Follow TV Tropes


Sherlock Scan

Go To
"I knew you came from Afghanistan. From long habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind that I arrived at the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps. There were such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran, 'Here is a gentleman of the medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says clearly. His left arm has been injured: he holds it in a stiff and unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.' The whole train of thought did not occupy a second. I then remarked that you came from Afghanistan, and you were astonished."

A device used to introduce a detective character and their skills. The detective mentions some fact about the person they've just met, something that is not immediately obvious and they have no way of knowing ("Quitting cigarettes appears to have been good for you", "How's the wedding planning going?", "You've holidayed in Italy recently"). The other character looks skeptical or surprised, then the detective describes their reasoning from a set of minor clues (state and style of clothes, marks on skin, tan, etc.) and consequent assumptions.

This is often not connected directly to the main plotline, but just to show "This is how the detective's mind works, and yes, the detective is That Good." The obvious subversion is to play this out, then have the detective admit that they were told the fact, or else for the other person to insist the detective is utterly wrong.

This is often cited as a demonstration of deductive reasoning (reaching a conclusion that is true by definition based on its premises) but is actually an example of inductive or abductive reasoning (reaching a conclusion that has some probability of being true based on its premises). In general, deductive arguments produce only trivial truths in a field like detective work, so induction is all you can use. Due to the laws of probability this means that a detailed scan should be extremely likely to err on a few details, but this almost never happens in fiction. You will, however, find that once a character begins a Sherlock Scan their vision magically adjusts to 20/20, so that they can pick up every visual clue and expound on it without an unsightly squint.

A common parody of this is to have the detective note these details before drawing attention to the blindingly obvious clue, or occasionally notes the obvious clue immediately.

Compare the Scarily Competent Tracker, who is like a Sherlock Scan done on footprints, and the Batman Cold Open. See also Hyper-Awareness and Awesomeness by Analysis. When this kind of reasoning makes no sense but still works, it's a Bat Deduction. When the above subversion of performing one of these before noting an obvious hint occurs, it's Clue, Evidence, and a Smoking Gun. If there's a "psychic" bent to the scan, it's Cold Reading. If a criminal does this to the detective interrogating them, then it might be part of a Hannibal Lecture. In Video Game settings this can manifest as Enemy Scan against enemies, especially if done without the help of magic or a device. For when one uses this to find a location, see GPS Evidence. See also Eagle-Eye Detection.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Aggretsuko: Fenneko pulls off one in figuring out where Retsuko has gone that she's thrice turned down Haida's invitations to dinner, to the latter's bewilderment. Haida guesses that perhaps Retsuko had found a guy to date, but even though Fenneko says Retsuko doesn't discuss her love life with her Fenneko doesn't think it's a guy, then needs all of five seconds to prove it by showing Haida a social media selfie of some unrelated flamingo lady at a yoga session with Retsuko in the background. Fenneko then goes into a spiel (complete with deerstalker cap and pipe) about how she figured it out: Retsuko walking in the opposite direction of the train station twice a week after work when she normally goes straight home (so too close for a train ride), complaints about sore muscles (so something physical), not a kickboxing type so Fenneko guessed pilates or yoga, combined with limiting social media posts to nearby locations meant the search was brief enough to find Retsuko quick.
    Haida: OK, you're freaking me out. I hope I never piss you off.
    Fenneko: If you do, just stay away from social media. (nonchalantly sips wine)
  • When Hentai manga magazine editor Tanaka Katsumi only heard grunts coming from the other side of the phone call at the beginning of Ah... and Mm... Are All She Says, she initially thinks it is a prank call. However, background sounds of peddling souvenir stores make her realize that, it's likely a case of somebody taking the Bullet Train all the way to Tokyo just to pitch their manuscript, and gives out directions to the company and who to look for. This exactly is how the series proper starts, as Tanaka deduced correctly that Toda Seiko is, indeed, coming from Nagoya to pitch her manuscript. The reason why Tanaka only heard grunts? Toda has difficulties organizing her words, and under pressure, she's effectively nonverbal, wanting to say something but can't think of how to say it.
  • Attack on Titan: Science Hero Hange Zoe manages to solve a murder within moments of happening upon the scene, picking up on several details all while acting the part of a hysterical, grieving friend. After being chased off by the Military Police already handling the investigation, Hange reveals the act was a ruse to check the murderer's hands for bruised knuckles — confirming his guilt and the robbery-gone-bad being a cover for Cold-Blooded Torture to silence the victim because He Knows Too Much. Furthermore, that all the victim's fingernails were removed prior to death proves he didn't break and his killers likely didn't get a single thing out of him.
  • Black Butler has a curious subversion with Vicar Jeremy (first seen in Chapter 45 of the manga). He demonstrates several different Sherlock Scans, all of which are accurate and logical once he explains his trains of thought, but most of which are ultimately a way to maintain the cover of Sebastian Michaelis, devil of a butler and Not Quite Dead. He ends up being the inspiration for Arthur (author of A Study in Scarlet) to continue writing professionally. His scans include:
    • Identifying a particular guest of Ciel's party as Karl Woodley.
      Woodley: How do you know my name...!?
      Jeremy: Oh, it's quite obvious from the rings adorning your fingers. Large diamonds of that size are mined in South Africa. And the unique round brilliant-cut of those diamonds is possible only with the latest polisher developed by the Woodley Company. [...] Thus, if among the guests at Earl Phantomhive's dinner party, there is one individual wearing such rare rings, he is most likely to be president of the Woodley Company... you, Mister Woodley.
    • Identifying Arthur as an author (while praising him for saving the Vicar his breath).
      Jeremy: It's a simple feat to tell a person's occupations and such from their clothing and habits. First, you have a writer's callus on the middle finger of your right hand. And it differs from that of those who draw or paint.. in other words, it goes to show just how much you write. Next, that blue smudge on your sleeve. This can happen when laundering fabric to which coloured ink has adhered. And lastly... you have made a habit of noting on your cuffs with pencil story ideas as they strike you so they do not forget. Pearl... India... Secret Room... Sign. Only a writer would do something like that, hmm?
    • The classic Holmesian "drunkard's pocket watch" scan, combined with The Nose Knows.
      Jeremy: Here we have a very expensive-looking pocket watch, but there are numerous scratches around the key wind. Only a terrible boor or a drunkard would do such a thing, don't you agree? And this pungent odour of alcohol is proof that he was drinking spirits of considerable strength right up until the moment of his death... Oh? I detect an ever-so-slight scent of the sea...
    • Identifying a faked-death-turned-backstab via the aforementioned nose-knowing and a knowledge of poisons.
      Jeremy: There is a substance that has been recently discovered called tetrodotoxin. If it is purified in a certain way, one can enter a state of apparent death by consuming it.
      Arthur: Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin possessed by blowfish and octopi. [...]
      Jeremy: I noticed a slight scent of the sea when I inspected Siemens's corpse. That was probably the result of the poison being distilled from blowfish venom. [...]
      Lau: He only intended to fake his death but ended up being murdered for real.
    • Dissolving suspicions of actress Irene Diaz being a vampire after said actress was found to be twelve years older than her lover and possessing a bottle of dark red liquid.
      Jeremy: Red perilla is known as an antiaging substance. The extract that is produced from boiling it down is what keeps you looking so young... no?
      Diaz: Y-yes. [...]
      Baldroy, Mey-Rin, Finnian: That was iiit?
  • Berserk: When the Holy Iron Chain Knights catch up to Guts' trail of corpses in the Lost Children chapter, Sir Azan says the bodies look like they were blasted apart by cannon fire and supposes the Black Swordsman must have been leading a group of soldiers. Serpico corrects him by stating he thinks it was done by one man, noticing that the wounds appear on closer inspection to have been caused by some kind of massive blade swung at incredible speed. Seeing that the bodies are all in the same state he guesses they were killed with the same kind of blade, and that it would seem unnatural to propose that more than one man exists who could handle such a freakish weapon. This is one of many clues that Serpico is far more competent than he pretends to be.
  • Occasionally done in Case Closed, such as the first episode, where Conan comes up with a different justification.
  • In The Case Files of Jeweler Richard, Richard does this to a client in episode 4/volume two, guessing her job and hobbies, as well as her reason for being there. In fairness, she asks him to do it, and he admits he's just guessing.
  • L from Death Note is a master of this. He managed to deduce Kira's identity and nationality by just studying the psychology of the crime and the order of victims.
  • Bardock, of all people, pulls one off in Dragon Ball Super: Broly. Within a minute he not only figures out Frieza is going to blow up the planet, but his reasoning as to why (he fears the Legendary Super Saiyan myth).
  • Detective Ryo MacLean from FAKE has demonstrated this a few times. He just looks around a crime scene and can tell what happened by just a few clues lying around.
  • Gambling Emperor Legend Zero: In The Anchor gamble, Koutaro shows Zero a handful of coins he dumped out of his wallet, and then turns the camera away from the pile. Koutaro then grabs one of the coins, and asks Zero which of the coins is in his fist. Zero uses a myriad of clues to deduce that it wasn’t a Japanese coin at all, but in fact an American coin, either a penny or dollar coin, that was hidden under the pile Koutaro showed him. Zero then incorrectly guesses that it was a penny, when it was a dollar coin. Koutaro was still daunted nontheless.
  • Victorique, one of the protagonists of Gosick, is about as close to actually being Sherlock Holmes as a teenaged girl in a frilly dress can be, and as such is naturally prone to Sherlock Scanning. Perhaps more impressively, she's also capable of making these kinds of deductions based on details reported to her secondhand by her Watson, Kujo (since she rarely leaves the library in which she lives). And she's right, despite all the potential for error in such a setup.
  • Houtarou Oreki from Hyouka has a knack for the Sherlock Scan. For example, in Ep. 3, he deduced that an upperclassman was illegally smoking in a club room, and used that information to blackmail him into giving them the materials they needed.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has this with the protagonist and starring JoJo of Part 2, Joseph Joestar. He utilises this on and off by hiding it behind his goofy personality. But when it comes to fighting, he becomes a tactical genius and can gain an advantage just from just scanning his surroundings and his enemies. He occasionally takes it a step further by predicting what his enemies will say with complete accuracy, throwing them off even further than before, usually just before a critical attack is executed; Fanon, and even a slight nod by mangaka Araki himself attributes this to a subconscious activation of his Stand that he properly gained in Part 3, chronologically taking place 5 decades later.
  • Reiji in the Kara no Shoujo adaptation immediately deduces much about Touko's character on first meeting. Probably for the sake of compression, as the trope was averted in the VN.
  • Sherlock Holmes of Meitantei Holmes (released in the US as Sherlock Hound) is able to ascertain where a client came from because he recognizes the mud on her shoes and where it comes from.
  • As Moriarty the Patriot is an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes canon, these are to be expected.
    • Sherlock does one on William when they first meet, judging his occupation and a whole lot of details about how he came to that conclusion, which is reciprocated in kind by William on him, deducing his physical prowess, his musical hobbies, and even his drug addiction.
    • Sherlock does one on John when the first meet to deduce he's a Returning War Vet home from Afghanistan.
    • Mycroft does one to John when they first meet, commenting on his weight gain.
    • Sherlock does another one when meeting Billy the Kid to deduce they're on the way to America.
  • Fuyuki of Sgt. Frog, expert on the occult and brilliant detective, can somehow factor in an unidentified woman standing in the rain somewhere when investigating misplaced concert tickets.
  • Vinland Saga: Askeladd can read a man, can tell if a man is brave, cunning or a coward at a single glance, after living forty years of a wicked life.

    Comic Books 
  • Baker Street: As the setting's equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, Sharon Ford makes a habit of this. On her first meeting with Susan, she performs one very similar to the one Holmes performs on Watson on their first meeting in A Study in Scarlet.
    Susan: Uh. H-How did you know I was a med student at Wisteria?
    Sharon: Really! It's a simple observation... Well, more than that actually. A simple deductive observation, if you will. Bit of a hobby of mine. Let's see, you carry Gray's Anatomy, the 'handbook' of medical students. Belden's Anatomical Guide simply confirms that. That was a newspaper from the college... and it's common knowledge Wisteria has an exchange program with the States.
    Susan: That told you I was an American...??
    Sharon: Well, your accent did help. Along with your class ring. We prefer pins instead.
  • Batman:
    • When a detective in one storyline hired to (and long since defeated by) the task of finding the killer of the Waynes told Batman that after enough years on the force he can just look at a guy's face and immediately know that he's guilty, Batman said he can identify.
    • Years of experience, Commissioner Gordon is an expert of this trope. And so is his hard-as-nails lieutenant Harvey Bullock.
    • In Batman: Gordon of Gotham, Soong realizes a suspect is lying about never having had children when he sees that the home is installed with child proof outlets.
  • Batwoman is capable of a downplayed version of this. She can identify whether or not someone is military based on how they move and fight, and used this to determine that Batman was not. She also managed to piece together Batman's real identity this way, when Bruce invited her to lunch a few days after Kate shot him in the leg, and had a limp in the same leg (combined with how similar their own pasts and current lives were).
  • Captain America is a Super Soldier, not a detective, but this trope is used to establish his experience. He can "sum up a soldier in an instant", and he proceeds to do this to Spider-Man, and although the details aren't all right, he gets Spidey. Spidey then tries it, and doesn't do so well. Although technically he should, given his combination of 'thinking superhumanly fast', enhanced situational awareness (spider-sense), and 'being incredibly intelligent'. One supposes Spidey just doesn't have a knack for what he should be looking for.
    Cap: Late teens. The mask doesn't alter your voice that much. Probably someone who can't fit in with the regular crowd at school. [...] That mask allows you to express yourself and say the things you normally can't. You use humor as a weapon, to keep your opponents off-guard. That's a sound strategy. You live at home and you're close to your parents... you protect your identity out of respect for them. Preserve the family name. So you're a man of honor. [...]
    Spidey: Anyone can make assumptions. You were probably a rich kid whose parents were shot in a dark alley, and you...
    Cap: Not likely, kid.
    • And yes, it really doesn't disguise his voice that well. Whenever Spidey phones someone who knows him as Peter Parker, they recognize his voice, but usually think he's come down with a cold.
    • Given the fact that Spidey and Bats had met years before in the Disordered Minds crossover, the wall-crawler was probably using his aforementioned sense of humor to stop the scan and give a not-so-veiled Shout-Out.
  • Happens a few times in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel), usually with the Joes identifying someone as more than just a simple soldier.
    • In Special Missions, the Joes are forced to aid a former Nazi find a cache of stolen WWII gold. They find themselves surrounded by what appear to be Latin American guerillas but Recondo scoffs "if you're banditos, my aunt Tilly can spit bowling balls! You're a Moroccan Jews if I ever saw one and some of your buddies are Sephardim—-Mediterranean—- Jews." The Joes thus realize these are actually Mossad officers wanting to drag the Nazi to Israel for trial. The Mossad leader turns it right around to note the Americans are "too scruffy to be Delta and not wired enough to be SOG" so they have to be the Joes.
  • As an occult detective, John Constantine the Hellblazer is a master of this, albeit deducing supernatural happenings is his profession.
  • The Vertigo Comics incarnation of the Human Target "gets into character" by studying the person he's impersonating, and managed to put together the voice, appearance, and personality of a dead man after a very brief time in his apartment. He does, however, catch himself baselessly speculating when he examines a picture of the guy's girlfriend.
  • In the miniseries Madrox, Jamie Madrox this to Rahne/Wolfsbane in the first issue, lampshading in the narration that this Holmes schtick should quiet her doubts about his detective skills. Subverted when it is revealed he didn't deduce anything, he just had duplicates of himself follow her all day.
  • A minor enemy/sometimes ally of Moon Knight called The Profile specializes in this, literally to the point of it being a superpower. He is eventually defeated due to Moon Knight being an agent of a god. While the Knight himself could be analyzed, the god could not due to not being present. That and Moon Knight himself is both terribly mentally ill and has an utterly fractured personality, which combined to make the reading very much unpleasant for Profile.
  • Befitting his nature as a dual Humphrey Bogart and Sherlock Holmes homage, Nightbeat does a cold Sherlock Scan in the fifth chapter of The Transformers: Dark Cybertron... to Cyclonus. He accurately picks out a dozen fine details calling back to Cyclonus' own history, up to and including his own complicated relationship with Tailgate, such as accurately calling out that the only reason Cyclonus replaced his damaged horn was because Tailgate made the replacement, and that he had donated innermost Energon in a vigil for a dying Tailgate, then scratched his own face to hold back from telling Tailgate that he was concerned about the Minibot's impending death by cybercrosis, then patched up those same scratches once Tailgate managed to recover from the cybercrosis. This pisses Cyclonus right off, and he responds in his own special way.
    Cyclonus: You're lucky I don't kill you! You're lucky I don't kill all of you!
  • The protagonist of Mark Millar's Prodigy, Edison Crane, does this every time he looks at someone, and can do so with such precision that he can piece together someone's entire life up until that very moment. Rachel Straks compares her journey with him to "hanging out with Hannibal Lecter".
  • Spoofed in Tintin - Tintin in America. Tintin hires a private detective after his beloved dog Snowy goes missing. The detective examines the scene and quickly produces a detailed scenario of the dog-napping. Tintin wonders if this man is a Sherlock or a charlatan — it's unfortunately the latter as he repeatedly turns up with every kind of dog except Snowy.
  • X-23 possesses a very disturbing form of this. As in the Sherlock Holmes (2009) example below, whenever Laura walks into a room, her brain immediately begins to analyze the situation and everyone in it, performing threat analysis, formulating multiple attack plans, and calculating the best method with which to kill everyone in the room. Her thoughts in Avengers Arena reveal that she can't turn it off, so she even does this to her friends!

    Comic Strips 
  • Scary Gary: A non-detective example, with Gary, the titular retired vampire, proving to be ridiculously good at being able to identify where blood came from when he tries out being a blood sommelier at The Hammered Henchman.
    Monster Patron: Yeah. What makes you an expert?
    Gary: The blood on your cloak tells me the last thing you ate was a timid plumber from Newark.
    Monster Patron: You’re good.
  • Zits: Pierce can tell what someone had for breakfast just by smelling their breath.

    Fan Works 
  • In All You Need Is Love, a Sherlock Scan is performed by 4-year old Duck Sherlock Penber, deducing Kira's identity as Light Yagami via stuff like the way he writes and how he seems to be constantly protecting something.
  • Played With in The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan. At one point, Nova and Twilight are in a clearing in the West Orchard of Sweet Apple Acres, in which a target has been set up. Nova deduces that it must be where Applejack practices buckball, saying that he had figured it out from the smell, some of the impressions in the target itself, and the buckball that Applejack accidentally left out behind one of the trees.
  • AQUA: The First Step: Alexander is able to quickly deduce that General Ironwood is a Cyborg due to his Conspicuous Gloves, the smell of hydraulic fluid, and the sound of gears when he moves.
  • In Avenger of Steel, Clark Kent and Matt Murdock are able to identify the probable location of Leland Owlsley’s safehouse based on a strand of his hair found in a warehouse he recently visited, as it is tainted by the scent of a distinctively-spiced chicken from a specific takeaway. From this, they deduce that the safehouse has to be within a couple of blocks of that business, as the timing doesn’t allow for Owlsley to have just stopped in to eat that particular dish as the restaurant wouldn’t have been open in time for him to eat there and visit the warehouse.
  • In Avengers: Infinite Wars, Bucky Barnes demonstrates this when he meets the Ancient One, his long experiences of travelling the world- both as himself and as the Winter Soldier- allowing him to spot various clues that her order originated in Tibet while the Ancient One herself is from a Celtic culture.
  • Silver Spoon tries this in The Cadanceverse in order to impress her father. She meets with moderate success.
  • In A Cure for Love Near deduces the following about Kira from just talking with Light on the phone:
    Near: Kira, if it was Kira, sounded like a Japanese male in his late teens to early twenties... Slim build. He was probably wearing a suit since he was definitely wearing a tie. Irritable.
  • Danganronpa 2/3 Redux: Return Unto Death: While trying to figure out Rantaro's talent, Mahiru suggests that the black ring on his middle finger could signal that he's the 'Ultimate Swinger'. Rantaro points out that it could also be a symbol of the asexual community, causing her to stammer and squirm. He then admits that he's not asexual or a swinger, and just wanted to tease her a bit for jumping to conclusions based on his appearance.
  • In The Detective and the Diplomat, Holmes pulls a Sherlock Scan on Commander Vimes — but far from being impressed and awed, Vimes just resents him with the burning intensity of a thousand desert suns for the rest of the story ("Between you, me, and the cot, Mr. Holmes, I get enough of that crap from the Patrician"). After that, Holmes' entire first day in Ankh-Morpork is a comedy of missed deductions; he pegs Carrot as the son of a farmer, Angua as a dog-lover (basically true, but...), Nobby as a Watch mascot, and Detritus as part of the statuary — this last nearly gets him killed. Holmes gets along a lot better with Ponder — once they iron out a compromise on the "no such thing as magic" issue.
  • Played With during Akio Sehei's introduction in Androgyninja's A Dose of Venom. The tailor immediately denies Sakura service based off the state of her clothes, noting that while her dress was well-made, she hasn't been taking care of it, noting the presence of old bloodstains that show no sign of her even attempting to wash them out. He attributes this to her being "yet another shinobi brat" who doesn't appreciate how much time and hard work goes into crafting clothes... while ignoring the fact that their village was recently attacked and she's likely been busy dealing with the fallout of that. This establishes that Akio not only has an eye for such details, he's also a Jerkass who's letting his own biases taint his assessment, showing No Sympathy for a girl who recently lost her parents.
  • In The Handwriting On the Wall, a Bones/Sherlock crossover, Sherlock (feigning his death after "The Reichenbach Fall") pulls a Sherlock Scan on Dr. Brennan, identifying her as a fugitive for a murder she didn't commit, a forensic scientist, a mother involved in a long-term relationship with her daughter's father but not married, and a vegetarian.
  • Hazredous Interruptions sees General Ironwood take one look at the Arthra crew and ask Professor Ozpin why trained soldiers are pretending to be academy students.
  • Discussed and Played With in Hope on a Distant Mountain. After Naegi seemingly guesses something about Asahina, Kuwata asks if he has "some kind of Sherlock Holmes super detective powers" and demands he try them out on him next. Naegi states that Leon's piercings suggest that he doesn't really care that much about baseball, since they're not really appropriate for the game. Of course, Naegi knows all of this because he got to know AI copies of his classmates very well in an Unwinnable Training Simulation, but none of his classmates know about that. On the other hand, he also picked up some detective skills from that same simulation, without which he wouldn't have been able to make his fake scan look convincing.
  • In How I Became Yours, Hana is able to tell that an amnesiac Azula is from the Fire Nation because she has amber eyes and an undergarment typically worn by women from the Fire Nation.
  • Neville Papperman from iFight Crime With Victorious:
    Neville: I know that you're afraid of Carly and Freddie getting together after they graduate from junior high. And I know that you developed a phobia of electronic appliances and an even greater fear of flat-screen television sets after your faulty wiring made your show's projector screen fall on you. You had your parents reorganize your room so that your bed is farther away from your television just in case it happens to fall. You don't sleep under your wall-mounted bed lamp anymore. You hate standing underneath suspended chandeliers and similar lights, and every time you see Freddie you reminisce about your first date!
  • In Resolving a Misunderstanding, Minerva's older brother Malcolm does this to Minerva's colleague, the Deputy Headmistress Gertrude Gamp. He correctly deduces that she has been climbing on rocks, and that she did this habitually, based on some dust, her overall appearance, and her accent.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Subverted in "Dinky and the Blanks", where Grey Hoof tries doing this to the Element Bearers. Trixie shoots him down by pointing out his observations are completely obvious — such as Ditzy's strabismus or Carrot Top being a farmer.
  • Normally Jeremiah Cross, the protagonist of This Bites!, uses his knowledge as a Self-Insert to get the information he needs. But he's Genre Savvy and observant enough to get clues on things he doesn't know about like Filler Arcs. When he first met Yoko, he asked Mayor Fabre which of her parents died, how violently, and when. When asked how he guessed her Freudian Excuse, he notes that while Yoko is dirty and injured all over, the Marine cap and coat she's wearing are immaculate. This means they're very important to her, likely belonging to a late parent whom she lost to pirates, thus her intense hatred of all pirates.
  • In Trust Doesn't Rust, after studying the crime scene where Low Shoulder was killed, Dean quickly confirms that the supernatural is involved as no normal killer could kill five people on their own before any of the victims had time to move.
  • Turnabout Storm has Sonata, who pulls these off occasionally thanks for her talent of having a keen eye for detail. For example, she's able to tell quite of bit of both Phoenix's personality and his current situation by looking at him, and figures out Twilight is from Canterlot because she still carries over some of the smugness present in its inhabitants. She made use of this ability to pull a productive blackmailing scheme with the case's victim.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Mole is such a dirt expert that by examining a piece from under Milo's fingernail, he was able to deduce he was a linguist, much to his anger for some reason.
  • The Great Mouse Detective, being an Affectionate Parody of Sherlock Holmes, also does this. Basil is able, for example, to deduce that Dawson is not just a doctor, but a surgeon that just came from military service in Afghanistan, all from merely glancing at the way he mended a rip on his coatnote . Basil also constantly mentions that Fidget has a crippled wing when trying to describe the bat, much to everyone's confusion. It plays no part until Fidget ends up tossed off a blimp shouting "I can't fly! I can't fly!"
  • Crosses into Chekhov's Skill in How to Train Your Dragon. The resident nerd, Fishlegs, has studied dragon stats so well that he can pull a scan on the Green Death, a monstrous dragon that serves as the film's primary antagonist.
  • All Master Builders in The LEGO Movie are instantly able to recognize what parts they need to build whatever they need at the moment and construct the item in question in a matter of seconds. They actually see the LEGO part number. Emmet becomes one as well at the end of the film.
  • A villainous example is used in Mulan, when Shan-Yu's generals are able to figure out that the Imperial Army was waiting for them in a village merely by examining a doll Shan-Yu's falcon brought back. This helps the Huns get the drop on the Army and kill everyone, including Shang's father, General Li.
  • Zootopia: Nick performs a minor one on Judy when they first meet. From observing that she's a bunny cop in a meter monitoring outfit, he correctly deduces that she came to Zootopia with big dreams, but got shunted to a low position due to her status as a bunny and that she originally comes from a carrot farm. He also accurately predicts that she will give up her dreams and go home, though it's only temporary and not exactly for the reasons he anticipated. And although he doesn't reveal it until later, he also noticed that she was carrying a fox repellent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Running Gag in 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns is Sherlock performing a scan and deducing a massive amount of detail and getting most of it right, but getting a few details wrong due to being a Fish out of Temporal Water, deducing that Lt. Griffin is a supporter of the rights of little people after seeing a certificate of appreciation from the Little League on his wall.
    • He first does this on ally Winslow to deduce scores about her life...and she rails that he must be an actor hired by her ex-boyfriend as there's no other way he could know all this.
    • After realizing who he is, Winslow corrects Sherlock on a few points aside from his ignorance of modern technology: the "cocaine" on her table is just coffee sweetener; she wasn't married, just a long-term relationship; the "angry streaks of paint from a tantrum" were her ex's style of painting; and the bullet from Panama on her mantle Holmes assumes she bought as a "romantic tourist" was actually one taken from Winslow's leg when she was wounded working with the Red Cross during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. While the last point on a woman in combat jars Holmes, he bounces back by noting "only a romantic would have kept it."
  • Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, at the beginning of the film Ace deduces his client returned from a recent trip abroad, is a workaholic, and recently had a bad fall due to some poor masonry work. He's right on all counts. Except one, actually; he deduces the cause of the fall as masonry work due to a white substance on his shoe that Ace thought was sealer. It wasn't, and when he realizes what it is, it triggers an "Eureka!" Moment.
  • Parodied in the 1975 Gene Wilder film The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, in which the main character makes a deduction about who is about to walk through his door based on the sound of their footsteps on the stairs outside the door. He's completely wrong, and someone else entirely walks in.
  • The Assignment (1997): As part of his training in espionage, the protagonist has to enter a room and work out from what he sees if the woman who owns it is having an affair. This becomes a Chekhov's Skill later in the movie, when he uses similar clues to establish that the woman he's meeting has slipped out to make contact with a hostile surveillance team.
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes: MacDonald is the first person to figure out that Cornelius II's fall wasn't an accident when he examines the scene of the "accident" and notices signs of a recent campfire and a tree branch that's been partially cut through.
  • In Big Game, the Establishing Character Moment for Herbert is him working out the way terrorists have taken down Air Force One. He's correct on every point albeit this may be because he masterminded the operation.
  • Played straight in (surprisingly) Big Momma's House 2, where Martin Lawrence's character has to dress up as Big Momma again, this time to be employed by the Fullers (whose patriarch is a prime suspect in a case) as a housekeeper. From a glance at the teenage daughter's room, he figures out that she was chatting online to dubious guys and not doing her homework like she just told her mom.
  • Jason Bourne, in The Bourne Series, has this as part of his abilities, demonstrated in a diner when he was talking with Marie Kreutz.
    Bourne: I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?
  • Spoofed in the Bulldog Drummond parody Bullshot when our hero deduces from some oil on the grass about the kidnapping that's just occurred, even down to the vehicle used — failing to notice said vehicle abandoned in a nearby ditch until it's pointed out by his faithful manservant.
  • Steve Rogers pulls this off when he steps onto a SHIELD elevator in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The elevator fills up but just with what look like regular SHIELD personnel on everyday business. However, Steve takes a quick glance around and notices things out of place, such as tensing hands and sweat, as if the people in the elevator with him are expecting a confrontation. When they get in, they make sure to move around so he's surrounded. Moments later all hell breaks loose as the entire elevator attempts to subdue him (which they soundly fail at). Steve even offers them a way out as a way of demonstrating that he caught on before they realized it.
    Steve: Before we get started... does anyone want to get out?
    • As mentioned under the Fridge Brilliance section for Captain America: The First Avenger, when Steve wakes up in the simulated hospital room and the "nurse" comes to check up on him, he notices that the outfit she's wearing is off: her hair is down in a loose style that a real nurse wouldn't wear while on duty, she's wearing a tie, and the outline of her bra is the wrong shape for the supposed time period. The icing on the cake is that the baseball game being "broadcast" on the radio was one that Steve personally attended. Steve gives her a quick up-and-down glance to take all that in but, being a gentleman, only points out the discrepancy with the baseball game before smashing through the wall and several guards while making his escape.
  • In Casino Royale (2006), Bond pulls this off after dining with Vesper Lynd: he deduces that she's aggressive, probably an orphan, overcompensates for her attractiveness by wearing masculine clothing, and as a result doesn't get much respect from her male superiors. Unusually, Lynd does it back, realizing that Bond himself is likely an orphan, and went to Oxford on someone else's charity, "hence the chip on your shoulder".
  • FBI agent Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can. He's able to determine a lot about Frank Abagnale from their telephone calls. For instance, he realizes that Frank is from New York because he mentioned the Yankees and that he's a kid because he used "Barry Allen" as an alias.
    • Frank himself is no slouch either. While waiting in the principal's office, he sees a student about to hand in a supposed note from her parents excusing her for the day. He points out to her that it's an obvious fake because there's no crease (from putting it in her pocket) on it.
  • Attempted by Freebie in Freebie and the Bean, with deductions like "They have blonde hair, bad teeth, and pale lips, so they don't drink beer" and "He has dirty hands, so he's a psycho." Bean grumbles, "Where do you get that shit?"
  • The Ghost Ship: While he's neither a detective nor the main character, the blind beggar in the opening scene deduces that Merriam is a sailor on his first voyage due to how he talks about needing luck. He also deduces that Merriam is an officer and not a seaman after hearing him put down a suitcase rather than a duffel bag.
  • Hellboy: Done by Abe Sapien to Agent Myers during the former's introduction to the audience. Of course, the twist is that Abe is psychic and can gather information about objects simply by touching or being near them.
  • This is how Flynn Carsen gets his job in The Librarian — he scans his boss, determining that she was recently divorced from the depth of the ring-line on her finger and noting that she had three cats by being able to tell their hairs apart on her jacket. He occasionally does this to other characters as well.
  • Played straight and lampshaded in Loaded Weapon 1. When the detectives are talking to Dr. Leecher, he does a brief Sherlock Scan on Colt and appears to do it to Luger too... until he admits he saw a family photo in Luger's wallet.
  • In Men in Black, when J and other potential MIBs are being tested, the other recruits unhesitatingly shoot the model aliens in the shooting gallery, whereas J plugs a harmless-looking little girl's model. Questioned, he explains the various subtle clues he'd noticed that the "monsters" were just innocent bystanders, despite their weird looks; the "little girl", on the other hand, is carrying an advanced physics text and is unfazed by the aliens surrounding her, suggesting she's yet another alien, concealing her nature for nefarious purposes. Note that his results are never confirmed or denied, and the test may have been to see if the candidates noticed the girl in the first place.
  • In Mr. Holmes, the aged Sherlock Holmes is having serious memory troubles, but his continued ability to perform the Sherlock Scan is used (even in-universe) to show he's not become stupid.
    • After he demonstrates the technique to his housekeeper's young son, the son stands in front of a mirror, wondering what kind of "tells" he's carrying around on himself;
      Mrs. Munro: What are you doing?
      Roger: Trying to see if I can tell where I've been.
      Mrs. Munro: Don't you know?
  • Spoofed in Murder by Death, where several of the world's greatest detectives are invited together. Two of them get into a Scanning contest, but one quickly loses and accidentally reveals in front of the man's wife that he's cheating on her.
  • In Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Poirot is somehow able to tell who the cook is because he "has, perhaps, a nose for fine dining". Perhaps it should be counted simply as a Hand Wave instead?
  • My Cousin Vinny: Both Vinny and his financée Lisa, both experienced auto mechanics, are able to examine a photo of the tire tracks left behind by the murderers and determine that not only were the tire tracks not left by the defendents' car, but was left by an entirely different make and model that is similar-looking enough to be mistaken for their car. Lampshaded by Vinny when he calls Lisa to the stand.
  • Painkiller Jane: Jane does these many times in the film after gaining enhanced attention to detail and superior eyesight along with her Healing Factor, picking up things which would escape others.
  • The Pink Panther:
    • In the Steve Martin The Pink Panther (2006), Inspector Clouseau attempts this as someone enters a room, and gets it completely wrong. It actually has some significance, since the guy he tries it on is the murderer.
    • Parodied in the sequel, where Clouseau and Inspector Pepperidge try to out-sherlock scan each other.
  • Vin Diesel seems to enjoy these roles. Riddick starts off Pitch Black with a five minute Sherlock monologue, correctly deducing the types of passengers onboard the ship and (almost) the route that the ship is taking, while tied up with his eyes shut. He gets something similar in The Chronicles of Riddick, accurately describing how the guards and mercs turned on each other before the former abandoned their posts to make it for the only spaceship even though he wasn't even in the room when all this happened, but then Riddick reveals that it was his original plan.
  • In Poolhall Junkies, Johnny deduces that Mike is a pool player by the crease in his pants, citing that it's at the height of a pool table so is likely caused by either pool or bad dry cleaning, and sensing that Mike is rich, Johnny doesn't suspect he gets bad dry cleaning. He then admits to noticing blue chalk.
  • In Rounders, when Mike is reading the poker table at his law school professor's round, impressing everyone.
  • In Jackie Chan's Shanghai Knights, our heroes meet police constable Artie Doyle, who claims to have developed this method of deduction. At the end of the movie, he decides to leave the service and apply it to writing novels instead. Did we mention his full name is Arthur Conan Doyle?
  • Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009):
    • In addition to putting it to its conventional use, Sherlock also weaponizes it, using it to meticulously plan out how he will thoroughly beat the crap out of someone. The fight is shown in Bullet Time as he plans and then in a dizzying flurry of action in realtime when he follows through. Guy Ritchie calls this "Holmes-O-Vision". Witness it in action in the famous "Discombobulate" scene.
    • He also uses it on Mary Morstan (at her eager request). His observations are bang-on, though unusually, he does make a slight mistake in guessing the age of Mary's male pupil — rather than being eight years old, he's actually seven, but tall for his age — right down to the tan-line on her finger speaking of a prior betrothal. When he rather cattily speculates that she broke off the engagement to find better prospects (i.e., Watson), she tosses her drink in his face. Turns out, the guy died before they could marry. Earlier in the scene, when Holmes is alone at the table, it's implied that he suffers from hyper-awareness, and can't turn it off.
    • Dr. Watson has been working with Holmes so long, he's picked up on the talent himself. Holmes invites him to examine a pocket watch as evidence, to which Watson accurately deduces the previous owner was a drunk and bought it second hand from a pawn shop.
    • In the sequel, the Holmes-O-Vision fights are both derailed mid-follow-through. The first time, the assassin he's kicking the ass of gets a knife to his body armour, forcing Holmes to improvise. The second time, it's revealed that Moriarty can do the same thing — and they both realize that Holmes is going to lose in a proper fight. Holmes ends up pulling a Taking You with Me and showing that Moriarty's scan has a fatal flaw.
    • Also in the second film, Watson's own ability to perform the Sherlock Scan becomes important in order to deduce the intended assassin from one of several ambassadors, as Holmes is occupied by Moriarty above. It is also subverted, however; he and Simza can't deduce the assassin with enough certainty to take the leap, so Watson exploits a flaw in his circumstances.
    • Once, when Holmes is put on a Blindfolded Trip, he delivers a turn-by-turn account of the entire route his carriage took just based on various smells and jolts in the ride.
    • There is a scene in the sequel where Sherlock and Mycroft banter by making astute observations about each other. Watson interrupts them by making a deduction of his own.
  • Shoot to Kill: Agent Stantin quickly determines that the Big Bad and his captive Sarah stopped at a house based on the evidence left behind.
    Stantin: I don't think [the intruders] were teenagers. What teenagers are going to drink just milk and cokes when when there's also beer in the refrigerator? On that side, the table and the utensils have been wiped clean. Over here, prints everywhere. Why? The suspect brought Sarah here. Rope fibers. He tied her to the leg of this table, sat over there where you are, and ate.
  • Hannibal Lecter's guesses about Clarice's background and personality the first time he meets her in Silence of the Lambs fits this trope, though he is a psychiatrist rather than detective.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi does one of these in Star Wars: Episode IV -- A New Hope when he and Luke encounter a group of dead Jawas:
    Luke Skywalker: It looks like the Sandpeople did this, alright. Look, there's gaffi sticks, Bantha tracks. It's just, I never heard of them hitting anything this big before.
    Obi-Wan Kenobi: They didn't, but we are meant to think they did. These tracks are side-by-side. Sandpeople always ride single file to hide their numbers.
    Luke: These are the same Jawas that sold us R2 and 3PO.
    Obi-Wan Kenobi: And these blast points, too accurate for Sandpeople. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.
  • Sunset Boulevard: Joseph Gillis says that Rudy can tell the state of a person's financial problems by the quality of their shoes.
  • In Without a Clue, Dr. Watson has this ability, because he's the real detective and "Holmes" is just an actor he hired to perpetuate the illusion that the detective he has been writing about in the third person is real. However, when Watson tries to give a scan of a prospective client to prove himself capable of tackling the case alone, he's met with the response that it's no time for games. When "Holmes" appears and is given the same details to reveal, or indeed when he even says something quite inane, he's hailed as a genius every time. He also tries to learn the method himself, but the best he can ever do is "deduce" that someone reads the Times. In the same scene, when "Holmes" claims to have deduced a bunch of other things about the person, all of which are wrong, you can see Watson looking puzzled and quickly scanning the target with his eyes.
  • Xander Cage (played by Vin Diesel) in xXx pulls one of these in a cafe, effortlessly pointing out all the plainclothes agents by noticing all the things that are wrong with the situation (like a waitress in high-heeled shoes or a businessman reading the stocks report on a Sunday).
  • Xx X Return Of Xander Cage reprises it as Cage figures out he's being tested when a strange man sits by him at a village square and somehow knows Xander speaks English as he talks. Xander also notices a teenager wearing too expensive headphones, a woman running to a bus that won't leave for a while and a "cop" paying for a drink with foreign currency.
  • The title character in Young Dr. Kildare by Max Brand does this. Though he usually sticks to medical diagnosis from observation, at one point Dr. Kildare is called upon to treat a suicide attempt survivor. He's able to deduce from his examination and a few words she mutters her age, social standing, wealth level, education, the fact that she's been in France recently and that she is not, in fact, insane (though actually proving that last one takes most of the rest of the book). After that, Dr. Gillespie points out what everyone else in the room noticed at first glance — the woman is physically attractive.
  • A similar scene is done in Young Sherlock Holmes, when a school-aged Watson transfers to a new boarding school and meets Holmes for the first time. Holmes deduces Watson's name, home county, father's occupation, and Watson's love of writing and pastries. He only gets Watson's name wrong (he guesses James instead of John) because he only saw "J. Watson" on Watson's luggage and decided to go with a common name starting with J (John would have been his second guess). This is a reference to the fact that Doyle himself got Watson's first name wrong in some of the later stories, using James.

  • The trope is played with in this joke: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner, they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see." "I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes," replies Watson. "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson ponders for a minute. "Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?" Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!" he says. "Someone has stolen our bloody tent!"

  • Older Than Radio Trope Namer: Sherlock Holmes does this. All. The fricking. Time. This trope became the abused rattle to Doyle's sugar high kindergartner — but it's also been said to have been one of the reasons Doyle himself didn't like writing about Sherlock Holmes, since he thought it was a cheap gimmick. According to Holmes himself in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier, it's his personal marketing schtick which is great for impressing potential clients as to his skills.
    • Mycroft Holmes can also do this, and as one might expect, he is better at it, correcting or expanding some of Sherlock's points. For example, where Sherlock says a man had a child based on the fact he has clearly just bought toys, Mycroft says children, as no child is of the correct age to be given both a rattle and a picture book. note 
    • Watson himself eventually gets in on it in The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, though he only does it mentally by checking off the clues that allowed Holmes to proclaim their visitor is a bachelor, lawyer, asthmatic, and Freemason. He even does a medical version once by identifying a spinal problem with a young boy.
    • This trope was deconstructed (making it an Unbuilt Trope) in The Sign of Four when Sherlock deduces Watson's brother was a scoundrel only by studying his pocket watch. This is Watson's Berserk Button and accuses Holmes of knowing beforehand the sad story of his brother's destiny, and of using Phony Psychic techniques to claim he deduced it from a simple watch. In a rare moment of humility, Holmes recognizes he is a Insufferable Genius and has hurt his friend's feelings doing the Sherlock Scan For Science! without thinking about the consequences.
    • Arthur Conan Doyle himself subverted this in a short story ("How Watson Learned the Trick") where Watson attempts one of these, and all the details he used had a completely different explanation. Doyle picks it apart a little in Holmes' own words as well. While his powers of observation and deduction seemed superhuman to onlookers — especially the ever-astonished Watson — he explains more than once that he can't deduce squat if there's no evidence, and that often there's a good deal of evidence that's simply too vague for him to deduce anything... not until he learns more, anyway. A glance at someone may glean three or four obscure facts, but he still remains ignorant of everything else without proper investigation, which is of course why Mycroft isn't a detective.
  • Subverted in a different Doyle story ("A False Start"), when a doctor attempts this kind of thing on a visitor... and not only is he off the mark on every one of his observations, the man wasn't even a patient, he was there from the gas company.
  • Fittingly enough, in Mark Frost's The List of 7, a young Arthur Conan Doyle himself gets into a friendly scanning contest with Jack Sparks, an agent of the crown who rescues Doyle from a group of conspirators called The Dark Brotherhood and recruits him to help prevent a plot to assassinate Queen Victoria (and would later inspire Doyle to create Sherlock Holmes).
  • In All-Consuming Fire, the Doctor and Holmes team up to defeat an alien invasion. At their first meeting, Holmes tries this on the Doctor. He finds he cannot make sense of the clues.
  • In Laurie King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Holmes' female apprentice demonstrates her credibility to Inspector Lestrade by doing this to one of his officers. She and Holmes do it to each other when they first meet. She's at a disadvantage, though, because she's read all Dr. Watson's books — which leaves her with nothing to deduce.
  • Holmes appears in a Jeffery Deaver short story in the collection More Twisted. He examines the clothing worn by a well-known mobster in a jeweler's office to which he had tracked the culprit of a burglary. His Sherlock Scan proves the mobster to have been the thief, and said mobster is arrested. This is actually a massive subversion, though, as the whole thing was set up by the jewellery shop's owner — actually a career cat burglar — to frame the mobster. He finishes the story incredibly smug because he got one over on the famous Mr Holmes.
  • Colin Dexter, the author of the acclaimed Inspector Morse detective series, rewrote Conan Doyle's story A Case of Identity and gave it a different ending: all Holmes's deductions follow from the evidence, but Watson has some extra information and provides the real answer. One would suspect that Dexter thought the ending of the original story was a bit far-fetched.
  • In The Return of Sherlock Holmes (and the nearly identical Sherlock Holmes Returns), the titular character, brought to the modern age via steampunk cryogenics, routinely attempts to use this ability, but constantly arrives to the wrong conclusion due to lack of modern references.
    • Rendered as a Patter Song, "It's So Simple," in the musical Baker Street.
  • In the Discworld series, Vimes complains about those a lot, as seen here where he takes apart a very specific instance from the beginning of The Red-Haired League.
    [Vimes] distrusted the kind of person who'd take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, "Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fell on hard times," and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man's boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he'd been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!
    • Nonetheless he occasionally does it himself, and he only notes that said evidence is out of place, withholding judgement until he knows more—for example, in Feet of Clay he finds a smear of white clay on the floor, which he notes is odd because Ankh-Morpork is on black loam.
    • He does a subversion in Jingo when he takes a look at a single clove and gives an impossibly precise description of the man who last touched it. Of course, he knows who it is because there's only one man in Ankh-Morpork who chews on cloves.
      Vimes: Detectoring is like gambling: The secret is to know the winner in advance.
    • Vimes also has a Holmes-esque knowledge of the streets of Ankh-Morpork (due to patrolling them for so long) and uses it to similar effect.
    • More directly spoofed in Lords and Ladies when Granny Weatherwax makes a number of deductions while clearing grass around the Dancers, notably that something broke out and killed someone, describing the deceased in great detail. When Nanny Ogg asks how she figured all that out, Granny replies that she just stepped on the body.
    • Night Watch Discworld: "Seamstress" Rosie Palm manages one on "John Keel" to figure out he's not really who he says he is, and gets well within the ballpark of Vimes' actual identity. The infield, in fact. Of course, for ladies of the evening, sizing up men quickly on little information is a valuable trade skill.
  • Very near the beginning of Artemis Fowl, Teen Genius Artemis does one of these to their waiter—whom, he effortlessly deduces, is their informant.
  • Parodied in the Flashman novella Flashman and the Tiger where Flashman is observed disguised as a bum in an alley by a pair who are obviously Holmes and Watson. While Holmes makes fairly astute conclusions, they are completely wrong, demonstrating the limits of this technique.
  • Voltaire's Zadig has the main character doing this. And also its subversion, since the sultan thinks Zadig is pulling his royal leg, that probably he robbed his horse and puts him in jail.
    • Zadig inspired Poe's Dupin, who inspired Holmes, inspiring all the subsequent detectives. So we have a genealogy tree.
      • The tree might even go Older Than Print, as the Zadig trick is inspired by an old Persian tale (first written down in 1302): The Three Princes of Serendip (which gave us the term "serendipity").
  • Subverted in a couple of the stories in The Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton.
    • In The Absence of Mr Glass, some characters involve a brilliant criminologist in a domestic case, where he concludes with a sinister and dramatical interpretation of some facts. Dramatic and totally false. The apparent killer is only a magician, so that the cards, the knives, the swords and the mysteriously large top hat have a very simple explanation. At the end of the tale, everyone (also the criminologist) is laughing.
    • In The Honor of Israel Gow, Father Brown is called in to investigate the disappearance of a Lord Ogilvy, and the police point out several oddities found around the Lord's manor: jewels cut but without settings, piles of snuff here and there, candles set on tables or stuck in bottles rather than in candlesticks, random bits of clockwork, etc. In rapid succession, Father Brown produces four plausible but mutually contradictory explanations for these oddities... none of which turns out to be the truth.
  • In Agatha Christie's short story collection Partners in Crime, which pastiches various detective stories and their tropes, Tommy Beresford makes a couple of attempts at this. In "The Affair of the Pink Pearl" he says to the client "You must find travelling by bus very tiring at this time of day", only to be told she came by taxi, and picked up a discarded bus ticket for a neighbour who collects them. In "The Case of the Missing Lady" he is able to "deduce" that the client has spent some time in the Arctic or Antarctic, by virtue of his distinctive tan. In fact, he was listening in when the man gave his name in the outer office, and recognised him as a famous polar explorer. (He also deduces that the man arrived in a taxi, adding to Tuppence afterwards "after all, it's the only reliable way of getting to this place.")
  • The Cat Who... Series: Jim Qwilleran does this on occasion, most notably in book #13 (The Cat Who Moved a Mountain); after hearing a single sentence from Dolly Lessmore on the telephone, he conceives a notion of her as "rather short and stocky, with a towering hair-do, a taste for bright colors, a three-pack-a-day habit, and a pocketful of breath mints." Upon seeing the sign in her office that reads "THANKS FOR NOT SMOKING" — the only deviation from this conception — he asks her when she stopped smoking and floors her.
  • Subverted in Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald", in which the detective recognises that the murder victim is a member of the German royal family... by details such as the number of his limbs and the green shade of his blood. Played straight, however, in the rest of the story. This is a Holmes pastiche, after all. Most of them come from the detective, but it's also used by Sherlock Holmes himself — a different character than the detective.
  • Horatio Lyle lists a string of observations which would lead to the conclusion that the man he's speaking to is Lord Lincoln. However, he comes up with these after concluding that the man is Lord Lincoln, to avoid the true-but-unimpressive explanation of "inspired guesswork."
  • Subverted in Dr. Hyde, Detective, and the White Pillars Murder. A Sherlock pastiche performs the usual impossibly accurate predictions about the new client — and then refuses to explain how he arrived at them. The Watson pastiche later realizes that the deductions really were impossible; the Sherlock had met the client before and was actually the killer in the murder he was charged with investigating.
  • In Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, the protagonist William of Baskerville is able to guess the name of the horse the monks he meets are looking for. And its features. And the fact that they're looking for the horse in the first place, since they didn't tell him. And he's correct... well, sort of. He's right that they're looking for a horse, and he's right about the name, but:
    William: I am not sure [the horse] has those features, but no doubt the monks firmly believe that he does.
    • (They were simply the features the relevant authority said a handsome horse should have. The same applied to the horse's name.)
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn, the titular character of The Thrawn Trilogy, is able to look at a piece of artwork and gauge not only a lot about species' physical makeup (number of fingers, joints in the arm, etc.), but about their culture—and he can formulate strategies and tactics that take advantage of flaws in their psyches based on those. Very occasionally he drops hints about how he figured some of these things out. He can also make very good guesses about someone based on their tastes in art or how they regard it. His Number Two, Pelleaon, speculates that this may be done just to impress people, and he does his actual tactical analysis privately. Either way, it's still impressive.
    • In Star Wars: Kenobi, shopkeeper Annileen is skilled at evaluating a new customer by their purchases. Through what he buys, she can tell that Ben is a new arrival, didn't pack heavily on the way in, lives alone, and has a permanent dwelling and not a campsite, where he intends to stay long-term, and which needs to be heavily cleaned.
  • The Bene Gesserit of Dune are capable of doing this due to their extensive training in minute observation (occasionally enhanced through psychoactive drugs) and, in the case of the higher ranking ones, assisted by access to their ancestral memory (which will often include other Bene Gesserit). They are also capable of variations, such as being able to observe architecture and determine the intentions behind its design. Those who are unfamiliar with the Bene Gesserit techniques often assume their abilities derive from magic or trickery (a notion the Bene Gesserit do little to assuage). Their observational techniques are also less effective when employed against another who has been trained in them and knows how to conceal or mislead the observed factors.
    • Also a staple of the Mentats in the series, both schools train extensively in observation, but the Mentats process data based more on statistics and probabilities. There are a few examples of individuals of both disciplines, such as Reverend Mother Anteac and Reverend Mother Bellonda.
  • This ability is genetically engineered into the envoys, UN super soldiers in the Takeshi Kovacs series of Richard K. Morgan, who might find themselves downloaded into a war zone on a completely different planet whose culture, politics and rules of survival are unknown—thus the ability to note minor facts and quickly extrapolate from them is a basic necessity. Although a mercenary and criminal, it's no surprise that Takeshi Kovacs is often called upon to solve various mysteries because of these skills.
  • In Unto the Breach, Jay does this to Katya when he's first introduced to her. He doesn't, however, reveal how he deduced the assessment, which the reader only knows to be true from previous info given about her.
  • Nero Wolfe does this in his very first case, Fer de Lance, deducing things about a prospective (but still unseen) client just from the way his manservant answered the door.
  • In The Dresden Files, wizard and Occult Detective Harry Dresden pulls these off, one of a number of indicators that he's smarter than he pretends to be, though they tend to be more subtle than most examples. For example, he's able to determine that a particular faerie queen was not responsible for a particular murder by simply analyzing her behavior and comparing it to details of the murder. Later in that same book, he's forced to reveal how he deduced the murder mystery, right down to the fine details of the methodology, and the participants. At one point in Turn Coat, however, the scan is used to disturbing effect by Thomas, a White Court vampire, who has Harry do a few scans of some nearby human bystanders to see what he sees when he looks at them. Harry does so, providing detailed information on each group of people, at which point Thomas just points each group and says, "Food," one after the other, to demonstrate how different he is from Harry.
  • Used briefly in The Dark Tower novel, The Drawing of the Three. Upon being released from Airport Security for suspected drug smuggling, Eddy Dean knows that they will have people observing him and manages to spot one. Roland, riding along in his mind, takes one "glance" and spots another five, despite the fact that Roland comes from a completely different world. Later, we learn that part of Roland's training was to pick up on tiny details as as quickly as possible, although he mainly uses it to kill people.
  • Done by Oscar Wilde constantly in Gyles Brandreth's murder mystery series. It makes sense, though, since the point of the stories is that Oscar is a kind of real life Sherlock Holmes, which is why people go to him to solve mysteries. Bonus points for traveling with Arthur Conan Doyle during most of his investigations, and, while Conan Doyle does provide plenty of insight on the cases, he does not possess Sherlock Scan abilities himself.
  • In Poul Anderson's "Queen of Air And Darkness", the detective Eric Sherrinford opens his first meeting with his client with this, though drawing on the details of what she had told him when making the appointment. Later, he explains that he actively drew on the psychological archetype of a detective with such tricks. (Sherrinford is implied to be a descendant of Sherlock Holmes himself.)
  • In Five Hundred Years After, Khaarven and Aerich take turns pointing out Sherlock Scan details of Chaler's corpse, to the bafflement of Tazendra (who's slower on the uptake).
  • In one of the The Witcher novellas, Geralt and the apparent Monster of the Week do this to each other. Geralt deduces that the monster is in fact a curse victim, because his evil-detecting amulet didn't go "ping", and the monster can serve him food off a silver platter with no ill effects. The monster deduces that Geralt is far more than a simple traveller, because he carries two swords, when it's rare enough for someone to afford one, is much stronger than his build suggests, and managed to see the features of a portrait at the far end of a dimly lit corridor, meaning he has superhuman vision.
  • In Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue (which predates the Holmes stories), we're first introduced to the detective skills of C. Auguste Dupin when he discerns exactly what the narrator had just been thinking about (the career of a particular actor) after walking down the street with him for a few minutes, breaking down the chain of events that subconsciously lead him to that subject.
  • Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble has the fashion-loving protagonist do one of these to a man she's just met based entirely on the clothes he's wearing, down to his watch.
  • Spoofed in The Mask Of Ra by Paul C. Doherty. Walking through the marketplace with an acquaintance, the detective points out a passer-by and lists off the man's occupation and family history. When the acquaintance expresses disbelief that he could have determined such details just by looking, the detective suggests he engage the passer-by in conversation and see if he's wrong. The acquaintance does, and learns that the detective's list was accurate in every detail — and also that the passer-by is not a random stranger, but an old friend of the detective's whose occupation and life history the detective already knew.
  • In Babel-17, people often think Wong is telepathic from the way she answers unasked questions and seems to know exactly what they're thinking. She explains it as simply that her extraordinary gift for languages extends to body language, and at one point, gives a lengthy, detailed, and very Sherlockian explanation of the subtle clues that led her to anticipate what someone was about to say.
  • In one Horatio Hornblower short story, it's actually Bush who points out all the strange attributes on a pair of French prisoners they've found on a raft: their skin is too sunburnt, they're far too thin, and their clothes are too ragged for ordinary escaped prisoners. They soon explain that they and the rest of their comrades were dumped by the Spanish on an island to starve. (Although Bush is frequently noted to have little abstract imagination, though, he is very observant and perceptive about what's in front of him.)
  • The Flaw In All Magic: Tane managed to fake being a diviner for years despite not actually being a mage at all by being very attentive and good at reading people. Even his magical teachers grudgingly admit that he has the best understanding of runes in the world.
  • The Thinking Machine: Although not Van Dusen's usual stock-in-trade (possibly the author was trying to avoid comparisons with Holmes), in "My First Experience with the Great Logician", he is able to deduce that his patient's name, address and profession; that he smokes; that he is wearing his clothes for the first time that winter; that he was widowed a few months earlier; that he kept house then; and that the house was infected with insects.
  • In The Divine Comedy, Virgil can read Dante's thoughts just by looking at his face, once boasting that he receives Dante's inner being faster than a mirror could receive his outer being. These powers aren't supernatural like Beatrice's Telepathy (as Mark Musa argues), but rather show a mastery of wisdom available to pagan philosophy.
  • In "Clubland Heroes", the precocious Kid Detective shows off by subjecting the heroine to a very thorough scan that covers what she had for breakfast, where she grew up, where she lives now, what's wrong with her typewriter, the origins of her clothes and accessories, who tried to kill her most recently, and her marital status — at which point she firmly changes the subject.
  • In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, Inspector Naisbitt does this to Amy, reeling off a detailed account of what she's been up to for the last few days. Naisbitt has Super Speed, which in her case includes an ability to observe and think quickly that she finds more useful than the usual running-around-quickly. It also makes her too impatient to explain the thought process behind her sherlock scans, so all we get is "Coats tell stories".
  • In Ravenor Rogue, Big Bad Zygmunt Molotch demonstrates his Hyper-Awareness to a skeptical Leyla Slade by identifying various details about the patrons of a café based on their appearances and actions. He identifies the bartender as an Imperial Guard veteran based on a wrist tattoo (down to the specific regiment he served in), and several other patrons as government officials by their brooches or signet rings.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen uses his Lifebinding powers to enhance his perception, enabling him to find a hidden compartment. He has to use the power sparingly, however, as it both hurts his hurt and floods his mind with more information than he can process.
  • The Naturals: Cassie and Dean have a natural ability (yes, that's where the name of the series comes from) to learn about a person from small details. They're recruited by the FBI as profilers and use this skill to help solve crimes.
  • Double Subverted in the first Dr. Thorndyke novel, "The Red Thumb-mark". Thorndyke attempts to critique the trope to his Watson, Dr Jervis, by identifying a man on the street as a station-master based on Sherlockian clues — before pointing out he might have any number of occupations that would lead to the same characteristics. Unfortunately, his assistant Polton actually knows the man in question is a station-master. Thorndyke is so good a detective he can't get it wrong even to make a point.
  • Cradle Series: Eithan Aurelius has a bloodline ability to see and hear everything within a very large radius (it increases with power level, and he is very powerful). Everyone in his family can do that naturally, but what makes Eithan a true master is that he can put together all the little details and deduce someone's entire life story. Woman with worn shoes, tired eyes, and welts on her back? Works hard for an unkind master. Girl with a powerful sword, rock-solid soul, and a piece of an evil god wrapped around her waist? Disciple of one of the most powerful men in the world, who is now dead. Boy with a staggeringly weak soul, cringing nature, and hungry eyes? Weak boy who was constantly bullied, but has the drive to truly excel if given the opportunity.
  • In the novel Mr. Monk Gets Even, based on the TV series, one woman (an admirer and accomplice of Monk's nemesis Dale "the Whale" Biederbeck) tries to subvert the technique by answering the door naked and insisting on staying naked throughout the interview; she knows that not only can Monk not bear to look at nudity (male or female) but also that being naked greatly reduces the number of visual clues that could tell him where she's been or what she's been doing.
  • In A Game of Thrones, Prince Renly challenges Sansa to identify him based on his appearance. Sansa realizes based on the stag on his armor that he's a Baratheon, the house to which King Robert belongs, and judging from his age, he's the youngest of Robert's brothers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: This happens frequently, done by almost all protagonists and villains alike, given that everyone is an agent or terrorist. In Detente, an op is almost aborted when they realise the mark they have very little intel on is staying in to watch his football team on the telly. Nadia and Sydney come up with an infiltration plan from a single glance at his hotel room through a surveillance camera, which gives them all the clues they need to immediately conclude the man has a long-term girlfriend who lives off his money, likes to party, is bored and angry with him, and is currently in the hotel bar looking for some fun at her boyfriend's expense.
  • Subverted and parodied when Sheldon tries this on Leonard in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and fails miserably (and hilariously):
    [Leonard is on the phone with an unknown person]
    Sheldon: This should be fairly easy to deduce. He's holding the phone to his left ear—ears do not cross hemispheres, so he's using the analytical rather than the emotional side of the brain, suggesting that he has no personal relationship with the caller.
    Leonard: [to phone] No, I didn't realize it had been so long. Sure, I guess there's no other choice but to just go ahead and do it....
    Sheldon: He's referring to an activity he has done before; it's unpleasant and needs to be repeated. This suggests some sort of invasive medical test... like perhaps a colonoscopy.
    Leonard: [to phone] Aren't there any other options? There's not a lot of room, it's gonna be uncomfortable.
    Sheldon: Yes, yes. I'm definitely going with colonoscopy.
    Leonard: [to phone] Okay, bye. [to the others] My mother's coming to visit.
    • Incidentally, every piece of Sheldon's reasoning is correct, it just leads to the wrong conclusion. Leonard's mother is very cold and aloof, and Leonard has little emotional involvement with her, seeing their relationship as an unpleasant obligation. It's joked that comparing a visit from her to a colonoscopy isn't that far off.
  • On Breaking Bad Hank begins to suspect Lydia's involvement in the meth operation when he notices she mismatched her shoes, suggesting that the investigation is causing her more stress than she lets on.
  • Played for Laughs on Brooklyn Nine-Nine when Jake is able to use this to guess who everyone got in Secret Santa.
  • Castle:
    • Richard Castle regularly uses this on suspects, sometimes to gloat, sometimes to lure a confession, and sometimes to Break Them by Talking since he doesn't carry a weapon. Against serial killer 3XK, this is almost, but not quite, a Hannibal Lecture; while Castle is tied up and at the killer's mercy, he is not being interrogated. Averted several times when Castle's theories turn out to be plausible but wrong. He even pulls this on Beckett in the pilot, as a sort of attempted Let's Get Dangerous! moment to prove that he can actually help. It's played with in that Castle realizes as he's doing it that he's hurting her and digging up painful memories, and so apologetically stops, without taking any satisfaction in being correct.
    • In "The Fast and the Furriest", Mauve Shirt NYPD video and audio tech Tory Ellis gets an Establishing Character Moment looking at a video the murder victim shot and quickly narrowing down the victim's approximate location and the direction she was moving based on the trees in the background, the sound of a river, and the position of the moon and various shadows.
  • In Community episode "Environmental Science", Jeff uses one to deduce Chang's wife left him (Chang wore the same shirt twice in a week, taught the Spanish word for "wife" meant "liar" in class, and has a post-it note saying "enjoy it while it lasts" on his office's framed photo of him and his wife). Jeff explains he used to read juries like this as an attorney, to figure out the best angles to use in court.
  • Control Z: Sofia does several of these to detect clues other people would miss.
  • Fitz displays an emotion-based version on this trope in Cracker, able to break down somebody's deepest neuroses very quickly. He occasionally displays a more traditional version of this too. Though Fitz's greatest fear is that he was once wrong in his summation, possibly destroying a man's life and letting the murderer of a schoolchild get away.
  • Since Criminal Minds follows a group of FBI profilers, this is a given.
    • Hotch is on the witness stand being grilled by the defense attorney, who scornfully derides forensic profiling in order to discredit his testimony, concluding that Hotch "couldn't even tell what colour socks I'm wearing with any degree of accuracy." Hotch uses a combination of profiling and this technique to completely deconstruct the attorney and reveal that he's a gambling addict deep in debt, throwing in the colour of his socks for good measure. While this is irrelevant to the claims that profilers aren't as good as usually presented (which included several real-life failures of the technique) and faking it with techniques a carnival psychic uses, it does undercut the lawyer's argument that Hotch couldn't accurately profile him, and puts him in the position of either dropping that line of questioning or being forced to publicly admit to everyone in the court that he was a gambling addict.
    • In another episode, Gideon tells a college student that the student's girlfriend (who isn't even present at the time) thinks he is about to break up with her, based on a necklace the guy is wearing. Later, it turns out that the girlfriend had very good reason to think so, as the student tells Gideon he has left her for another guy.
    • In "Lo-Fi", Prentiss does a (we assume) very accurate analysis of a detective based on subtle clues, although she had been working with him for a little while before she came out with it. One item of note is his tendency to constantly hit on attractive women, except Prentiss figures out that he's actually a devoted husband, and the only reason he hits on women is because he knows they won't go for it. Had Prentiss taken him up on his offer, he would've immediately "run for the hills".
    • In the finale of season 2, Hotcher tries this on Chief Strauss. It doesn't work because she's not questioning his skills as a profiler; she's questioning his skills as a leader.
  • The specialty of former detective Carl Hickman in Crossing Lines. In a subversion of the detective explaining, Tommy McConnel demonstrates he's not particularly impressed when he points out the clues and reasoning Hickman used to determine McConnel was a successful bare-knuckle fighter.
    • Subverted in the first episode when Carl has a crisis of confidence after a case goes bad. Louis tries to pep him up by relating how Carl perfectly knew the history of a young woman he saw at the carnival. Scoffing, Carl relates he'd actually overheard the woman talking about her life in the dozen previous times she'd been at the carnival and he was just trying to impress Louis.
  • Dead Ringers:
    • Parodied mercilessly in the first series' Silent Witness sketches, in which Sam Ryan is supposedly able to discern everything about a patient just by looking at them, only for her assistant to reveal to her and the audience that she's misdiagnosed a married man hit by a car as a woman stabbed to death, or she's looking at her lunch, or her birthday cake, at which point Sam stubbornly insists she's never wrong.
    • Shows up in a CSI parody, with Grissom examining a body in the middle of the road and deducing that the woman was hit by a bus. Cue Reveal Shot showing a school bus right behind him.
  • A rare audio version in the pilot for Deception (2018). Magician Cameron and FBI agent Kay are called up by the mysterious woman who's been selling illusions to criminals. She gloats on how "the game is starting" and they have no idea where to start looking for her.
    Cameron: You're in the international terminal at Frankfurt. I've spent the last year flying around the world, I know every airport has its own acoustics. And Frankfurt pumps in muzak like they're afraid people will forget Beethoven is from Germany.
    • A later episode has Cameron noting this as the main trick of a psychic to make her predictions.
    • Kay and Cameron are following a thief to a subway station, Kay saying it's just them. Cameron points out how the janitor seems to be avoiding actually sweeping trash; a teenager is clearly a guy in his 30s who's not really playing a handheld game; a "homeless" woman has a brand-new manicure; another woman is talking on her cell phone despite the fact the underground station has terrible coverage; and a woman in a fancy suit is pushing a cheap stroller. He can't quite figure why a suited man is staring at them until Kay states it's her ex-boyfriend and they've walked into a CIA sting.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Shakespeare Code" has the Bard himself be very good at picking out the unusual details about the Doctor and Martha, which he uses to work out who they are at the end of the episode.
    • "Human Nature": John Smith, the Doctor in human form with Fake Memories, does this instinctively to notice several things about to go wrong which will result in a piano falling on a Baby Carriage, and stops it.
    • In "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor does one of these on a park full of people with camera phones.
    • In "The Beast Below", the Doctor's able to work out the intimate details of an entire society this way.
    • He goes very Sherlock on the Scrooge of the 2010 Christmas Special, "A Christmas Carol".
    • He tries to do this while pretending to be Sherlock Holmes in "The Snowmen"... and fails miserably at it. However, he was probably deliberately being foolish to annoy Simeon and put him off guard, or stalling for time while he figures out what's afoot in the room.
      The Doctor: I see from your collar stub that you have an apple tree and a wife with a limp. Am I right?
      Simeon: No.
      The Doctor: Do you have a wife?
      Simeon: No.
      The Doctor: Bit of a tree? Bit of a wife? Some apples? C'mon, work with me here.
    • In "The Day of the Doctor", the Tenth Doctor attempts one of these to explain to the person in front of him, who looks like Queen Elizabeth, why he knows she's a shapeshifting imposter. Then he finds out it's the real Queen Elizabeth. His deductions only failed because Queen Elizabeth was more capable than he thought she was and had her own plans involving him. This happens at least twice.
  • Due South has this as almost being a mountie-superpower.
    • At least for Frasiers Sr. and Jr. and Buck Frobisher. It's more of an arctic superpower that lead people to become Mounties.
  • Elementary uses this, as you'd except from a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. It's subverted in the first episode when he explains the intricate basis for several inductions in a row, ending with one that he simply knew beforehand thanks to Google.
    • And again in season two.
      "So you're a dog owner, correct? A Boston terrier."
      "How did you know that?"
      "You registered him with the city when you procured a pet license."
    • The series also includes the part of Holmes genius' for the stories that is often overlooked in adaptations; sitting around for hours looking for some critical detail in the evidence that'll break the case. One Running Gag is Sherlock waking Joan up in some amusing fashion after his sleepless night of such deductions.
  • On The Flash (2014), the gang recruit Sherloque Wells, one of the many multiverse versions of Harrison Wells who is his world's greatest detective. Naturally, he does this a lot.
    • Notable is that Wells appears to figure out the secret identity of Cicada so the team arrest him. However, it turns out he's not Cicada and Sherloque was actually going off the fact that in 37 different Earths, Cicada was always the same guy.
    • Sherloque has mentioned having seven ex-wives who are all other-Earth versions of Renee Adler. When he meets the Earth-1 version of Renee, Sherloque instantly figures out her past as a ballet dancer, her job as a librarian and more. Renee's reaction is to naturally assume he's been stalking her and warning him off.
    • In the pilot episode, Barry does this to determine the make/model of a bank robber's getaway vehicle at a crime scene, complete with Sherlockian onscreen figures to show his work. It only happened the once though, and was never used in the series again.
  • The main character of Forever, Dr. Henry Morgan, uses this and his position as an NYPD medical examiner to assist a detective in solving unusual murders. He developed this ability from observing human behavior for over 200 years (he's immortal). Morgan's coworker notes to Jo (the detective) that Morgan can sometimes tell what happened to a body before even cutting it open. But, as Morgan notes in his voiceover, he's had plenty of time to practice. In the second episode alone he uses it to rule an apparent ax murder as accidental death and two apparent suicides as murders. Aside from having a long time to observe he's also had first-hand experience in dying. He can often tell at a glance what caused a death because he's probably been killed that way at least once.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tywin Lannister immediately recognizes that the disguised Arya is actually a girl. Jaqen H'ghar does too. Tywin also quickly works out that Arya is a highborn posing as a commoner.
      Tywin: Lowborn girls say "m'lord", not "my lord". If you're going to pose as a commoner, you should do it properly.
    • Robb doesn't take long to realize Talisa is actually a noblewoman and not a simple nurse.
    • Tyrion Lannister:
      • In Season 2, he correctly figures out Lancel is sleeping with Cersei due to some choice phrasing Lancel uses and because he smells of lavender oil, Cersei's favourite scent.
      • When talking with Cersei in Season 7, he's quickly able to deduce she's pregnant by the way she touches her belly and because when he pours some wine, Cersei doesn't reach for it.
  • Get Smart. Maxwell Smart may be an Idiot Hero, but he can nonetheless correctly deduce that, say, a bomb has been planted in a vehicle by the position of leaves on the windshield, or that a villain is planning an attack using knockout gas based on a comment he makes about how a flower smells. Of course it's just as often parodied.
    Max: 99, these footprints were made by a man six feet two and a half inches tall, two hundred and twenty four and a quarter pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, a scar on his left cheek and walked with a decided limp.
    99: Now Max, that's very hard to believe.
    Max: Would you believe it if I took out the limp?
    • In Get Smart Again, Max deduces the identity of the man who escaped over the fence leaving his pants behind. He rattles off three or four obscure clues before pointing out Major Waterhouse's name on the label.
  • House MD—then again, House is pretty much "Cranky(-er) Sherlock Holmes in a hospital, with drug addiction switched from cocaine to prescription Vicodin and name changes (Holmes-> House; Dr. Watson-> Dr. Wilson)". House is also more prone to being wrong, usually letting his misanthropy cause him to misinterpret clues.
    • A prime example in "Occam's Razor", with a clinic patient:
      House: You think it's gonna come out on its own? Are we talking bigger than a breadbasket? 'Cause, actually, it will come out on its own, which for small stuff is no problem: it's wrapped up in a nice soft package and plop. Big stuff? You're gonna rip something, which, speaking medically, is when the fun stops.
      Jerry: How did you —
      House: We've been here for half an hour. You haven't sat down; that tells me its location. You haven't told me what it is; that tells me it's humiliating. You have a little birdie carved under your arm; that tells me you have a high tolerance for humiliation, so I figure it's not hemorrhoids.
    • The mystery writer in the episode "Unwritten" pulls this on Chase, figuring out his recent divorce among other things.
    • When a patient asks House how he knows she's pregnant, he answers, "I know because of the tight shirt stretched over the swollen boobs, the salt craving you've imported into the clinic, the motion sickness patch that doesn't do anything for the kind of sickness that you feel in the morning."
  • How I Met Your Mother has an example of this in "No Tomorrow": Barney is able to (or at least believes he is able to) deduce the area code of a woman and the fact that she doesn't have any children.
    Barney: So she's married. It's not like she has kids.
    Ted: How do you know?
    Barney: [exasperated] Wrists! It's like you don't even listen to me.
  • Hustle. Albert, the most experienced con artist on the team, does this to a potential mark on several occasions. Explained in full detail in "Gold Mine" when Albert gives Danny a lesson in the art of the 'cold read'.
  • Spoofed in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, when Dennis picks out a suitable candidate to join him in the Mile-High Club and gives Frank a slightly-creepy rundown of why he's singled out a particular woman:
    "Frank, of the 206 passengers on this flight, 98 of them are women. But only one of them is a suitable candidate: 44G. Notice how she glances forlornly at the empty seat next to her. It was meant for someone special. And the tan line on her ring finger suggests the wound is still fresh, leaving her vulnerable. Furthermore, when we hit turbulence earlier, she giggled, telling me she's a bit of a thrill-seeker."
    • Afterwards, Dennis comes back from getting shot down. Turned out the woman was Happily Married and just took her ring off on flights because her fingers swell.
  • Parodied in an episode of Jonathan Creek, in which a police inspector comes across two bodies who have been decapitated in a motorcycle accident:
    Inspector Fell: The heads are on the wrong bodies.
    Orderly: [impressed] How do you know?
    Inspector Fell: [scornfully] You've got a black guy and a white guy. You tell me.
    • Considering that the titular hero of this series frequently uses observation of minutia as a modus operandi, this only comes up infrequently with him.
    • Parodied further in "The Letters of Septimus Noone", in which a college-age Jonathan fanboy does this a lot—complete with camera angles parodying Sherlock—and is completely wrong about everything.
  • In one Law & Order episode, a woman is able to tell twins apart — then reveals that it's because she is a nurse, and was able to tell things about their health (the one who was actually suspected was a drinker).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent:
    • Bobby Goren is quite well-known for this, although this makes sense as he is based on Sherlock Holmes.
    • A suspect does it to him in "Badge." He asks Terry Randolph (Viola Davis) how she can afford an expensive private school for her two daughters; she responds that she's frugal. He says that he's frugal and still could not afford to send children to the school; she says that he wears pricey clothing (because nothing in his size is ever on sale), goes on a lot of dates (because he wears no wedding ring), and is intelligent (and therefore he has expensive hobbies). He looks impressed and congratulates her on her perceptiveness. Then he says that she never answered his question.
  • Legends of Tomorrow. In "Blood Ties", Sara Lance can tell the employees of the bank they've walked into are mooks of Vandal Savage, citing the silenced Beretta hidden under the desk of the receptionist, the branding scars of the security guards revealing them as South African mercenaries, and the banker she shook hands with who has the calluses of a Master Swordsman. Unfortunately Sara has the same calluses on her own hand, so she knows he'd realise they were imposters and violence is about to ensue.
  • In Lie to Me, Cal Lightman will do this pretty much every episode, though usually to the ends of letting whoever he's questioning know that he'll know if they're not telling the truth, and is almost always right. One time he's giving a presentation to a group of college kids. He tries to scan one and fails miserably. His conclusion? The guy's a psychopath. He turns out to be right.
  • In Limitless Brian is able to do this while under the effects of NZT, most notably during his run from the FBI. Not only does he perfectly dodge traffic, he's able to quickly deduce which route gives him a better chance at getting away immediately after.
  • Love Me If You Dare: Jian Yao passes her initial interview by successfully doing one of these on Fu Ziyu, easily deducing that he's only pretending to be Bo Jinyan and impressing the real Bo Jinyan, who was using it as a test and was watching from the side.
  • The modus operandi of The Mentalist's Patrick Jane, which he used to use to pretend to be psychic.
  • Part and parcel for Sara Futaba, otherwise known as Miss Sherlock. An early example would be how she figured out that Wato Tachibana came from a medical mission in Syria by examining her luggage, and the surgeon's thread tied to the handle.
  • Monk does this, but since he's incredibly socially inept, he doesn't always know which details not to bring up. Just a tip: If you know that a woman is lying about her age, don't call her out on it. Or if you know that the judge at the probate hearing is sleeping with his secretary. Or that a widow is having sex if her daughter is also standing there.
    • The judge version hangs a lampshade, as the judge had been skeptical of Monk's ability to Sherlock Scan a person. The judge made the mistake of having Monk turn around and being asked to describe his shirt. Monk proceeded to ask which one; the one he was wearing, or the one his court reporter was wearing. He proceeded to talk about his Sherlock scan, including the blouse of the court reporter being in her bag with a button missing, the cushion on the couch the wrong way in, etc. Plus, the judge ruled in his favor, having been completely satisfied of Monk's ability.
    • Parodied when a rival detective, played by Jason Alexander, is able to tell more details than Monk can as soon as he walks into a scene. Monk thinks the reasons he gives are ridiculous (and they do so sound to a viewer as well), but the other characters don't think so because they've seen Monk do equally incredible stuff. Subverted as this detective's mother overheard the criminals bragging about what they'd done while they were on hold (since she was a quality control operator) and told him what she'd heard. He was faking the whole thing.
  • Murder Rooms portrayed Joseph Bell, the real life inspiration for Holmes, as a reluctant detective with Arthur Conan Doyle as his Watson. He demonstrated the Sherlock Scan several times, including a version of the watch scene from The Sign of the Four.
  • In Murder, She Wrote Jessica Fletcher uses this method when she begins teaching a criminology course to convince a skeptical cop that she has something to teach him.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: Early in "A Study in Sherlock", Murdoch is responding to an armed robbery and is distracted by a bearded man commenting on a dead robber's cirrhosis of the liver. When the constables bring along a man they found with a mask and a safe deposit box, the bearded man speaks up again, noting the red marks on the bridge of the man's nose and the fact that one hand is markedly cleaner than the other before stating he works a machinist. He goes on to state the nearby machine shop's shift change happened half an hour after the robbery, so he cannot possibly be involved in the crime. Murdoch demands to know how he knows all this, and the man peels off his false beard and introduces himself as Sherlock Holmes. Murdoch is later chagrined to learn the man was right about all the details. note 
  • NCIS:
    • Ziva David appears to do this to Tony DiNozzo on their first meeting; subverted in that it turns out later she's done profiles on the NCIS team.
    • Abby does it to a somewhat snotty grad student who questions whether she's qualified to teach them about forensics based solely on her manner of dress.
  • Used to introduce Dani in Necessary Roughness. Based on her husband taking a shower, misaligned pillows, and the corners of the guest room bed linens, she determined he was having an affair. The pictures on his phone were just icing on the cake.
  • New Tricks: Brian turns the tables on a fake psychic in "Dead Man Talking"; using cold reading techniques to reveal all kinds of incriminating information about him.
  • Over My Dead Body was a Mystery show where this trope is deconstructed: The Intrepid Reporter is impressed by a Detective that manages to do a Sherlock Scan to a picture of a suspect. When she narrates the deed to the Amateur Sleuth, he, by being a Mystery Writer Detective, says This Is Reality and nobody could do something like that, so the detective is really a Detective Mole.
  • Shawn Spencer of Psych does this, but since he's feigning psychic powers he usually doesn't tell the subject how he knew. Though we do see what objects/spots he focuses on to make his deductions, we don't always get an explanation. Another fake psychic calls him out on the obvious glances at the clues. She's usually a little more subtle about it.
  • In Pushing Daisies, the series' resident Private Detective doesn't generally do this, but two other characters can Sherlock Scan by smell.
  • Will Zimmerman of Sanctuary is able to do this continually. It's hinted that the ability is intensified by his training in psychology, but the show seems to go back and forth about if its base is an abnormal trait or not.
    • Watson (whom Sherlock Holmes was supposedly based on) hints that he also has this ability, and it was the abnormal awakening which allows it.
    • It's initially implied that Will's ability is the main reason Magnus hired him. Except later we learn that Will's Identical Grandfather, an army captain, saved her life during World War II at the cost of his own, so it's possible her hiring him is way to pay Captain Zimmerman back for his sacrifice.
  • On Saturday Night Live, Watson (Phil Hartman) throws a surprise birthday bash, which Holmes (Jeremy Irons) proceeds to completely spoil by anticipating the "surprise", announcing the locations of everyone in the room, and correctly guessing the contents of their gift boxes.
  • Parodied on Scrubs when JD deduces that Turk is naked over a watchie-talkie (a watch with a built in walkie-talkie) because his voice is always higher when he's naked. This immediately prompts Dr. Cox to remark on how disturbing it is that he knows that.
    • In one episode, JD considers himself stronger in diagnosing than Elliot and tries to coach her on how to put clues together in this manner by using a nearby example on display. The example being an odd, precise stack of sugar packets on the floor, which JD deduced was a ploy by The Todd to get a nurse in search for sugar for her coffee to bend down and reveal her thong.
    • Played straight on yet another episode. Turk (a surgeon) and Dr. Molly Clock (a psychiatric doctor) challenge each other on instant diagnosis of a succession of people walking into the hospital. We never really know if either of them are right, but Dr. Clock's diagnosis of alcoholism for a man who walks in wearing a beer hat is probably on the money (and, to her credit, she concedes that that one was a gimme). Molly then turns this game around on Turk, who is ignoring the classic symptoms of diabetes that he himself is exhibiting.
      • And let's not forget that Clock became a psychiatrist because of her innate ability to immediately discern the one thing a person most hates about themselves.
  • Sense8: Played with in the second season premiere. Will and Whispers communicate via their Psychic Link and use clues in the environment to work out where the other is speaking from. In actuality, both of them picked up on clues intended to mislead an observer, but subsequent events prove that Will was right about Whispers being in England. Whispers on the other hand was completely fooled into thinking Will was in Iceland when he was actually in the Netherlands.
  • In Seventeen Moments of Spring, these are usually delivered by the solemn narrator's (Yefim Kopelian's) voice telling us what Stirlitz noticed and what train of thought he conducted from that.
  • Sherlock, unsurprisingly, uses this at least once an episode.
    • "A Study in Pink" contains 3 different types of scans to establish just how crazy the titular detective is. Though in a bit of a departure from the usual trope, he's not always quite right — when he first meets Watson, he deduces that Watson has an estranged alcoholic brother named Harry who has recently left his wife—then asks Watson which detail he got wrong, because it's impossible to pull this trope off perfectly. He's right about the troubled sibling relationship, the alcohol, and the break-up... but Harry is short for Harriet.
    • A Double Subversion in "The Blind Banker". Sherlock tells a college acquaintance familiar with his deductive scans that he's been around the world twice in the last month. When asked how he knew, Sherlock says the secretary mentioned it, which John knows to be untrue. Sherlock later explains to John that he deduced it from looking at the man's watch and seeing the date changes, but felt like messing with the guy's head.
    • Subverted in "The Great Game" when Sherlock, having pronounced Molly's new boyfriend Jim gay, follows up a long list of subtle, ambiguous clues about Jim's personal grooming habits with the fact that he has just given Sherlock his phone number. And after all that, he still misses the fact that Jim's last name is Moriarty. Whether or not the gay part is true or Moriarity testing Sherlock has given the fans lots to argue about.
    • Subverted to the point of parody in "A Scandal in Belgravia", when Irene Adler flummoxes Sherlock by giving him nothing to scan. To add to the humor, Sherlock immediately looks over at John and confirms he's not going insane by scanning him effortlessly (the subtitles point out "new toothbrush" and "going out on date tonight"), then he glances right back at Irene's mischievous smile... and all he can get is "??????"
      • In the same episode, because he wants to show off and impress Irene, we see his Sherlock Scan enter Bullet Time, breaking the combination of a safe in under 8 seconds! She later references the act as proof of his abilities, so he succeeded in impressing her. And he realizes the combination is her measurements—so he did pick up relevant information on her after all, he just didn't know what it was relevant to until he was told to open the safe.
      • At another point in the episode, the scan is used to highlight Sherlock's hidden anger, as it becomes a litany of ways to inflict pain and injury on the operative who had worked over Mrs. Hudson.
    • Mycroft's scanning abilities are shown to be superior in "The Great Game". Sherlock asks John (who has just spent a night at his girlfriend's house but not in her bed) "How was the lilo", only for Mycroft to immediately correct him: "Sofa, Sherlock, it was the sofa." Although after a second or two of focus, Sherlock apparently sees the evidence and admits the mistake, although you can see he's a bit annoyed that Mycroft was correct more quickly.
      • In "The Empty Hearse" Sherlock and Mycroft have a Scan-off with a hat left behind by one of Sherlock's clients, volleying deductions back and forth until Sherlock runs out of fresh details to analyse. However, Sherlock offers an insight into the subject's social isolation overlooked by Mycroft, who cannot perceive loneliness in himself or in others. Non-verifiable deduction so Sherlock loses the battle... but he wins the broader war by completely flummoxing Mycroft.
    • Hilariously subverted in "The Sign of Three", when Sherlock is called out on a case while messily drunk. When he tries to scan the crime scene, all of the deduction subtitles are blurry, inaccurate, and slurred, like "egg chair sitty thing", "???", and "sleep".
      • Then played straight when Sherlock involuntarily notices Mary's change in tastes among other things and deduces that she is pregnant, which annoys Watson since Sherlock noticed the medical symptoms before John, her husband and a doctor, could.
    • Also subverted in "The Six Thatchers", when Mary goes on the run for It's Not You, It's My Enemies reasons and bases her entire route on die rolls, knowing that not even Sherlock can predict total randomness. Sherlock shows up on her doorstep anyway, and makes a long-winded speech about how nothing is truly random and people always leave a string of psychological clues as to where they're going... before revealing that he was just making it up and he put a tracker on her.
  • In Granada TV's Sherlock Holmes adaptation, one of the key ways that the producers attempted to perform a Character Rerailment on Dr. Watson and demonstrate that he wasn't the dunce that popular belief had Flanderized him into was to give Holmes the breathtakingly sudden moments of Sherlock Scan insight — however, it would then be Watson who would explain the clues to the astonished recipient, suggesting that he was intelligent enough to gradually take on board Holmes' methods but wasn't quite as quick or insightful about them.
    Holmes: I assure you, Sir, that outside of the fact that you are a Freemason, a solicitor, a bachelor and an asthmatic, I know absolutely nothing about you at all.
    [the visitor has a dumbfounded expression]
    Watson: Your watch chain, sheaf of legal papers, untidy dress and [waggles hand] slightly irregular breathing.
    • Double-subverted in another one of Jeremy Brett's attempts to counteract the Flanderization of Watson. Watson is given the opportunity to perform a Sherlock Scan on Holmes himself, to explain Holmes's apparent bad mood and unexpected presence. Sherlock responds with a list of plausible alternate explanations for the clues that Watson picked up on, but finally he grudgingly admits that Watson was, in fact, right all along.
    • In the adaptation of "The Devil's Foot", Holmes plays with this schtick a bit. He meets a country pastor and does his usual observation and deduction of the man which is of course amazingly accurate, including the subject of his last sermon. When the impressed pastor asks how he could possibly have known, Holmes explains what he observed. As for the sermon, he playfully revealed that he had read a copy of the local church's last Sunday service program beforehand.
  • This is a talent of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow. In "The Sin Eater", from a quick study he is able to determine the surname of his captor, his lineage, his occupation, and that he is a Freemason.
  • Stalker (2014): In the pilot, Detective Jack Larsen, after making a poor first impression to his new boss, makes up for it by using this to great effect in noting a victim's anti-stalker measures in her home.
  • In a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Data solves three Holodeck mysteries in seconds while imitating a Sherlock Scan, but in reality he is simply recalling Sherlock Holmes plotlines that he has read. This prompts Geordi to ask the Holodeck to create a new Sherlockian mystery that will challenge Data, with disastrous results.
    • Though it does turn out that Data is quite good at this even with original mysteries, to the point that he works his way out of Moriarty's Platonic Cave trap in "Ship In a Bottle". Though it's probably more amazing that the Holodeck was sophisticated enough that neither Data nor Picard noticed anything amiss until Data saw Geordi favoring the wrong hand.
    • Data does this again in "Cause and Effect". The single clue he has time to send his future self to avoid catastrophe is the number 3 implanted in his subconscious—which the future Data is able to surmise (correctly) means that they should listen to Riker because he has three rank pip/pins on his uniform. As Data does as well—and Data is the other one making suggestions—he's making a pretty big leap of deduction based on a single number, although Data does have the advantage that he would know "Yes, that's how I would think if I had to send a message back to the past from X future scenario." He's much more self-aware (in that sense) than any biological being. Given that he's an android, he has also probably run thousands if not millions of calculations and probabilities on what that 3 could have meant in the span of a few seconds.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Statistical Probabilities", a group of genetically augmented (and mentally unstable) humans manage to glean many details of the Dominion's representative from Cardassia, Legate Damar, from watching a speech. Even though they knew nothing about Damar beforehand, they were able to deduce that he, a "pretender to the throne" who seized power from the "king", Gul Dukat, was racked with guilt over killing an "innocent princess", Dukat's daughter Ziyal, and was under the thrall of a "dark knight", the Dominion's Weyoun.
  • In the Star Trek: Picard episode "Nepenthe", Picard refuses to tell Riker the full story behind Soji as he’d earlier noted his old crew would insist on helping. Riker quickly works it out anyway.
    Riker: So I'm just gonna speculate... and say out loud what I've been saying in my brain — you don't have to tell me anything, how's that sound? You're worried about cloaks; that says Romulans. And the level of anxiety and fear for our safety? Tells me Tal Shiar. Next, you're not the one that's on the run, it's her. But why? What has poor Soji done to incur their wrath? Could it have anything to do with the fact that she's clearly an android? And not just any android; I'd recognize that head tilt anywhere... kid's got Data in her DNA. And that's why you're here. How am I doin'?
  • Mike Ross of Suits is a genius able to do this, combined with a photographic memory. It's shown in the first episode where he passes a bellhop and a man talking and can tell both are undercover cops. Mike asks what time the pool is open and the bellhop gives the hours, but Mike remembers passing a father and son talking about the pool being closed for cleaning. This lets Mike know the cops are setting up a sting for the drug deal he's about to walk in on.
    • When he's arrested in season 5, Mike finds himself threatened by a burly man in his cell. Mike, however, remembers seeing the man's photo on a wall of agents and knows the guy is a federal agent trying to scare Mike into incriminating himself.
    • When a federal prosecutor tries to claim she doesn't have video of Mike being interrogated without a lawyer, Mike fires back by reciting the serial number of the camera that was used. The judge tells the prosecutor to either drop her motion to have Harvey removed as Mike's lawyer or she'll subpoena the camera and catch the prosecutor in perjury.
  • Supernatural: Done once in season 10 by a member of the Stynes family when a "bad boy" tried to buliy him for being a nerd and calling him a virgin, he then turns it around and describes him perfectly: You look like the kind of dude who wants people to think he's hood, but, no. See, the $100 haircut, the hybrid keys? I'd say you grew up in a white-bread wonderland. Your dad's probably a dentist, your mom's mostly Botox, and they both bang the pool boy. Oh, and you like rap, but you're scared of black people, even Will Smith.
  • In the Timeless episode "Mrs. Sherlock Holmes", Grace Humiston is able to tell that Wyatt and Lucy are in a complicated relationship the moment they walk in. She also manages to identify the real murderer by asking the suffragettes to vote on whether they should march. She notes which one raises her left hand, as she previously deduced that the killer is left-handed.
  • Special Agent Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks fame. He can deduce upon first meeting that one character is in love with and/or dating another, and figured out a home movie had been shot by a biker by seeing the reflection of the motorcycle in Laura Palmer's eye.
  • A sketch on The Two Ronnies has one of them explaining to the other how he can tell that a 5 pound note is counterfeit. The first two clues are to do with the placement of the lettering and the colouration. Then he turns it over and says "Besides, it says 'Bank of Toyland', on the back."
  • Voyagers!, "Jack's Back": Arthur Conan Doyle is presented as having the same ability his character Sherlock Holmes did; he deduces Nellie Bly's nationality and profession from her clothing, behavior, and articles. Later, he shows off his deductive skills to the police chief so as to prove that he's right in saying the evidence declares Bogg is innocent.
  • Daryl from The Walking Dead (2010) is revealed to be able to do this in Season 2, to the surprise of many in-universe and out. He doesn't talk much and prefers to distance himself from the group on top of hunting for his own food, making him a Scarily Competent Tracker. But his distance from the others also means he can read into situations without being biased. He's able to tell within minutes of Shane's return that Shane has shot Otis in the leg and left him behind to be eaten by Walkers because Shane comes back with an extra gun. He stays quiet about this for most of the season, and only reveals he knew this when Dale talks to him. Later on he is able to tell from tracks in the woods that Shane killed their prisoner via neck snap.
  • Though The Wire typically avoids this trope in the name of realism, an early episode has a memorable instance where Sydnor prepares to go undercover as a homeless junkie, and Kima asks her informant Bubbles (an actual homeless junkie) to evaluate his disguise. Though the disguise seems flawless to the cops, Bubbles quickly says that he would instantly be able to spot Sydnor as an undercover cop because Sydnor is wearing a wedding ring and the soles of his shoes are clean. Bubbles points out that a real junkie would have long since pawned off his wedding ring to pay for drugs and would have broken glass embedded in the bottoms of his shoes from walking over discarded heroin vials.
  • The X-Files:
    • This is sometimes played straight by Mulder, who can sometimes tell that the person he's interviewing at the moment happens to BE the monster of the week. However, after years of getting shut down for his wild and crazy theories he's made a habit of being not always being so forthcoming to anyone about his actual deductions, and only ends up narrating his logic to Scully. It's sometimes forgotten that Mulder acquired his nickname of "Spooky Mulder" back at the FBI academy way before he got involved with the paranormal — his skill at building quick and in-depth profiles was so good that people thought it was spooky. Senior FBI agents were already talking about him while he was still a cadet.
    • Played for Laughs in the episode "Humbug". A little person, in a town full of circus performers, gets offended when Mulder asks if he's done any circus work. He performs a Sherlock Scan on Mulder to make a point about stereotyping, but he accidentally stereotypes Mulder as an FBI agent.
  • In Zoey 101 one-off character Miles Brody does this when Zoey comes to ask him for help in the episode Robot Wars. It's used to establish his cred as "the guy who knows everything".

  • Parodied in I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again in their The Case of the Workington Shillelagh sketch, where the Holmes character gets it spectacularly wrong:
    Cattermole Sharp: Good afternoon, Sir. I see that you are a fellow of the Royal Society recently returned from serving in the mercantile marine corps of New Zealand, with a keen interest in outdoor sports and at present employed as a waiter at the Waterloo station buffet.
    Female Client: Well not exactly, Mr. Sharp.
  • In The Last Laugh Murders, an episode of the Nero Wolfe radio series (not an adaptation of any of the books), Archie challenges Wolfe to perform this on a random person passing by their front door, and Wolf grudgingly obliges. Subverted in that the person immediately declares him wrong in every respect. Archie is very amused and Wolfe is furious. Double-subverted in that Wolfe was actually completely correct, and the person in question was lying and pretending to be someone else. Wolfe immediately starts investigating just to soothe his bruised ego.
  • On Loveline, Dr. Drew (through years of experience) has become almost frighteningly good at detecting trauma in people who call into the show — going off of nothing but their tone of voice. It's not at all uncommon to hear him ask a caller, "So who molested you between the age of 7 and 10 years old?" and have the caller describe how they were abused when they were eight years old.
  • Parodied in a sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Sound: Sherlock attempts to teach Watson to do this, giving him ludicrously easy deductions to make ("here is a man wearing a beret and a string of onions around his neck. He is reading Le Monde and riding a bicycle, and the tune he is whistling to himself would appear to be "La Marseillaise". Now, Watson, where do you think he is from?") which he fails at ("Shoreditch?").
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • In "Puppy Love and Mr. Barlow", Mr. Boynton is very critical of the idea that the school custodian is in love with Miss Brooks. Here, though, Boynton's scan is mostly medical:
      Mr. Boynton: Why, he's seventy at least! And not what you'd call in prime condition! Why, his hyperthyroidism is apparent and his incipient arterioschlerosis masking cardiac decomposition was evident to me after one glance!
      Miss Brooks: Good thing you didn't take a second glance; he'd be a goner!
    • Subverted in "The School Board's Pyschologist". Mr. Gibney, the psychologist, brags to Mr. Conklin about being able to be able to do a Sherlock Scan. He is, however, very wrong. Gibney, in the episode, was simply overworked (as he claimed), or incompetent to begin with.
      Mr. Conklin: Good morning, Good morning. This is Mr. Gibney. But I'm not going to tell him who you are. He wants to try a little experiment.
      Miss Brooks: Experiment?
      Mr. Conklin: Mr. Gibney contends that he can tell who you are and what you do just by looking at you.
      Miss Brooks: Well, now. Isn't that nice. Go right ahead, sir.
      Mr. Gibney: Hmm. Let's see. I would say that this woman is a happily married housewife.
      Miss Brooks: Why you dear man!
      Mr. Gibney: She is also the mother of a couple of young children.
      Mr. Conklin: An amazing revelation.
      Mr. Gibney: Well, how am I doing so far?
      Miss Brooks: So far, you owe me a husband and two children.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Penny Dreadfuls Present: The Brothers Faversham. Theseus Faversham (Victorian Britain's greatest detective) is apparently able to tell an amazing amount of detail from the point of impact of the pickaxe sticking out of a murder victims chest, including that the murderer was well-known to the victim, about 5'7'', had a slight limp, thinning red hair, and was missing the tip of his right ring finger, but:
    Hobbs: And you got all that just from the point of impact?
    Theseus: That, and the man trying to hide behind the pot plant. Hello, yes, you.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition's Inquisitive Rogues are heavily inspired by the man himself, and thus can put such scans to work on people to both catch their deceptions and spot clues out of combat and get crippling blows on their enemies when the fighting starts, even one-on-one.
  • In Exalted, Solars with the charm "Evidence-Discerning Method" can do something like this. It allows a character to gather up to twenty minutes worth of evidence (and the conclusions drawn therein) to be condensed into an action that takes five or six seconds.
  • This is a favorite trick of the Kitsuki family of the Dragon Clan in Legend of the Five Rings. Founded by a Great Detective (Agasha Kitsuki, given one day to prove himself innocent of murder, invented forensic science), they specialize in investigation and analysis. Those members of the family who act as courtiers instead of investigators find this useful, as well - being able to pick out minor but crucial details is great when you need to break someone's ego.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, there is a group of mages called "the Eleventh Question" who are able to do this (among other things, including being able to take evidence, make a guess at what it means, and then magically confirm if they are correct). They are generally considered among the fandom to be awesome.
  • In the original Mage: The Ascension, a simple application of the lowest levels of Mind and Entropy magic would allow a primitive version of this, and switching to a higher level of Entropy would also allow confirmation, generally through an act of random chance. 'The killer was 6 foot tall, weighed 160 pounds and was.. *flips coin* left-handed'

  • The 1965 Broadway musical Baker Street makes this the whole subject of its first song, "It's So Simple," where Holmes meets a visitor in civilian clothes and immediately identifies his profession and military rank, and then deduces that he's there to ask for help with a woman who is blackmailing him.
  • Hamilton: in her main musical number "Satisfied", sharp-eyed and sharp-witted Angelica Schuyler is able to deduce within a few moments of their first interaction at "A Winter's Ball" that Alexander Hamilton is a smart but broke young man with no family name, noting how he dodges her question of where his family's from, looking to marry someone with such a name like the Schuylers to improve his standing among other reasons. She also needs exactly one look at her sister Eliza to realize Eliza's also fallen in love with Alexander, only a few moments to recognize the dilemma now posed to Angelica of both sisters wanting Alexander when Angelica doesn't want to break her sister's heart, and only another moment or two to resolve it by introducing Alexander to Eliza herself so that Eliza is happy and Angelica can still have Alexander in her life as his sister-in-law.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series:
    • In part I: Mrs. Hawking, Mrs. Hawking deduces that Mary came from India by her dress, and that she has experience caring for an invalid by her skills.
    • In part III: Base Instruments, she asks Miss Zakharova “And how often do you require the laudanum?” immediately upon meeting her.
  • In the musical comedy Sheerluck Holmes by Ian Dorricott and Simon Denver, our heroes first encounter the Damsel in Distress in a state of unconsciousness, yet Holmes is able to deduce everything about her. Watson is impressed, until she wakes up and mentions the letter she sent to Holmes asking for his help and telling him where to meet her, along with a precise description.

    Video Games 
  • Senator Troche believes that Ezio has done this when he mentions the Senator's whoring on their first meeting in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The truth is much simpler — Ezio owns the Senator's favorite brothel, which is run by his sister.
  • The Batman: Arkham Series has a special version of Detective Mode in crime scenes for Batman to search for evidence. Some of discoveries are then used to create a trail to follow (for instance, Batman: Arkham Asylum has Batman finding the tobacco dropped by Commissioner Gordon to follow, and traces of alcohol from a corrupt guard's breath).
  • Paranoid survivors in Death Road to Canada can tell all aspects of a survivor that you can recruit. All of them — personality, physical condition and even skills.
  • In Disco Elysium, where each of your skills is its own character, Visual Calculus starts off with casually differentiating the footsteps of eight different persons and distinguishing shoe sizes at a glance, and moves on to mentally reconstructing crime scenes and motor carriage accidents and isolating bullet trajectories. To a lesser extent, other skills like Perception, Reaction Speed, and Composure deal in catching small details as they happen, but Visual Calculus features the associated slowing-down of time and highlighting of significant points, filling your vision with glowing diagrams.
    Visual Calculus: It's as if the whole world darkens, everything else has a thin film of unimportance on it — and the tracks burn in the middle of it, in a strange, beautiful way.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: While he's never given much chance to demonstrate it in-game, the prequel novel The Stolen Throne establishes Loghain's ability to do this in the first chapter when he correctly deduces Maric (who hasn't introduced himself yet) as having come from a well-off upbringing based on his clothes and how he carries himself, and when Maric introduces himself with a false name Loghain immediately spots it as a lie, but goes along with it anyway.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, this is the Establishing Character Moment for Sherlock Expy Consulting Inspector Briardien. The Warrior of Light first sees the inspector accusing a man of being a murderer. The man protests that he's just a humble merchant and the victim in question was killed by an Amalj'aa archer. Brierdien picks apart the argument by pointing out that the Amalj'aa are notorious slavers who would kidnap a helpless traveler rather than kill them. He also notes that the man he's accusing doesn't have the hand calluses of a merchant, but a skilled archer. Knowing a little of the man's history, he deduced that he murdered the victim with an Amalj'aa bow and arrow either for money or because the victim bedded the man's sister. When he confesses to the later motivation, Briardien shows irritation because he would have guessed the motivation to be money.
  • Karst, from Golden Sun: The Lost Age. She claims that she can gauge a man's strength at a single glance — then proceeds to say that Felix wouldn't be able to kill Saturos and Mernardi even if he doubled his strength.
    • This is, however, laughed at when one plays through on easy — and is therefore a higher level than is necessary to defeat Karst and Agatio. Genre Blindness mayhaps?
    • In normal circumstances though (that means no level-grinding...), she's right — at that point in the game, you're probably under half the level Isaac's party will have when you meet them.
  • Mordin does this when you first meet him in Mass Effect 2, figuring out both why you're talking to him and who you're working for very quickly, even if you don't interrupt him to explain yourself.
    Mordin: Equipment suggests military origin. Not Alliance standard. Spectres not human. Terra Firma too unstable. Only one option. Cerberus sent you.
    • While he seems like he's off on one point, he technically isn't—Shepard is the only human Spectre, and as far as anyone knew was dead at the time (and in fact may not have had Spectre status reinstated at the time—and even if you did get reinstated, word of it probably didn't get from the Citadel to Omega by then).
    • He also does this soon afterwards, when faced with the Normandy's AI. While these are the most obvious instances of this, he does it several other times, most of them optional.
    • He immediately spots and disables the various bugs Cerberus put in his lab. He's not even bothered by them. Possibly owing to his intelligence background.
  • Occurs in an early radio conversation with The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, where she is able to tell that Naked Snake has lost weight by his voice, after only hearing him speak for a single sentence. As one may expect, The Boss is an Ace, intimately familiar with Naked Snake as his mentor, and absurdly badass.
  • Malachi Rector, the Player Character of Moebius: Empire Rising, is capable of quickly identifying the materials any object is made of, which time period and country it is from, and finally what its estimated value is, leading him to have become one of the world's leading expert in antiquities. He shows off his skills by finding out in a matter of second that an supposedly antique chest to an asking price of 2 million euros, is actually a well-crafted forgery only worth about 5000 dollars. The seller angrily confronts him, saying that there is no possible way he could know all of that from just one look. In response, Rector smugly reveals that he has also been looking at the supposedly expensive gold-necklace adorned with emerald and diamonds that the seller's girlfriend wears, and reveals that it is made from cubic-zirconium, green glass and gilded aluminum and is with about 150 dollars. The seller's shocked reaction says everything he and the girlfriend needs to know, and Rector walks away very satisfied with himself, as the seller is being treated to a verbal trashing by his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend.
  • Parodied in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door by the penguin-like detective Pennington. Despite the red clothes, the short stature and the red hat with a clear M upon it...he STILL mistakes Mario for Luigi.
  • Elevated to gameplay mechanic in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments: whenever you meet an NPC, time stops and you can look around his/her model and highlight certain hotspots assigned to one of his/her characteristics (age, status of his/her clothes, build, etc). In certain conversations, you're asked to pick out among these characteristics to challenge the NPC (for example, negating a stationmaster's assertion that he is the sole employee responsible for his train station by pointing out that he looks young enough to be barely out of school).
  • The Investigator and the Consigliere in Town of Salem are presumably able to determine what role a player is through this, with the Investigator narrowing it down to three to five possible choices while the Consigliere is able to know what role they are directly. Their results will be murky if their target was framed or doused in gasoline, however.
  • Subverted in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. When chasing down a group of vampire hunters, Beckett comments that they must be in a monastery outside Santa Monica, because he found beach sand and smelled a very specific type of incense at the scene of their latest operation. When asked, he shrugs and admits that he didn't actually find any clues, he found a hunter waiting for a vampire representative to investigate and dangled him over the side of the roof by his leg until he talked.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Luke Atmey from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations insists on doing this to everyone he meets, although the clues he uses are rather less than hidden, meaning his conclusions are not particularly spectacular. It's suggested that Atmey's deductions are based on obvious clues (like Phoenix's Attorney's Badge and Maya's distinctive Kurain clan uniform) and then he invents preposterous 'clues' to use as the supposed basis of his findings.
      Atmey: Zvarri! The truth has once again been elegantly revealed to me!
    • Similarly parodied with Richard Wellington in the second game, when asked how he knew how the victim was a police officer.
      Wellington: With one glance, I could tell just what kind of occupation he held. That shoddy, do-it-yourself hairstyle practically screamed "I'm a police officer". It was also the way he tied his tie and those cheap, low-quality shoes. Ugh. Oh, and I suppose it was also because he was wearing an officer's uniform.
      Phoenix: (Shouldn't that statement have come first!?)
    • Reconstructed in The Great Ace Attorney: Adventures and its sequel, where Sherlock Holmes scans the crime scenes, but is somewhat off the mark with the details. He either correctly identifies important details but then draws the wrong conclusion, or he misses relevant details entirely, with either way making the scan useless. It's up to the main character to fix his mistakes and get to the correct deduction. Iris Watson, on the other hand, does a much better job at it.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In the 1st and 2nd games, the player character has an ability that can be activated by hitting the Triangle button. With it, all objects in a room worth checking out are highlighted, making the investigation go smoother.
    • Meanwhile, the franchise's Ultimate Detective, Kyoko Kirigiri, makes frequent use of this trope nearly every time she appears in the series. Her quick work at crime scenes has her constantly putting forth theories that tend to be correct. She also manages to deduce the Mastermind's psychology, motives, intentions, and several exploitable weak points with no more information than the player is given. She goes on to casually work out the entire purpose behind the Killing School Life and drops several heavy hints about the game's major plot twists chapters before they are revealed. It is even seriously implied that she predicted exactly how the Mastermind would react to some of her edgier investigating later on in the game, as she can be seen preparing for the inevitable retaliation days in advance. How did she do all of this? Why, simple observation, of course! She had no more advantages than anybody else in the game.
    • Kirigiri also displays the unique ability to "hear the Reaper's footsteps" throughout the series. She can sense when death is upon her or a loved one with a kind of gut feeling. She used this ability to rescue Makoto Naegi the moment the Mastermind had snuck into his room, intent on stabbing him to death. In Danganronpa: Kirigiri, it is theorized that this ability stems from her deductive skills. When somebody is in grave danger, Kirigiri jumps through most of the intermediary steps involved in a typical deduction to arrive at the conclusion almost instantaneously, with even her unsure how she got there. The details she has been passively collecting through her surroundings just raise a red flag and tell her to respond in a specific way.
    • Ironically enough, she will later go on to criticize this entire trope down as unrealistic in the final investigation of the first game as she lays out her methods to the player.
      "Detectives don't have superpowers. We can't just look at a crime and divine the truth right then and there. On the contrary, the best detectives consider numerous possibilities in the beginning... Not ensnaring their thought process with common sense, prejudices, or preconceived notions. They then explore each and every one of those possibilities over the course of their investigation."
  • Used in Doki Doki Literature Club! once solely to show how well the Player Character knows his Childhood Friend Sayori, or even more than that just to start off a funny scene. Just from the fact that she asks him to come to buy a snack with him, he infers she has no money, and triumphantly explains:
    "If you had enough money, you would have bought a snack before coming to the clubroom. So, either you're not hungry and wanted an excuse to take a walk...or, you planned to conveniently forget that you spent all your money, so that I would lend you some! But there's one more thing...You're always hungry! And so, that only leaves the one option!"
  • In Double Homework, Dennis can tell that the story that Johanna’s been telling everyone about the protagonist’s whereabouts is a lie. He knows what the protagonist has really been doing during the spring, because he has access to his weekly gaming hours.
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • Both Rin (in the first act) and Hideaki (in Lilly's route), use this in an attempt to determine what sort of disability Hisao has. Hideaki, realizing that there's no external deformities and hearing from his cousin Lilly that Yamaku doesn't take mentally disabled students, makes a lucky guess that Hisao has a heart problem. Rin, however, using the same evidence, concludes that "The problem must be in your pants!"
    • Jigoro references this tropes, saying there was a time when you could tell a man's character just by a glance. Hisao, fed up with Jigoro's attitude, gives a snarky guess in his narration.
  • In Queen of Thieves, Nikolai Stirling's introductory scene has him making a series of observations about the heroine's background, personality, and current situation based on the display of artwork she's trying to sell.
  • Weaponised in Umineko: When They Cry by Furudo Erika's (ab)use of the concept of The Detective [of a mystery story] and Knox's Laws. Knox's 9th (All evidence must be presented to the reader [by the detective]) combined with her 'role' in the story allows her the ability to look over any crime scene and instantly note all important details. And then use these details to turn everyone on the island against a completely innocent woman just for her and her master's enjoyment.

  • Daily Grind: Howlett Creager deduces that a cup that a random customer ordered appraised is actually a test on how good Howlett's appraisal skill is, based on how the owner put it in a shoddy box but handled the cup with extensive care around the brittle white glazes. He then proceeds to deduce that a supposedly legendary $250,000 antique 11th-century cup is actually worth less than $80,000 based on the pattern of the white glaze — nobody in the supposed age the cup came from used noncontinuous swirly strokes, but the fact that it's still so old (the noncontinuous pattern was popular in the 12th century and 13th century) means that the cup is worth a pretty penny. The owner is impressed and gives the cup to Daily Grind as a down payment for an even bigger job.
  • El Goonish Shive:
  • Freefall:
    • When looking for purified water to fill a contract to resupply reaction mass to satellites, Florence is subjected to one of these by a sales representative.
      Sales Rep: You're a gravitational engineer. You arrived on the Asimov. And you work for Sam Starfall.
      Florence: That's amazing.
      Rep: Simple deduction, actually.
      Florence: No. It's amazing that you figured out I work for Sam and you haven't asked me to leave.
    • Flo does a Sherlock Sniff on Niomi, making an analysis of her family just from the scents on her.
    • She does another one later on the police chief and figures out that he's a human using a mobility rig (which itself is every bit as intelligent as the other robots on the planet).
  • The Order of the Stick: Vaarsuvius assumes that Kubota is a major villain because otherwise Elan would not have him tied up. Elan's reaction lampshades the shakiness of the Sherlock Scan.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • The eponymous Comedic Sociopath amorph demonstrates his keen observational ability here with a scan of the circus manager he was talking to, using his really good sense of smell — earlier stated by Kevyn to be superior to a Bloodhound's — and combined this with some basic reasoning and experience dealing with humans. Later on, he determines the person he's speaking with has recording ocular implants based on the fact she came out of a room (where they were secretly implanted by nanomachinery) smelling like surgery, crying and corneas.
    • Karl Tagon while exchanging tales with Kathryn held his "big" story here. After she told him she was an analyst in military intelligence. So it ends here with "General, I got tired of waiting for your story, so I cheated..."
  • Downplayed in TwoKinds; Madelyn, a Basitin intelligence officer, immediately realizes that main characters Keith and Natani have gotten a Relationship Upgrade to an Official Couple by spotting that Natani has looped his tail around Keith's. The rest of the cast don't figure it out until Natani gives Keith a Smooch of Victory in front of them, several dozen comics later.

    Web Original 
  • In Edict Zero Fis, Nick Garrett does this with peoples' behavior. It is to do this that he often behaves in a manner that others find irritating.
  • There is a video on YouTube parodying Sherlock and John's first meeting in Sherlock, except Sherlock's rapid-fire observations and conclusions are dead wrong. In fact, one of his conclusions — scratches near the charging port of a cell phone indicate a drunk — is pointed out by both John and Mike as a pretty common occurrence among most cell phone users.
  • Parodied on the SMOSH video "If TV Shows Were Real 2." A police officer asks Sherlock Holmes how he knows the identity of the killer, which prompts Sherlock to explain in long and great detail. However, Sherlock's explanation makes little, if any sense. When asked by the officer if he really thinks so, Sherlock instead calls the officer an idiot and points out that the killer was holding a knife the whole time.
  • This Tumblr post deconstructs this (complete with a Discworld quote) by pointing out that imprints on the fingers could mean the person is a bassist... or that they have eaten pistachios recently. Or a billion other things.
  • In Worm, the character of Tattletale, whose superpower is basically enhanced intuition, is very good at using this along with the Hannibal Lecture to blackmail her enemies by revealing all their secrets and weaknesses. It goes a bit farther than normal since her power lets her make impossible deductions such as determining someone's PIN from the way they dress. It isn't perfect though: she is still capable of drawing wrong conclusions, and the chances of doing so increase the further the leaps in logic her power makes. Furthermore, if she starts from false information, she will of course draw false conclusions based on it.

    Western Animation 
  • In the episode "The Parking" from The Amazing World of Gumball, Anais uses the Sherlock Scan on three guys leaving the mall in order to guess which one would leave their parking spot first so the Wattersons wouldn't lose the spot to another car. Her analysis was totally right, but by the time she stopped talking he had already left and another car parked there.
  • Stan Smith from American Dad! shows this in one episode where he's told to interrogate a suspect about his employment. He's able to deduce from his ring and expression that he's going through marital problems, which proves correct when he consoles the suspect about this who then inadvertently blurts out about his bomb-making occupation.
  • In an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman meets Sherlock Holmes thanks to Time Travel, who manages to deduce just about everything important regarding Batman's status, personal history, and motivations, by a cursory glance at him. Amusingly, Batman manages to sort-of one-up Holmes, no doubt thanks to Pop-Cultural Osmosis being on his side.
    Holmes: He's a hero, it's obvious by the bright blue and yellow in his costume. The mask means he must be well-known, perhaps a wealthy entrepreneur with ample free time. Square jaw indicates strong lineage, perhaps a doctor's son. And the bat motif, most surely inspired by some childhood trauma. "The Masked Bat" perhaps?
    Batman: Actually, it's "Batman". Sherlock Holmes, I presume?
    Holmes: (shocked) How did you deduce my identity so quickly?
    Batman: The hat.
  • The two-part Bravestarr episode, where Sherlock ends up in Bravestarr's time.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Dog Spray Afternoon", Molly is able to deduce the tagger, who was hired to vandalize Central Park with graffiti, was waiting for her and Owen to leave the stakeout location to finish the job because she remembers him earlier rubbing his hands on his pants due to being anxious, which is something her father also does, and she knows that he couldn't leave a job undone.
  • Darkwing Duck tries to do this to impress the police or the victim, but he almost always arrives at the completely wrong conclusion. He usually replies with a "I knew that!" or "I was just testing your honesty."
  • Done by obvious Holmes-parody Sherlock Jones in the DuckTales (1987) episode "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Duck". After Huey Dewey and Louie's attempt to search the home of a deceased scientist finds nothing, Jones notices a painting of the inventor above the mantle depicting the room they are now in, with a door that is not present in the actual room. This, of course, means the door is in the actual room, but is concealed. Sure enough, the secret door hides what they were looking for.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3..." shows that Rainbow Dash trained herself to do this unconsciously when she's flying. This proves vital in the episode itself, which has focused on Rainbow's complete inability to retain information she needs for a test with conventional study methods.
  • Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, of course.
  • Mocked on South Park, when Stan tries to explain how John Edwards ("The Biggest Douche in the Universe") uses Cold Reading to fake the ability to talk to the dead. Stan explains how he's doing it as he's doing it but, being South Park, the adults think he's psychic anyway.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "The Adventures of Sherlock Mario", there's a parody of the famous detective named Herlock Solmes, with King Koopa playing the role of his nemesis, Kooparity. While Kooparity's scheme is underway, he asks for Solmes's reaction, with the result doubling as "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Herlock Solmes: Elementary, my dear Kooparity. You're a cross between a lizard and an inferior species of toad. Your brain is smaller than a peanut. You got the lowest grades in your school and hold the world record for flunking kindergarten the most times. When you were little, the other Koopas nicknamed you "Lizard Lips" and never let you play with them. You were a naughty lily-livered bully boy and wet the bed until you were twelve.
  • Done by the M.O.D.O.K. Captain Ersatz Think Tank in The Venture Bros. when he deduces from the soot on Dean's shoe that Wide Wale drilled through his lobby and from the pollen on his sleeve and smell of antiseptic that he brought flowers to the hospital.

    Real Life 
  • Unbuilt Trope: The character of Sherlock Holmes was partly based on Dr. Joseph Bell, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh who was often able to deduce a patient's occupation and recent activities in this way, and one of his most notable students was Arthur Conan Doyle. The example most prominently cited for Doyle's inspiration was when Bell was able to deduce a patient was a left-handed stonemason, based on the wear on the thighs of his breeches and the calluses on his hand. It's even said that Bell lent his hand in the search for Jack the Ripper. Bell sent a letter to Scotland Yard with his opinion on the case. It is unknown who he named, if anyone, but it coincided with the last agreed upon murder.
  • Derren Brown is capable of doing these, as seen in this segment where he uses it to guess the professions of people he meets in the street.
  • Orson Welles, a trained magician, was very skilled at this by way of Cold Reading, and he discusses here the technique behind it and the danger of a cold reader beginning to believe he truly has psychic powers.
    • More details on the Cold Read at that trope, but the quick version goes like this. The cold read is a Sherlock Scan where a magician or mentalist will make reasonable, high-probability guesses about a person based on what they can see and offer that information in vague but accurate-sounding snippets, then validate any positive feedback given from the listener. Claim to hear spirits whispering this information, and you have yourself a made-for-TV psychic.
    • Suppose you are reading a middle-aged woman wearing a well-pressed, slightly faded Walmart polo shirt. Tell her her hard work, while not as lucrative as she might like now, will pay off and care for her family, and that she should worry less about money. For a dash of the supernatural, say the message comes from a kindly older man who looks like he awkwardly wants to embrace her. Do this honestly, claiming it's a trick, and people will be unnerved. Do it fraudulently, and you can bilk people. Do it without realizing it, and you may come to believe you have psychic powers.
      • And of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; the existence of cold reading doesn't disprove psychic ability, but it does offer a powerful explanation for the apparent ability.
      • It also helps that a skilled speaker can turn on a dime. "He looks so concerned about you," the psychic says, but the client looks dubious, "which is not at all like his usual attitude."
  • James Brussel, a psychologist called in to help in the Mad Bomber of New York case in 1956 developed one of the first criminal profiles ever used to try and apprehend a suspect. In some ways, he was eerily correct. Based solely on his handwriting, he was able to correctly determine that the Mad Bomber was a Slavic man living on his own who would be wearing a buttoned double-breasted suit when caught. Displaying how it can also fail spectacularly, Brussel missed the fact that Metesky was unemployed, sent the NYPD on a wild goose chase through White Plains and claimed that Metesky was an “expert in civil or military ordnance”; the closest he came was a stint in a machine shop. He also got the age wrong, as Metesky was over 50 when caught, when Brussel predicted he'd be between 40 and 50 years of age.
  • A sufficiently skilled mathematics or engineering professor can do this to a student's work, instantaneously determining where the student made errors in an engineering calculation.
  • Some ADHD and ADD individuals subconsciously develop this way of thinking to compensate for their short attention span, and use it to figure out what they've missed after zoning out at school or work. It will then likely bleed into other aspects of their life, resulting in people who can figure out someone's dinner plans with a single look to their fridge and who answer questions before they are even asked thanks to the bits of dialogue they heard coming from the next room.
  • Similar to the above, some autistic individuals are particularly good at noticing patterns — they may see details in the environment that others miss, such as alphanumerical codes and background events. It's thought that the mismatch between autistic and neurotypical communication styles allows autistics to focus comparatively less on the people around them (who are likelier to be neurotypical) and more on the environment. This, incidentally, also makes a lot of autistic people very good photographers: They are able to see photo opportunities where others might not.


Nurse Liz Exposed

Tina realizes Nurse Liz is lying about everyone having "super lice" when she notices the clues that indicate Liz is nearsighted.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SherlockScan

Media sources: