One YouTuber invoked this by carrying around a bell as he walked, and rang it to part the seas of crowds. Instinctively, many moved to the side without even bothering to look back.
  • A surprising real life example: Once, when police were entering a house to look for a burglar, one of them said "Marco" in order to inject some humor into the situation. The burglar said "Polo" and was promptly caught.
  • Two men were on trial for burglary, and a possible witness was on the stand. The prosecutor, leading up to asking her to identify the people she had seen entering the house, asked, "Are the men who broke into the house in the court room here today?" The defendants raised their hands.
  • Apparently, during World War 2, it was possible to ferret out German infiltrators among Allied prisoners of war by randomly shouting "Achtung!" and seeing who reacted by reflexively coming to attention.
  • As mentioned in the film section, this is how Roger Bushell, the man behind the real "Great Escape", was captured. Like his counterpart in the film, Bushell and his companion, Bernard Scheidhauer, were posing as French businessman. They initially passed the checkpoint, but as they were walking away, a guard turned and abruptly fired off a question in English. Scheidhauer, who was French by birth but had become accustomed to speaking English with his fellow POWs, reflexively answered the question in English.
  • A German comedian, Jonny Buchardt, in 1973 led an audience in several cheers and slipped in a "Sieg!" The audience members that were adults during Nazi Germany responded with "Heil!", much to his disbelief.
  • William Shatner has told an anecdote about a time when he nearly got into a fight and realized that out of habit he was getting ready to do Captain Kirk's infamous drop kick. The mental image of him doing so and then falling onto the ground (as often happened on set) made Shatner reevaluate things and decide to defuse the situation instead of escalating it to a fight.
  • For your own safety, it might be best to avoid startling an ex-soldier. Seriously, don't.


Video Example(s):


Exploiting the Wolf Howling

Judy takes advantage of the wolves guarding Cliffside Asylum being vulnerable to howling. Once she starts howling, the wolves cannot resist joining in, allowing Judy and Nick to sneak past them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ReflexiveResponse

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