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The Empath

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Mantis: If I touch someone, I can feel their feelings.
Star-Lord: You read minds?
Mantis: No, telepaths know thoughts. Empaths feel feelings... emotions.

Psychic Powers in fiction generally come in three flavors. You can shoot mindbullets and toss cars by thinking hard at them. You can see visions from the past or future. Or you can read minds. If you're fortunate, you get to read and transmit thoughts. And sometimes, you get to be The Empath. Being able to tell how people are secretly feeling is okay too, right? Right?... While this sometimes makes for an impressive combat power, it does make the Empath an excellent Confidant for their teammates... one who knows all of their secrets, and can use them against them.

The oldest version of this trope (the Soothsayer) presents an Empath as a slightly creepy, imposing ancient. Other times, the Empath is sometimes used to insert quick expositions or reveal to the other characters things not allowed by the time constraints of the program, or as a variant of Combat Clairvoyance. They can help The Face do their The Social Expert thing. An evil Empath becomes the ultimate Manipulative Bastard and Chess Master, and perhaps even the Fisher King. A dopey Empath who means well aside from his idiocy becomes the ultimate Kindhearted Simpleton.

Occasionally, the Empath gets such a strong reading that they can't describe it except as a headache. Empaths with a knack for manipulation and flexible ethics can combine both talents to move people like chess pieces. Sometimes the Empathy may be described as being able to calm villains or troubled characters because they are able to know just how they feel deep down, or even able to project an aura. They're usually the first to cause a Glamour Failure for supernatural opponents.

The Empath tends to suffer frequently from The Worf Effect. Whenever a telepathic Big Bad or Sealed Evil in a Can gets loose, The Empath usually gets reduced to a blubbering temple-clutching wreck in the first encounter to put the emphasis on exactly how bad the villain's mojo is. Alternatively, they could get drunk on its evil.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is one of Puck's powers in Berserk, which he uses to sense the very chaotic mixture of emotions raging within Guts when he fights demons, acts cruelly toward others or faces particularly hated enemies such as Griffith.
  • In Bleach, Ichigo can sense the feelings of his opponents when their blades clash. This is why he feels no real satisfaction after defeating Aizen. He feels nothing but pity for his defeated foe after sensing his soul-crushing loneliness.
  • Mao from Code Geass is this. Due to his inability to turn off his Mind Reading Geass. He uses his power to convince Shirley to kill Lelouch after her father's death because of Zero and again against Suzaku when he reveals his past leading to a temporary mental breakdown.
  • Hisoka in Descendants of Darkness is pretty darn competent but has a softer reputation because he's The Heart in The Team. His empathy is most useful in the episode where he uses it to fake clairvoyance.
  • This tends to be a trait among Newtypes of both genders from the Gundam franchise. It's not so much as they sense life as much as they sense death, though. Some of the better-known examples are Amuro, Char, and Lalah from the original series, Kamille from Zeta Gundam, Judau and Haman from Gundam ZZ, Quess from Char's Counterattack; Usso, Queen Maria, and Shakti from Victory Gundam; Tiffa, Jamil, Karis, and Lucille from Gundam X, etc.
  • Anna in K has this as her Strain power. She has the gender element played straight - she's the Token Mini-Moe and the only girl in a gang of (attractive) young men - but not the rest of it. She doesn't talk much, but when she does, what she says about her readings is direct ("You're a liar." "He doesn't know."). She also calls everyone by their given names, even Misaki, who hates his name. She also gets more powers when she Awakens as the Red King in the movie between seasons 1 and 2.
  • Mito Uzumaki from Naruto was able to sense the negative emotions of people around her thanks to the Nine-Tailed Fox inside her. Naruto develops the same power later in the after using the power of Kurama.
  • Naoya in Night Head Genesis, his case is probably one of the most extreme ever seen in any medium.
  • In One Piece a Kenbushoku Haki user (called also Mantra) can work this way. Both Aisa and Otohime are able to sense negative emotions of people around them. Some users, like Otohime, act upon these sensations and try to help. This power can also turn out to be a pretty nasty one if a user isn’t able to control it. Coby learnt it the hard way.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash does seem to understand the feelings of Pokémon at times as he uses his heart over words. His strong Aura gets recognized by various Riolu and Lucario, and he eventually hatches a Riolu of his own since it wouldn't connect to any other trainer while still in its egg.
    • Dawn can sense the feelings of Pokémon, which is the reason why Mespirt chose to connect with her on the first day of her journey.
    • Iris usually understands Dragon-type Pokémon as she uses this ability to read their thoughts and memories, which has come in handy. In her return appearances, Iris' ability became stronger as she can communicate with Dragon-type Pokémon more than she did in the past.
    • Bonnie has this ability as she knew that her new friend Squishy, Zygarde, was asking for help during the time they first met. Also, over time, Bonnie's ability increased through her bond with Squishy as she was able to feel and sense its feelings or pain.
    • Anabel is able to communicate with her Pokémon this way, making it unnecessary to voice her commands.
  • Shiho of Psychic Squad is of the touch-required type. Sakaki is also one, as well as Hyoubu Kyousuke.
  • Rare for a non-fantastic setting, but Yakumo Tsukamoto (Tenma's younger sister) from School Rumble is able to detect how boys are secretly feeling about her. Teen Genius Haruki Hanai, the one guy vocally interested in her, often escapes her notice.
  • Ialda Baoth from UQ Holder! has the power of "Infinite Empathy" which allows her to sense the feelings of everyone in the present and the past (and considering that there are always more miserable people than happy people...). It invariably breaks the will of every person she possesses.
  • Variable Geo: Yuka is so spiritually attuned, that she's able to get glimpses into the heart and mind of her opponents when she gets hit by their Ki. So it worries her whenever she's unable to sense anything from them.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, Zo the Zirr is a Binder who can touch other beings and make them share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Morphea of Atari Force is described as this, being a member of a race of empathic insectoids that can sense the emotions of others.
  • The Authority's shaman "the Doctor", had this power, as well as incredible amounts of magic, as a result of an acquired connection to all life. Particularly interesting for the origins of the various Doctors shown in the comic- a utopian anarchist, a dot-com billionaire drug addict, and an Islamic suicide bomber. It's explained that the powers go to the one person in the world who wants them the least. The suicide bomber was about to set himself off when he acquired his powers: Bang! instant Heel–Face Turn. Not only of himself, but he immediately used his powers to create peace in the Middle East
    • There was also a renegade former Doctor who was defeated by being given all the powers of the Doctor. From unstoppable rampage and serious inroad into the world's supplies of Dom Perignon to gibbering horror at the suffering he had caused in one fell swoop.
    • In the same universe, Charis, sometimes called Nemesis, is this. For a female with empathic powers, she is quite the opposite of useless. Her empathy allows her to briefly delve into the thoughts of a target and allows her to anticipate and react against her universe's version of Superman. Yes, she was able to dodge and cut Mr. Majestic.
  • The Black Lanterns in Blackest Night have the ability to see the emotions of living beings. As part of their MO involves ripping out the hearts of living beings to fuel their powers, they use this ability to manipulate the victim into strongly feeling one emotion, then ripping out their heart in that state so it will provide a charge.
  • Meggan, of the Marvel team Excalibur, was The Empath and since her (mostly) Voluntary Shapeshifting powers were tied to her emotions, she often changed to reflect people's expectations of her. Eventually, other people's expectations no longer affected her.
  • CrossGen's The First had Pyrem, a diplomat whose powers were described (but not often shown) as empathic. Crux had empathy as the fifth Atlantean discipline named empathy, but it manifested as Voluntary Shapeshifting.
  • In addition to their more obvious powers, the Emotion Entities introduced in the Green Lantern series have empathic powers. Parallax can sense and manipulate fear, the Butcher feeds on and instigates rage, Proselyte induces compassion into others, etc. They can do all of this because they are those emotions.
  • Madman has been able to do this, which helped him determine if an alien was aggressive or not.
  • This is sort of Man-Thing's deal. He's a super-strong being made of plant matter, and if his body's destroyed, he can reconstitute himself in his home swamp. But he also senses emotions; in general, he doesn't like negative ones. Specifically, fear causes him to immolate tings; hence the tagline "Whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing's touch". Though despite the fact that he's a mindless swamp creature with an appearance that borders between terrifying and Ugly Cute, typically only bad guys get incinerated, bystanders don't.
  • Empath (Manuel de la Rocha) from New Mutants is a gender flip. He could control emotions in addition to passively sensing them.
  • Raven in the original New Teen Titans comic book started out with this power, in addition to healing, teleportation, and some spellcasting. She was useless in combat and was always the first to be knocked out. It wasn't until the success of the cartoon that she was given flight and telekinesis.
  • In the W.I.T.C.H. comics, Will had this power with animals; that is they react to her mood and at least one parrot who could speak in English/Italian (the latter being the original language) could literally read her mind. This power is missing in the show though.
  • Wonder Woman's daughter Stephanie Trevor, who became Wonder Girl and later the second Wonder Woman in Superman & Batman: Generations, is one who can sense when Kara Kent (Supergirl), who was born around the exact same time as her, experiences pain.
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: All of the Amazons can feel each other's pain, so they know immediately when one of their own is hurt. Diana uses this to trick the Big Bad into modifying Amazonian blood to try to gain an Amazon's strength, and feeling the rest of the Amazons quickly overwhelms them into a blubbering non-threat.
  • Cordelia Frost (sister of X-Men's Emma Frost) possesses the power of empathy. Described as the "Professor X of empaths" Cordelia can not only sense the emotions of others but implant emotional states into them, shoot mind bullets and even use her powers for makeshift mind control by implanting an entirely new personality into someone. Somehow...

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Mothra quickly senses the hell that Viv and San have been through when she meets the Two Beings, One Body creature in person. It's also worth noting, she can sense the emotions of other beings across far distances, from their cries or by reading the impacts they have on "Life-Strand" currents.
  • Anchor Foal: What Celestia calls Fleur's power:
    "It took some time to work out what your special talent was."

    Fleur stopped breathing. And it felt as if she would never start again.

    "It's a rather unique one, isn't it?" the Princess smiled. "Any number of ponies have a gift for empathy. Psychiatrists, salesponies, natural ambassadors. But you... reach into a very specific subsection of that connection, and nopony knows you're doing it.
  • In The Ariana Black Series the titular protagonist is one. And she won't stop talking about it.
  • In The Beast Of Gusu, The shifters’ superior sense of smell allows them to get a certain reading of other people’s emotions. Lan Wangji is so good at keeping his emotions under tight wraps, that not even Wei Wuxian can tell what he’s feeling (intially).
  • Casey Steele: As the protagonist is described by others, Empath is a power that's mentioned and is seen in her narration:
    "They have you temporarily listed as a Esper three with Empathy and possibly Magick?"
  • Child of the Storm
    • Diana, in line with one version of her canon counterpart. It's quite powerful and leads to her being simultaneously Wise Beyond Their Years, compassionate, and good at forcibly calming people down - though she doesn't like doing that last because she's aware of how it can be used to manipulate people. She does suffer from one instance of Psychic Nosebleed, but that's because Harry, being Jean Grey's cousin, had a powerful Angst Nuke literally two feet away. She's fine once he manages to rein it in and, more to the point, empathy is only one of her powers, being a preteen version of Wonder Woman and therefore a Badass Adorable Flying Brick (though, obviously, a relatively lightweight one, considering that she's about 11 and a half).
    • All telepaths are this to one extent or another, Harry pointing out that it is part of the telepathic package, meaning that they generally have a good idea what other people are feeling even when they are trying not to look.
  • In Codex Equus, several individuals, both divine and mortal, have this power, with some variations.
    • Princess Brightglow, the "Stellar Diplomat", has empathic powers that help her with diplomacy by allowing her to read people. This combined with her ability to read heat differentials makes it difficult to lie around her. Emperor Blackthorn finds her an amusing diversion and often tests her limits whenever she goes on diplomatic meetings with the Changelings.
    • While he doesn't have the traditional reading abilities of typical empaths, Crystal Prism, the young Alicorn demigod of Change and Rebirth, is still technically an empath, in that he can receive prophetic visions if he displays strong sentiments towards someone before going to bed. This allows him to glean information about specific people in how they feel and what they're about to do.
    • Zmluva, Mier and Válka's youngest hybrid son, is the Bogolenya Deer god of Empathy. As such, he's a powerful empath, capable of "walking in another's shoes" and making others do the same, and force other people's emotions onto his enemies. However, he's such a Nice Guy who only wants peace that he won't fight unless he absolutely has to.
    • Implied with Princess Cadence who, as the Alicorn of Love, inspires tame affection.
    • The Jotunn Love goddess Elske, is an incredibly powerful empath. Notably, emotion/love-manipulating magic has no effect on her, and she can pierce through even the most stoic of people to reveal their hidden feelings beneath. She perceives negative emotions and intentions as a "rot" on people's hearts, and unlike Cadence, she inspires hot-blooded passion that has resulted in wild orgies in the past.
    • Belyolen and Temnobog, divine Deer twin brothers and co-rulers of the Bogolenya Deer pantheon, both have empathy, except they use them according to their portfolios - Belyolen uses his empathy to alleviate suffering and induce good feelings, while Temnobog uses his empathy to prolong suffering. Temnobog also admits that his brother's empathy is partially why he felt so close to him as fawns because Belyolen saw a miserable, abused sibling who wanted love instead of the dark abomination everyone thought Temnobog was.
    • Bolezn, one of Temnobog's surviving sons, inherited his empathy from him. While not great in power or skill like his dark father or his nephew, Zmluva, who specializes in Empathy as a concept, Bolezn can sense his victims' inner greed and gluttony as they covet other people's valuable possessions, which helps him appeal to their secret desires in order to weed out the wicked from those with strong morals and humble hearts.
    • Yarost, Bolezn's oldest brother, is also an empath, except he focuses on Fury and Hatred, as those two emotions are what he embodies as an evil Deer god. He tempts the wicked and morally weak by subtly stoking their anger and appealing to their inner spite and desire for revenge, and spares those who resist their darker urges. He also used this for positive purposes, such as making Crystal Prism realize his trauma-based anger was unhealthy by appealing to his grudge against Noble Grace and Bubbling Beaker and increasing his anger to unhealthy degrees.
    • Prince Sparkling Wing, the Alicorn god of Peace, Unity, and Leadership, is described as an empath who is capable of exposing lies and falsehoods, and seeing what people really think of each other, making him very hard to fool. He can also send out an empathy wave that calms anger and instills "love and peace" in his targets to defuse hostile situations. His most unique empathy-related ability is looking into the past via people's emotions, allowing them to experience their memories as if he had personally been there. The fact that empathy is getting extremely common among divine and mortal individuals on Equus has not been left without comment from him, since he sees it as rather odd.
      Sparkling Wing: I've noticed something... I think we have too many empaths on this planet.
      Golden Scepter: Perhaps... but should there come a time where hatred, paranoia, violence, and suffering are most prevalent, then empathy might be the best and most powerful weapon we have.
    • Golden Scepter, an ancient Alicorn Expy of the Emperor of Mankind, is a powerful empath - while he can feel the emotions of all sapientkind, his empathy is more profound with Ponykind, since his domain lies with them. He's also infamous for "emotion-bombing", which he used to either show villains and other evildoers the harm they've done to their victims, or to force absolute loyalty to him during the Imperium era, which caused him to be disgusted with himself upon remembering that he had done the latter. He also believes that empathy is "the best and most powerful weapon" sapientkind can have during periods of hatred, paranoia, violence, and suffering.
  • In Diaries of the Anonymous Filly, Anon becomes this after being kidnapped by Queen Chrysalis, because like changelings, she too changed form
  • The title character of Empath: The Luckiest Smurf is a male example, being born a Smurf with telepathic and telekinetic powers who can also sense other people's emotions, even by touching something or someone.
  • Empathy: Thanks to a technology accident, Riley becomes this, able to sense not only others' feelings but hear the emotions inside their head. They also have the ability to use their emotions (namely anger) against others offensively, but have no real control over that aspect. When it does happen, it tends to be pretty draining.
  • Lynn from Fly or Fall is the Fairy of Emotions.
  • Dr. Evans, from Hard Being Pure, is one, and he spells it out to an MCO agent doubting his diagnosis of Noa's emotional state:
    MCO Agent: And how can you be so sure of that?
    Dr. Evans: I'm an empath. I feel what she feels. I know.
  • Kage: After her transformation, Jade develops the ability to sense the negative emotions ("darkness within") in others.
  • In Kamikakushi, Hashirama mentions Tobirama being mildly empathic in addition to a sensor.
  • Brigette and Alyssa from Keepers of the Elements have this power.
  • Mindy Hedera in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. A subversion in that she is a Manipulative Bastard with a Texas accent, and the leader of the psionics division of the Guardians as well as one of the Top Tier. The extent of her powers is unknown, but she built on Ringo's desperation to turn him against the others.
  • The Naked Jedi: As a Zeltron, Sarza possesses this trait, along with Living Aphrodisiac thanks to her species' potent Pheromones. It's noted that this is the reason for Zeltrons' reputation as hedonists: negative emotions are unpleasant for them to experience, positive emotions feel good, so they try and encourage positive emotions in the people around them to avoid discomfort.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Draco Malfoy gains this from a potion Gone Horribly Right. It was supposed to merely reveal what gifts a person might have, but instead it activated a dormant gift — and it can't be switched off, leading to information overload, headaches, and even reduced mental stability, and that's after taking potions to suppress the effects (and those have side effects of their own).
  • Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob Reigen develops empath powers after borrowing Mob's powers in the 7th Division arc. It's nothing much in terms of powers. He can feel the emotions of others as his own leading to positive and negative feedback loops. A positive feedback loop almost leads him to kissing Mob, who has feelings for him, and this harms their relationship. A negative feedback loops leads to him and Mob screaming at each other and Mob almost taking their apartment complex down in the argument.
  • In the Final Fantasy VII fanfic Thorns, written by Vathara, there is an OC that is later revealed to be an Empath. Originally, he kept it hidden because he didn't want Hojo interested and the organism had to have a spine before he could sense it. Then he gets shot up with Mako. He generally uses it as Combat Clairvoyance, but in certain cases, it's a weakness; like around Hojo. He ends up using another person as an "anchor" to help him survive the power boost he got during the storyline.
  • In the Temeraire and Assassin's Creed fanfic Trade Winds, Laurence's Eagle Vision allows him to see others' pain and sickness, likely because it first manifests when Temeraire falls ill. Unfortunately, he feels that pain, too.
  • In Triangle of Moons Gentle Touch is an empath. More than that, she is able to project emotions and change them in the others.
  • In Upon A Fiery Steed, also written by Vathara, Quatre's family was bred for this and it was meant to drive people insane. Apparently, they were so good at it that Wufei's family was terrified of them. They were pyrokinetics, by the way.
  • The monsters in the Undertale fanfic Visiontale, posted on Archive of Our Own. They suffer from Power Incontinence, seeing as negative emotions inhibit their magic, and they cannot block other's emotions out.
  • With This Ring: Paul is able at first to use his ring to view people's desires, and with enough effort, the memories associated with those desires (he eventually learns that it works by directly examining the person's soul). After his Fusion Dance with the universal embodiment of avarice leaves him with Enlightenment Superpowers, his empathic vision expands to include other emotions, and no longer requires the ring. It's still associated with the orange light, though, and can feel quite invasive to those who are sensitive to such things, such as the Zamarons. He also usually restricts himself to scanning surface-level emotions as a concession to privacy.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Firing Range, the tank being tested can sense hate and fear, and extends that sensing into reading minds in order to avoid attacks and how to kill the enemy.
  • Sadness's role in Inside Out. Throughout the film, she feels compelled to touch Riley's memories, even though Joy and the others discourage her from doing so. By not allowing her to touch the memories, Riley became depressed and almost ran away from home. Thanks to Sadness, she abandoned her plan to run away and told her parents how much she missed Minnesota.
    • After Bing Bong loses his wagon in the pit of Forgotten Memories, Sadness comforts him by recalling of all the good times he and Riley shared. Her method of making him feel better was more effective than Joy's failed attempt.
  • Sunset Shimmer, the Ex-Big Bad Manipulative Bitch from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls undergoes a rather humbling defeat, turns her life around, and eventually becomes the series new Hero Protagonist, gradually developing into a Team Mom and The Confidant for the main cast. When the whole group gains superpowers in Legend of Everfree, Sunset gets a Touch Telepathy variant of this power, which does come with the ability to also see people's memories and thoughts. Word of God even spells it out as Empathy and the would-be seventh Element of Harmony.note  While it initially seems underwhelming compared to the much flashier powers the others got, Sunset is the only one not to suffer Power Incontinence, as she is in fact helping the others get them under control and uses her own to help her fulfill her role as The Leader much better. She also had a rather impressive skillset even before these powers came into the picture.
  • Parodied in Team America: World Police where the resident empath would sense feelings that were bleeding obvious. Stuff like saying "I sense you're confused" to a person that has just been transported to a base inside Mount Rushmore by means of a flying limo. She was far more useful, however, when it came to just shooting people.
    • The best part? "I sense I'm going down!" (after her plane has just been shot down)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is capable of not only reading emotions but also modifying them to some extent. This winds up being critically important in the climax as she is able to force Ego to sleep while the team is in a particularly vulnerable state, thwarting one of his attacks. She ends up doing the same thing again to Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
    • The effects of having such powers is also played more horrifyingly here: after Thanos' Badass Fingersnap, Mantis is so overwhelmed with the onslaught of fear, confusion, and grief of trillions of people dying that the only thing she can say is "Something is happening..." complete with a Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • Dan Smithson, the character played by Forrest Whittaker in the sci-fi film Species, is an empath, although he's played up as more of a Captain Obvious. His power also has a tendency to only work as the plot demands it, such as when he's able to sense someone outside a door and the emotions of the alien hottie while watching a recording of her, but they mysteriously vanish on numerous occasions, such as when a wino manages to catch him by surprise by hiding behind a dumpster.
  • Star Wars:
    • Most (if not all) Jedi are empaths, but to what extent depends on how Force-sensitive one is, as well as their personality. This one has the downside of causing a psychic backlash if the user is overwhelmed by it.
    • May also be exploited by enemies. The most poignant example would be in Revenge of the Sith where the Jedi didn't see the Clone Army's betrayal coming because the clones had no emotional motive like exhilaration, hatred, or fear when eliminating the Jedi — it was all cold business to them.
    • Atton Rand is pretty blunt about how he is able to use walls of basic emotions — anger, lust, etc. to shield himself from most Jedi mind tricks, as well as how effective it was in his previous life as a Sith hunter/torturer.
    • Indeed HK-47 in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords notes people capable of projecting strong emotions are best able to hide their intent and surprise attack Jedi. Revan appreciates the irony that those who experienced emotion were best able to take on the Jedi who suppressed it.
    • The Expanded Universe has the Zeltrons, a race full of empaths. They're a slight subversion as it doesn't cripple their ability to fight, and it doesn't really cause them pain. Their society places a high value on joy and pleasure (especially sexual pleasure), and is widely considered a "party planet." Most invaders to Zeltros quickly found themselves partying with the natives instead of conquering the place. On the downside, it means Force-Sensitive Zeltrons aren't really suited to Jedi "there is no emotion; there is peace" stoicism, but the "deviant" ones who enjoy the pain of others make great Sith (who have embracing their passions as a philosophy).
  • X-Men Film Series: Although Professor X is a full-fledged telepath, he's the personification of empathy (especially in the First Class trilogy) within the film series. He can be finely attuned to the emotions of others, feeling exactly what they feel. At its worst, he suffers from Power Incontinence, which turns his existence into a living hell because his mind is perpetually engulfed by people's pain. At its best, it's the true source of Xavier's strength because being so highly receptive to the mental state of his friends and students is his key to harnessing The Power of Love, which plays a crucial role in saving the world and his life in X-Men: Apocalypse. The elder Professor X asserts that empathy is their most precious quality when he consoles his younger self in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
    "It's not their pain you're afraid of. It's yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It's the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking."

  • The Tesks in Alien in a Small Town have a non-mystical version of this. They were genetically engineered as Super Soldiers, but the fact that they incorporate DNA from various animals (including a heightened sense of smell and a nonverbal animal's instinctive skill at reading body language) and were designed with heightened situational awareness, had the unintended side effect that they can read almost anyone like an open book. Aliens (who are always nonhumanoid in this setting) are a source of frustration to them because they're different enough to be unreadable. However, someone who spends enough time around aliens can start to pick up on their body language.
  • Book of the Ancestor: one power of Marjal-blooded people (also usable by Quantals) is to recognize and manipulate other people's feelings. Brother Markus as well as Zole are very strong empaths who can effortlessly persuade people to lose interest in whatever they were doing and set them on a new path with a few choice words and new feelings.
  • Detective Clink in Clink Begins is an unwilling version of this trope; not only can he feel others' feelings, but he can force them to feel his.
  • This is one of the secondary abilities of watercrafters in the Codex Alera series. This can often fall under Blessed with Suck unless they have an equivalent talent for metalcrafting: While they can sense emotions and nearly always tell when someone's lying to them, they can also be disabled by being overwhelmed with emotion, and don't tend to deal with crowds well. And then there's Odiana, who was raped just after her abilities manifested, and, well... the results are about what you'd expect.
    • The Icemen use a variant form of watercrafting that has allowed them to develop their empathic abilities to the point of being effectively telepathy. Unfortunately, this also lead to their conflict with the Alerans — their sensing human fear and hostility towards themselves, and sending it back magnified, wound up creating centuries of continuous, tactically pointless warfare.
  • The titular dog of A Dog's Purpose has a highly evolved (literally in this case) ability to sense the emotions of humans around him by reading body language and tone of voice; a trait it's believed dogs evolved when domesticated to allow them to work better with humans. While he doesn't understand context of situations around him, he always knows exactly the emotions humans are feeling, and often discusses what emotions he senses radiating from a person. It's implied all dogs have this trait.
  • Molly Carpenter of The Dresden Files evolves into this as she becomes more proficient with magic. Her skill set is very powerful; unfortunately, to use it against a person, she must go inside that person's mind and feel what they feel. When fighting criminals and Eldritch Abominations, for example, her mental stability is adversely affected.
  • Valashu Elahad of the Ea Cycle possesses the power of empathy which can be not so useful when he's feeling the pain of someone he kills in battle. Potentially his gift could be a powerful weapon to break the wills of other people, but that would be going to The Dark Side and becoming similar to the Big Bad.
  • In the Firebird Trilogy, the Ehretans (the ancestors of the Sentinels and the Shuhr) created telepathy specifically to gain this power (and the ability to communicate from mind to mind); the telekinesis and other abilities were just fringe benefits. The idea was that if everyone understood how everyone else was feeling and what they were thinking, there would be perfect understanding and no more war. It... didn't work out that way.note 
  • "Flies": When they were in college, Polen believed that emotion is the common bond of life, rather than reason or intellect. They went into cybernetics and analyzed brainwaves and Body Language until he could read the emotions of people and animals just by looking at them, even flies! However, seeing the unconscious violence roiling away underneath empty platitudes and white lies affixed Jade-Colored Glasses to him permanently.
  • Foundation Series' "The Mule": In addition to controlling emotions, the Mule can understand a rough idea of what someone is feeling, but he can't read minds for specific information.
  • Harry Potter gets the creepy version of sharing Voldemort's emotions when they are particularly strong.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar series features characters with a wide range of Psychic Powers (called Gifts), among them both Empathy (the ability to sense emotions in others) and Mindhealing (the ability to project emotions). Empathy is seen as particularly powerful because it can penetrate most magical and psychic shields.
    • The showcase character for Empathy is Talia, protagonist of the Arrows trilogy. At first, she doesn't know how to control her power and has a hard time finding anyone who can properly train her in it, leading to a lot of heartbreak as she nearly kills herself and others. Even after she manages to train herself properly with the aid of a Gift instructor, she struggles with the morality of it, such as whether it's acceptable to read the emotional state of a Councillor and use that against him — or worse, influence him directly. The most aggressive use she makes of her power is to literally Mind Rape a man who had raped his daughters into experiencing it from their perspective in an endless loop until he repents. She otherwise functions as the Queen's Own Herald, a confidant and key advisor to the Monarch, and is considered The Heart of the Heralds in general.
    • Most Healers have Empathy as a component of their Gift; in fact, a key sign that someone is developing the Healing gift is if they start to manifest empathy. This can drive them mad if not detected and trained early enough, as they become unable to separate their emotions from those of other people. In The Black Gryphon, both Amberdrake and Winterhart are victims of this in their respective backstories; each requires intensive therapy to resume a normal life.
    • Vanyel Ashkevron in The Last Herald-Mage is a latent Empath, along with his other talents. When his mental and magical channels are blasted open due to a magical accident, his suicidal agony is so great that he has to be sedated lest he incapacitate half the Herald's Collegium.
    • Hadanelith in The White Gryphon is a rare example of an evil Mindhealer; he uses his powers to manipulate people into "willingly" enslaving themselves to him as well as to determine the most effective ways to torture them.
    • Bards employ a form of projective Empathy that manifests itself through their music, allowing them to make their audience feel the emotion of their songs. The Bardic College requires extensive coursework on the ethics of using the gift.
  • A male example, in Hidden Talents and its sequel, the protagonist's power is the ability to sense emotions of others. he doesn't realize this power until the very end, and doesn't start using it until the sequel, True Talents, came out.
  • The treecats in Honor Harrington have an empathic link with their adopted humans, but can also sense basic emotions of other people around him. Combine that ability with their agility, claws, and fiercely protective nature of their adopted human, and you get a cute, fuzzy Killer Rabbit that tears out the throats of well-armed, disguised assassins. With other treecats they're full-blown telepaths, but full communication with humans, even bonded ones, requires them to learn a form of sign language.
  • Flinx, the star character of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series, is an Empath with apparently near-infinite potential, thanks to a group of rogue geneticists. Too bad he has almost no control over the power and is constantly hunted by people seeking to "fix", manipulate, or kill him for it. The series has gradually taken him from idealism to cynicism to near-pathological despair over time and shows no signs of letting up, especially as his power is apparently the key to saving the entire known universe.
  • InCryptid: Lilu (succubi and incubi) have this as a natural ability. Artie describes the emotions he perceives in a Tastes Like Purple/Magical Sensory Effect way.
  • Elva, from Inheritance Cycle. Perhaps a deconstruction, as she is heavily burdened with the negative side effects of empathy, and starts as a Blessed with Suck Jerkass Woobie and eventually moves towards Cursed with Awesome Antiheroine.
  • Imriel de la Courcel of the Kushiel's Legacy series. His particular version allowed him to detect "fault lines" in a personality, which he could then exploit to manipulate them. A particularly interesting and well-written example, because it was a potentially tremendously powerful ability that he could have used to take over the kingdom, but never did — principally because he was (thanks to being raised by his benevolent foster parents) such a nice guy. In fact, he almost never used it at all. His biological mother, on the other hand, was a thoroughly evil murderess who used the same ability to repeatedly try to take over the kingdom.
  • Interesting version in Robert Silverberg's The Man In The Maze. The titular man gains, as a result of contact with alien race, an inverted version of empathy — he doesn't receive emotions, he constantly projects his own. All of them, down to and including subconscious ones. As it turns out, these deep human emotions are mostly quite unpleasant... As a result, nobody can stay close to him for any length of time (the strength of the psychic barrage is decreasing with distance), and he has to hide in the nigh-inaccessible maze.
  • MARZENA has Dr. Lauren, who can put herself in the shoes of criminals, as well as directly mind-merge with her boss.
  • Melissa the Mindcaster from Midnighters gets the Blessed with Suck version of this trope. She feels the emotions of everyone around her, all the time, without any way to tune out the mind noise. It leaves her barely able to function in a high school classroom and has given her a pretty cynical outlook on life. Her powers are useful, though, from mundane things like avoiding cops when the Midnighters drive around past curfew to changing people's minds in order to help the group.
  • Greg Mandel from Peter F. Hamilton's Mindstar series is a private detective with empathic powers. He is also an ex-military hardcase and can do some other things with his mind, but he finds his empathic ability very useful when interrogating suspects. He uses word association interrogation and sees when their feeling of guilt spikes.
  • Ashley Morgan in The Morgan Detective Agency is an empath that was genetically engineered from a Mage Species. She is also a low-level telekentic. Oddly, her ability to feel other people's emotions just makes her jaded due to New Detroit being a Wretched Hive.
  • Played with in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and its sequel. People afflicted with hyperempathy syndrome only hallucinate that they are able to feel the pain of others. The effect is real to them, but they feel only what they imagine others are feeling, so it's more of a psychological condition.
  • In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Rose can taste the emotions of whoever cooked her food in the food. This leads to her either cooking her own food or eating junk food.
  • Sean Stewart has an interesting take on empaths in Passion Play. In the world of the book, there are tens of thousands of empaths all over the world, called shapers. Both the protagonist and the villain are shapers, and the protagonist uses this ability in her job as a bounty hunter, so she can understand the people she is tracking and anticipate what they might do next. Shapers not only feel the emotions of others as if they were their own, they can also perceive people's personalities as a sort of mental image, which varies depending on the individual shaper's perceptions. For example, a shaper who encounters a young and naíve person may get a mental image of a young spring leaf, whereas meeting a cold, brilliant perfectionist may evoke the image of a gleaming diamond in that shaper's mind, and meeting an extremely religious person may evoke the image of a candle lighting up the surrounding darkness. Shapers can also experience a form of mental burnout or numbness from being overloaded by emotions, and some of the more psychopathic shapers may try to cause pain in others or commit violence just so that they can feel something again after they experience burnout for too long.
  • In Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Chronicles, sheltering in a mother dragon's womb can give one superhuman abilities, including becoming an empath. There is a whole mountain tribe that has killed thousands of female dragons after they lay their eggs, just for the children to have the abilities. If they combine their minds, they can send out a force field strong enough to knock out a grown man.
  • Planet of the Damned's main character had empathy that he used in fights to read the subtle change in his opposition's emotions, effectively predicting their attacks before they happened.
  • Rachel Peng of the Rachel Peng Novels and the webcomic A Girl and Her Fed acquires empathic abilities after going blind. She sees emotions as colors — everyone has a never-changing core color, with "conversational" or "surface" colors on top showing their current mood. Blue for calm, red for anger, and so on. As a cop, it comes in handy when she needs to talk someone down, interrogate a suspect, or watch for someone about to pull a gun.
  • Rebuild World: Taken deadly serious with an inversion: instead of sensing others' emotions, it's overriding others' emotions with one's own. The Reveal is that all Old World Connectors like Akira and Katsuya do this unconsciously. For Akira, it resulted in spreading the view of himself as weak and his own suspicions being added to others' natural suspicion, causing a Trauma Conga Line of betrayals due to growing up in the Wrong Side of the Tracks. For Katsuya, it results in extreme persuasiveness bordering on unconscious mind-control, even those who hate him believing he's stronger than he really is, and amassing a Battle Harem who start to resemble a Hive Mind with how they share his feelings.
  • In James White's Sector General series, Doctor Prilicla is a member of an empathic insectoid race; he finds it distressing to be in the presence of strong emotion, and acts as a peacemaker in self-defense. He's a case of Heart Is an Awesome Power; uses his empathy to pinpoint the locations of patients who need rescuing, and can use his power to help keep them alive by bolstering their spirits. While it wouldn't be useful for a superhero, it made Prilicla one of the most valuable members of Sector General. He is only able to use his empathy in that way because he has the personal courage to willingly expose himself to others' pain and desperation, not to mention physical danger.
  • In Skin Hunger, Sadima can do this with animals. Only with animals, though, she cannot read the emotions of humans. It is a bit like talking to animals, as she can communicate her own thoughts to the animals, too, but she doesn't use audible language.
  • Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina: Feltipern Trevagg, as a Gotal, is able to sense other beings' emotions, plus people with the Force (like Obi-Wan Kenobi). He finds this annoying usually and doesn't sympathize when detecting sorrow from others over his actions.
  • One of the main characters in Tales of Elethiya is a mysterious empath unsure of her abilities who, along with her gift of visions and dreams, is also able to sense the energy and motives of those around her. She may also have the ability to read animals, but is still unsure of her powers and afraid at times to use them, or share the information she's gained with others, in fear she may have gotten things wrong.
  • The "sensitives" in Ian Irvine's The Three Worlds Cycle. As one character puts it: "Whatever you feel, I feel more."
  • Time Scout's Ianira and Margo have an instant connection thanks to their shared abilities and background, hence Ianira, prophetess and priestess of Artemis, immediately wants to train Margo.
    • Later in the same book, Wagers of Sin, Ianira instantly senses that a man's tears upon waking aren't due to his injuries and weeks of privation, but due to the sorrows of his traumatic childhood and lonely adulthood.
  • Sachi Ishida of Tokyo Demons needs to be able to have direct contact with a person in order to gauge their emotions effectively. His problem is that the way he does it causes people to think he's trying to make a move on them, so even when he's trying to help, he ends up pushing them away.
  • Casper of Touch (2017) is one, who is unfortunately unable to turn it off, and consequently spends most of his time trying not to drown in other people's feelings.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Erowin can sense and influence the feelings of others, which she uses to calm wild animals and sense hostile intent.
    • The sequel, Legacy of the Dragokin has a contrasting example: Mordak can manipulate others because he learned empathy from living inside human minds.
  • Cammon of the Twelve Houses series is a very cool and effective version of this trope. His powers enable him to act as a Living Lie Detector, and not only read others’ emotions but influence them. He can also sense the presence of other people nearby. He also is not prone to cryptic or vague remarks, though he sometimes tends to forget that everyone else can't sense what he does and fail to pass on valuable information.
  • The Twilight Saga:
    • Jasper Hale can infuse emotions of other sentient beings and can also feel them. One of the reasons he became a Vegetarian Vampire was because he could feel the pain of his many, many victims.
    • Marcus, one of the Volturi leaders, can feel and identify the relationships between individuals. He can also feel what bonds are strong or weak.
    • Subverted with Jane. She can make people feel stuff, mainly pain, but appears to be unable to feel what others feel. Renesmée Cullen, Bella's daughter with Edward, has a variation of this, in that she can share what she thinks to others (an opposite of Edward's mind-reading powers).
    • Chelsea, a Volturi member introduced in the final novel, can change emotional bondings between people. She is among the most valued members of the coven because everyone else can be made to stay loyal through her power alone.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Jayfeather is able to sense other cats' emotions, which can be a useful skill for a medicine cat.
    • Yellowfang is revealed in her Super Edition to be able to feel other cats' pain, which is a huge hindrance in battle, but again, very useful for a medicine cat, which is why she changes careers.
  • In The Wheel of Time, one of the attributes of the Aes Sedai/Warder bond (and its variations) gives those involved the ability to sense each other's emotions.
    • Also, when channelers enter into a circle together, they can feel the others involved to a certain degree.
  • In the Wings of Fire series, Blue is a non-psychic version. His hobby is "becoming" other dragons, where he spends time imagining their lives and figuring out what causes them to act the way they do. Because of this, he's one of the few SilkWings who doesn't perceive the HiveWings as Always Chaotic Evil — which helps him become friends with Cricket.
  • In The Witchlands, Threadwitches can see other people's Threads, which represent their emotions and connections to others. Iseult additionally uses it to assist her combat and detect traps, as her Threadwitchery always alerts her to where other people are.
  • In Zeroes, Mob can sense the emotions of crowds, and also influence them to a degree. Bellwether also has Emotion Control powers which include the ability to sense the emotions of others, but his power is more clinically distant: he doesn't personally experience those emotions the way Mob does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 7 sees Melina May become one of these, due to her Near-Death Experience on an alien planet. She starts the season feeling nothing at all herself, then begins to feel other people's emotions in place of her own. Then she gets her own emotions back, but still senses those of others.
  • Angel:
    • Lorne, whose empathic abilities came out when people sang. His future-telling skills were about as reliable as a cheap fortune cookie though.
    • Also the demon Barney in "Parting Gifts".
    • Illyria can sense (and is disgusted by) Wesley's grief. In later episodes, she also senses his desire for her when she takes Fred's form and calls him on it when he rejects the idea of sleeping with Fred!Illyria.
  • Babylon 5 had a much better version of the traditional empath; instead of emotion sense à la downgraded telepathy, he had emotion manipulation à la downgraded mind control. It didn't work out very well for him, but running willy-nilly with the power on Garibaldi's watch was a bad idea.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • In later seasons, Phoebe develops the abilities of an empath in addition to being able to see disjointed images of the future. This is one of the few times that a person with such abilities is referred to as an empath. Her powers were slightly cooler than normal empaths as all magic in-series is linked to emotions; control of emotions allows you to control other people's powers.
    • A more dangerous version is featured in an earlier episode. Thinking they are saving an innocent, they transfer empathy from a demon to Prue, only to find out she is feeling all the emotions, and the demon is being punished with it.
    • There is one rather Squicky moment where Phoebe realizes that a guy they are talking to is having erotic thoughts about her sister and, due to her powers, she is too. Cue Phoebe running out of the room.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor seems to have some form of this power along with his telepathy, although pure receptive empathy is only explicitly used by the Ninth Doctor. It's implied that it's a normal sense for Time Lords to have (apparently the Master is disabled in this regard). Given the Doctor's often oblivious behavior, one assumes that he normally blocks his empathic perception, perhaps out of respect for his companions' privacy.
      The Doctor: Can't you sense it?
      Jack: Sense what?
      The Doctor: Coming out of the walls, can't you feel it?!
      Rose and Jack: ...
      The Doctor: Funny little human brains. How do you get around in those things?
      The Doctor: It's afraid. Terribly afraid. And powerful. It doesn't know it yet — but it will do.
    • A more realistic version appears in one of the last 11th Doctor episodes. A woman who is good at picking up on the emotions of those around her, feels more deeply than the average person, and possesses plot-important but very mild psychic abilities. The Doctor notes that empaths are often the most compassionate people in the world, but also often the most lonely.
  • Both Stark and Zhaan from Farscape had this to varying degrees and applications. Stark used his abilities to ease the passage of a person's life from this world to the next, and since he was part of a slave race, he had to do this quite a lot. Left him a bit weepy, cringing, and fatalistic. Zhaan had this and other abilities from her training as a Pa'au priestess, and while it would sometimes cause her some pain, she had an underlying core of tranquility to keep her strong.
  • Musa from Fate: The Winx Saga has the ability to perceive the feelings of people and nature. She's also able to absorb other emotions such as pain to ease the other person's.
  • This is River's power in Firefly. It's unusually effective as she uses it to see things she can't possibly know, but her unstable psyche means they come out as what sounds like stereotypical crazy, symbolic phrases. Also she can sense thoughts directly, which leads to the plot of Serenity.
  • The title character of Ghostwriter can sense the feelings of his friends the Ghostwriter Team, which is how he always knows where they are or when one of them is having a problem. His empathic powers are so strong that in "Get the Message", when the team is in a nasty fight, their anger seriously hurts him.
  • All of the female Merriwicks seem to have some ability in this area in Good Witch. Along with their Contrived Coincidence abilities, it makes them incredibly good at Batman Gambits, although they're always benevolent.
  • Hannibal: Will Graham is a rare non-psychic example. His gift of "pure empathy" allows him to get into the minds of the criminals that he hunts and causes him many troubles along the way. As it turns out, reliving brutal murders from the eyes of the perpetrator can be quite harmful to one's mental health.
  • Peter Petrelli of Heroes is described by another character as an "empath", but this appears to refer to his ability to reproduce other characters' powers (nominally by recalling his emotional reaction/connection to those characters, though this has not been explored in depth), rather than directly psionically sensing their emotions or mental state.
    • Matt Parkman is a much straighter version of this trope, as his power allows him to read the surface thoughts of nearby people, dig deeper into their minds to read the secrets they're actively trying to hide, and ultimately, to create realistic dreamscapes and trap people in them. As one character has said, "Anything the mind controls, you control."
    • Lydia's empathy manifests as tattoos linked to what the person is feeling.
    • The Serial Killer Sylar's power-copying abilities are actually based around this. If he is able to empathize deeply with a powered individual, he can copy their powers. However, his secondary ability is the "power to understand how things work", which manifests as a Horror Hunger to duplicate and collect abilities. Succumbing to the hunger makes him have to work around the whole needing-to-empathize limit by physically cutting into people's skulls to understand and duplicate their abilities.
  • Pandora: Thomas frequently has to explain to people that, while his father has Telepathy, he only got half the telepath genes thanks to his non-telepathic mother, so he's just an Empath and can't actually read thoughts, just emotions.
  • Teyla, The Heart from Stargate Atlantis, has a cross between empathy and telepathy. The twist is that she can only sense the Wraith (the Big Bads) with this power. This is subverted in that it does not lead to fainting spells, but rather to awesome asskicking when her power allows her to get possessed by the Wraith. A notable season 1 episode features her going berserk and flooring the whole team with an IV stand in the infirmary.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Counselor Deanna Troi is the archetype in most SF fans' minds. note  Thus, she is the reason many of them think the empath is useless. Aliens could be invading the ship and she would say something like "I sense danger". This was lampshaded by her mother Lwaxana, who is an actual telepath of considerable ability. In the episode "Manhunt", Lwaxana expresses astonishment that nobody else noticed that two alien "ambassadors" were actually assassins whose robes were laden with hidden explosives.
    • At least the TOS-version in the episode, "The Empath", could heal using her empathy powers, treating health as Liquid Assets.
    • There is also a rare example of a male Empath in the TNG episode "Tin Man" with Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener, the Mayor in Buffy), although in his case he is actually a telepath so sensitive that he cannot block out the thoughts of everyone anywhere near him (even on other starships) that boards an alien life-form to get away from everybody else.
    • In the episode "The Perfect Mate" there is an "empathic metamorph" whose powers tell her exactly what others would find sexually attractive. It's stated that this ability occurs more often in males of her species but we are not shown an example.
    • Vulcan telepathy can also double as empathy, but both are limited to physical contact. (With the exception of bonded couples.)
  • Raw, the "Cowardly Lion" analogue in Tin Man is a pretty powerful one of these, with clairvoyance as a "side." Also an Empathic Healer.
  • Wire in the Blood has Dr. Tony Hill, who basically becomes the killers by seeing and understanding how they think and feel. He can't fight for crap but uses his weaponized empathy to save himself time and again when he inevitably attracts stalkers. Which he does. A lot.
  • The main focus of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, except the titular Zoey can sense the emotions of others through seeing and hearing them sing and dance.

  • Rise of the Believers has many empaths to choose from. Cupid, Aphrodite, the Boogey Man, gifted humans,most various deities, fae, aliens, etc. Don't be too surprised if empathy wars break out with this many empaths walking around.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Argent class is a psionic character that can manipulate the emotions of both its enemies and its allies. Most of their attacks either boost their allies' stats or degrade their enemies'. This class, in the role-playing sections, are either played as larger than life, feeling their emotions more powerfully than normal and being influenced by/influencing their environment... or, as a twist, to be The Stoic who always tries to keep their emotions in. The rule book makes a point to mention that while playing them as loud, emotional types is okay, you have to be careful not to turn them into a caricature.
    • Ravenloft: The fallen paladin Elena Faith-hold was Blessed with Suck by the Dark Powers, who took her former Detect Evil class ability and made it detect strong emotions directed at her instead. The self-deluded darklord now registers others' hatred, fear, or love for her as "Evil", and smacks them accordingly.
  • Gamma World had an interesting twist on the idea: "Badders" (a race of humanoid badgers) were all empaths... and complete jerkasses on account of having to put up with the bad vibes of other badders all the time.
  • GURPS: Empathy is a minor advantage that works only on people. Other versions work on Spirits, Animals, and Plants. The most important effect is that even creatures who are normally immune to manipulation can be convinced of things by a person with the appropriate Empathy power.
  • In Nomine: The Elohim, an angelic choir, can sense a person's emotions, determine why they feel the way they feel, and determine how they'll react to any given situation.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The hobbit-like kithkin from the world of Lorwyn are a race of friendly country-dwellers with an empathic bond to each other called thoughtweft.
    • Aetherborn from the world of Kaladesh have this ability as well, and since they can't eat or drink themselves, they instead throw lavish parties just to revel in the sensations of other people's enjoyment of such things; aetherborn are generally a very hedonistic take on this trope.
  • Shadowrun gives this ability to Adepts, called Empathic Sense. However, because of the system, it's near-universal for an Adept to possess other, more useful abilities as well.
  • Talislanta: Muses are strongly empathic, so much so that they prefer to let little fairy-type critters called "whisps" translate their desires into speech rather than talk out loud. Muses can also become Emotion Bombs or even project hallucinations into others' minds in a pinch, although they keep quiet about these powers because they're peaceful and hate using them.
  • Warhammer 40,000: A downplayed and painfully subverted trope with the Primarch Angron, who was initially supposed to be this; flashbacks to his youth as a gladiator show that he was able to take the pain, fear, and despair of his fellow slaves into himself, granting them peaceful sleep and restored spirits. Unfortunately, the nobility of Nuceria lobotomized him with the Butcher's Nails-a device meant to heighten his rage and hatred-as punishment for defying their commands to duel and kill his father figure, neutering his empathic abilities before the young demigod could reach his full potential. Thus he was reduced to the bloodthirsty maniac we know him as today, and another tragedy was added to the already long list of the Imperial Household.

    Video Games 
  • Averted (or something) in City of Heroes, where Empathy just means Healing.
    • Using health as Liquid Assets shows up in their Absorb Pain ability, which is the strongest heal in the game but damages the caster. It's the only true empath-style power, though.
  • Cole from Dragon Age: Inquisition has the ability to sense people's hurts, and spends his free time helping people — often in roundabout but clever ways. Rather fitting for a spirit of Compassion. He was a somewhat darker version of this in the past when his idea of 'compassion' was to Mercy Kill the mages being victimized by Templars. There's a reason someone who wants to help people all the time has Assassin as his specialization. Swift kills mean shorter pains, and he will immediately be compelled to help anyone who feels pain and especially compelled to eliminate people who inflict pain onto others.
  • Deconstructed with F.E.A.R.'s Alma, who was highly sensitive to the emotions of those around her — and the strongest emotions were negative ones, which rapidly proceeded to drive her completely insane.
  • All laguz in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn are said to have this to various degrees during calm situations as a manifestation of seid magic, a form of magic far older than the tomes and staves used in gameplay. The heron clan is particularly well-known for this ability, while dragons are said to be even stronger. Some branded, particularly those descended from the heron and dragon clans, are also known to display this ability.
  • Galaxy Angel: Mint Blancmanche and the entire Blancmanche family. Her father has used it to become incredibly wealthy, so much so that the enemy doesn't attack Blancmanche ships probably in fear of destroying the economy.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, Niyon of the Eternals has the ability to hear the emotions of people around her, in form of a melody. And to an extent manipulate it with her own instrument, as those feelings are amplified or countered by music and she's a very good musician.
  • This is Alex Chen's ability in Life Is Strange: True Colors.
  • DLC character Javik in Mass Effect 3. He can read the emotions left over in an area inhabited by an individual, and by touching someone, he can determine their personality, merits, and flaws within seconds. This was a power inherent to the Prothean race (evolving as a means to better track prey), and the various beacons they left behind were built in the expectation that later species could do the same; Javik is a little put out to hear that the vitally important information his people put on them went disregarded because nobody could figure out what they were saying.
  • Psycho Mantis is this in the Metal Gear Solid series. However, he's unable to control whose thoughts he hears, so he was constantly assailed by everyone's mind since he was born, with 'evil thoughts' in particular invading his mind. Considering how much of a Crapsack World the Metal Gear 'verse is, it's not surprising that by the time he was ten years old he already hated humanity and wanted to kill everyone. His powerful empath abilities also mean he became the most blatant and iconic example in the Metal Gear series of Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Alice Devonfort is supernaturally attuned to the emotions of others in interactive romance novel Moonrise.
  • Pokémon
    • In Generation 3, Ralts (the Feeling Pokémon) and its evolutions, Kirlia (the Emotion Pokémon), Gardevoir (the Embrace Pokémon), and Gallade (the Blade Pokémon) are empaths. They can sense people's emotions with their horns and usually take on the emotion their trainer is feeling. If a Ralts senses hostility in the area, it will hide immediately. If Kirlia have trainers who are shown to express positive emotions, their attacks grow stronger and they even become more beautiful than normal Kirlia. Gardevoir and Gallade take this even further, as both evolutions gravitate towards trainers who have strongly emotional dispositions and become protective of them as well. Their abilities reflect this within the actual game mechanics, as well. Trace copies their opponent's ability, and Synchronize will inflict their opponent with a status effect that they're affected by.
    • According to their Pokédex entries, both Riolu and Lucario from Generation 4 can also read the emotions of others via Aura.
    • Generation 8's Hatenna and Impidimp lines are a darker spin on this as the former becomes absolutely distressed and overwhelmed by any strong emotion, with the later evolutions outright attacking anyone who so much as experiences a slightly strong emotion within several mile radii, while the latter feeds upon negative emotions such as annoyance.
  • The Liir and the Zuul from Sword of the Stars. The former are a species of pacifistic dolphin telepaths to whom the concept of violence is abominable because they feel the pain of everyone hurt around them. The latter are a species of telepaths who like feeling other people's pain, and delight in causing as much of it as possible. It goes without saying that the two really don't get along (even when we don't take into account their history).
    • The Liir's empathy is so strong that they consider everyone in their military to be sociopaths, and even then the suicide rate among Black Swimmers is high.
    • In the sequel a faction of Zuul ally themselves with the Liir, they adapt their mind-ripping ability to psychotherapy.
    • The Suul'Ka (sociopathic Liir elders who enslaved the others so they could cheat death) are even worse than the Zuul. They actively reject empathy as a weakness. Their empathy is even stronger than the average Liir's empathy and they still don't care about the suffering of their victims.
  • Neku from The World Ends with You...the very last person one would expect to wield such a power, given that he really doesn't like people.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/hollow ataraxia, the character Caren Ortensia was born with the ability to "feel" demons, which in Nasuverse are phenomena that (try to) take away pain from humans. Whenever anyone does something bad or hurtful near her, she feels the pain equally. In the most extreme case, giant spikes erupt from her body if Avenger even approaches her (which is why she's always covered in bandages).
  • In Love, Election & Chocolate, one character can perceive other people's emotions as colors. The protagonist theorizes that she developed this ability as a means of surviving her abusive surroundings as a small child. She's also the only powered character, as the setting is otherwise realistic.

    Web Animation 

  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures Cubi can sense emotions, as they comprise their diet. It's often a disadvantage in combat, but not for the usual reason; rather than feeling everything their opponents feel, they get blinded by the emotions and fight like drunkards.
  • Kili of The Dragon Doctors is a shaman who doubles as a therapist (not far off from Deanna Troi of TNG) and does possess certain empathic abilities. As a full-fledged shaman, though, she possesses a lot more tricks than merely stating the obvious emotional state of someone.
  • Drowtales:
    • Faen from the Sullisin'rune clan in are Empaths, and known for going mad as a result. Besides healing and sensing/projecting emotions Faen turned a teacher into a vegetable mentally and seriously wounded another student when she had a freakout that lead to her running away to the surface. She also turned an already dangerous, battle-trained direwolf into a berserker thanks to an emotional feedback loop of fear (from her) and anger (from the wolf), apparently instinctively, in a fit of Power Incontinence.
    • Her mother Ash'waren is the same, only with control over her powers and about 1000 years of experience. Due to prejudices against dark elves, she does a masquerade and use her Empathy to disguise herself as a drowolath, an illusion she has no problem to uphold in front of a council of great and small clans of the city they live in, a crowded market and her own clan. Exactly how powerful she is is not known, and if Faen's freakout is any indication, nobody wants to find out. It was mentioned by the creators in a podcast that if she doesn't shield her emotions, her mood might affect everyone living inside the Sullissin'rune clan's town-sized dome. Did we mention that she has the Drowtales version of Temujin/Ghenghis Khan more or less wrapped around her little finger?
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Uryuoms (and greater chimera) have empathic abilities they use instead of pheromones, as well as low-grade telepathy. Both are related to their antennae.
    • Magus was taught how to sense and amplify emotions by Pandora, which is the only way he can interact with the physical world while trapped in limbo. Even those powers are seriously limited though; at most he can tip people over the edge if they're suppressing an emotion or otherwise fragile. If the target isn't already feeling the desired emotion, they won't even notice his influence.
  • The Oculots in Enemy Quest are a form of this, living in a perpetual state of sonder, constantly aware that everyone around them has a life outside of theirs, complete with their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They combine this with a form of sightline based telepathy, but using their telepathic power on a non-Oculot has consequences for the non-Oculot. The killing Oculot suffers too, as they receive feedback from the non-Oculot in the form of "Last thoughts. Bits of memories, [...] And how it feels to die."
  • Evil Plan: Anguish is a villain Empath; capable of psychically understanding the feelings of those around them, but too angry and ambitious to let the pain his victims feel from being betrayed and stabbed to death stop them.
  • In Genocide Man Giri's tribe of genetically engineered blonde Eskimos have a non-psychic version, they are very good at reading subtle body cues to the point where they can practically read minds, and manipulating others. When Jacob comes to wipe them out they convince him to spare them, and push him over the edge to suicide, though Giri is trying to change his mind on that bit.
  • A form of Blessed with Suck in leveL, where empathy is treated as a severe disease. Probably because it drives you catatonic after a while.
  • Any, of M9 Girls! can read emotions and, when she concentrates enough, have an incipient telepathy. She can be blocked from reading very deep emotions, however.
  • In Metanoia, it was revealed that main character Star is an empath, which makes the fact that he worked as a (very efficient) assassin even worse, or as one character put it upon realizing this: "He dies with them. Every murder is a suicide."
  • Sarilho: the Lusitanians in general and Fausta in particular. The Foreigner seems to be able to do it too.
  • In Siren's Lament, sirens can detect a human suffering heartache — they literally see a glowing heart on the chest.
  • Parodied in Starslip. Raquel turns out to have this ability due to being a telepathic Quel, but when she started doing Troi's "I'm sensing emotions" schtick, she had to clarify that it wasn't the emotions of the people they were talking to, and in fact she cannot sense emotions behind the room she's in.
  • Richard Dark from Xenospora is a downplayed example. It manifests as a way for him to know his opponents' intentions.

    Web Original 
  • Brennus: The Protege is the only known 'sympathetic empath', able to interact with people piloting remote-controlled equipment in his range, regardless of their actual distance.
  • The Bright Sessions: Caleb feels the emotions of others, which is not a good ability to have when you're in high school, surrounded by other hormonal teens. Caleb has problems with handling anger and has lashed out on multiple occasions, his most notable one being his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown against Damien after the latter attempts to kidnap Caleb's boyfriend to use as blackmail.
  • Chakona Space: Chakats have innate empathic abilities. Some, mostly those with a Skunktaur parent, have other Psychic Powers.
  • Codex Inversus: The omen birds of the Infernal Empire can sense emotions using their horns. Each species of bird is attuned to a particular set of emotions, and uses this ability to aid in its survival strategy. Sorrow hawks, for instance, can perceive despair, sadness, disorientation and gloom, which they use to hunt lost, wounded or frightened animals; bloodshed vultures perceive rage, bloodlust and antagonism, allowing them to find areas where dead bodies will soon be available; and joy quails perceive happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment, which leads them to animals that have finished their meals and celebrations that are winding down so that they can eat the leftovers.
  • Echo Rose: Echo describes herself as such, claiming to pick up on the energy of others, whether or not they're human or even alive. She was able to pick up a strong feminine energy during her night in the bog and felt so sick upon seeing an animal skull that she was forced to stop filming.
  • Mother of Learning has Zorian, an entertainingly misanthropic example.
  • The Saint: The Passion Path of Magic allows a mage to feel other peoples emotions. When combined with the Connection Path of Magic a mage can heavily influence what others think and feel.
  • Thalia's Musings: Psyche. Revealing her observations to Aphrodite may not have been her brightest move.
    Psyche: It sounds like you might have some unresolved issues. Have you considered the idea that your promiscuity is your way of establishing autonomy, something you’ve never truly had?
    Aphrodite: Have you considered that I could snap my fingers and make sure you die a lonely, bitter, virgin crone, you presumptuous little bitch?
  • At Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, there are a number of people with empathic or telepathic abilities. Most have other powers, so this is in general a subversion. Main character Fey is one of the most powerful mages around, has merged with an ancient Sidhe queen, but also has the ability to read emotions around her. Since she's also the most beautiful girl on earth and has a Faerie Glamour that makes her even more all that, this has a downside since nearly everyone (regardless of sexual orientation) who sees her has pretty much the emotions you could guess.
    • Side character Punch is a brick who can knock over a car, but she also has an empathic ability.
    • Plus the mutant whose codename is Frank. He's a boy whose only powers are receptive and projective empathy. But he's really, really powerful and he can't turn it off.
    • Phobos and Deimos also have a VERY sucky version of this, as they scare the crap out of people with their fear aura, and have to feel that fear, which makes them go a bit overboard with power...
  • Cherish, a supervillain from Worm, is a gifted and amoral empath who can not only sense emotions from miles away but induce them in anyone near her.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Dogs are a mundane real-life version of this toward their human companions, having such a keen sense of smell they can detect the minute odors produced by humans when in specific emotional states. Dogs really can smell fear, as well as happiness, sadness, and distress. Presumably other animals can as well, such as Oscar the cat who could "smell death", but dogs most infamously act upon these emotions they detect and respond accordingly.

Alternative Title(s): Empath



Mantis explains the powers of an empath.

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