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Thinking Tic

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"All you have to do is tilt your head to the left, close your eyes, and let your mind soar like an eeeeeagle."
Scrubs, J.D. hanging a lampshade on his day dreaming pose.

A specific type of Character Tic. When Bob is sitting deep in thought, trying to solve a difficult problem, the writers will often provide a tic as a visual shorthand. This move is unconscious, and its main purpose is to underline just how perplexed and frustrated Bob is. Expect to see it happen very often during homework, tests or really tough relationship issues.

Stock variants include:

Often accompanying it, especially if he isn't alone, will be someone else getting progressively more annoyed by it and finally yelling at him to "Stop that!"

Also see Finger-Tenting, Putting On My Thinking Cap. Can be Truth in Television.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note: L bites his nails, particularly the nails on his thumb. While Near plays with his hair.
  • Hyouka's Houtarou Oreki has a habit of playing with his forelock when he's thinking particularly hard about a case.
  • Shikamaru in Naruto sits with his hands splayed and opposing fingertips touching. In a way, it's his way of announcing that he's getting serious.
  • Izuku Midoriya in My Hero Academia mumbles his thoughts out loud while tapping his right index finger against his chin when he's not busy scribbling notes down.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Multiple:
    • Whenever facing a problem, Pooh, being not to so bright, tends to lightly tap his head and repeat "Think, think, think" while rocking back and forth.
    • While he's thinking, Tigger makes a bizarre facial expression with his mouth. Kind of like he has chewed an idea in his mouth and he's deciding if it tastes good or not.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet: Nick Carter (America's greatest detective who investigates a mysterious case in Prague) often folds his arms and put fingers on his lips or face. He sometimes points out that he's deep in thoughts or "investigating intensively" when he's disgruntled that police commissioner Ledvina is not as invested in the case as he is.
  • Akeelah and the Bee: When spelling words Akeelah often pats her hand on her leg in a constant beat. Upon spotting this, her teacher recognizes this as a rhythm technique and starts having her learn words according to a rhythm so that she'll remember them better.
  • In The Big Sleep, Philip Marlowe tugs on his earlobe when he's concentrating.
  • In Goldeneye, Boris has a tendency to fidget with his pen and click it when mulling something over. This turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun later when he has one of 007's pens which is actually a mini-bomb in hand while thinking.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Gollum frowns when pondering over a riddle, then his face lights up with an idea, but, disliking the idea, he frowns again. You can just see his split personalities battling it out in his facial expressions as he ponders.
  • Gladys Glover, in the film It Should Happen to You, needs to take off her shoes in order to think clearly.
  • In Survivor Style 5+, the commercial director blinks her eyes rapidly when she's coming up with a new idea.
  • The Three Stooges:
    • Shemp would often start going into spasms when he tried to think, and might request Moe to bonk him in the head to help get the thought to come out.
    • Curly, on the few occasions where he tried to think, would start banging his head against the wall. Then, seeming to have an epiphany, he'd exclaim "I got it!" When asked what he got, he'd reply "A terrific headache." Other times, he would stare off in space for a few moments, before turning to Moe and saying "I try to think but nothing happens."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: When trying to concentrate or when lost in thought, the Fourth Doctor will often run his fingers through his hair or stroke his nose. This gets ribbed at in "Castrovalva", where the newly-regenerated Fifth Doctor attempts to run his hands through his own hair while thinking, only to disappointedly discover that it's much shorter and straighter now.
  • A Doctor Who related sketch has a bit where the BBC head of programming and the producer who is pitching Doctor Who to him are thinking and both drum their fingers to the "da-da-da-da" tune of the Doctor Who theme.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba!: The Gabbas tend to scratch their heads whenever they think, especially Brobee. Muno often strokes his chin whenever he thinks.
  • Scrubs: Whenever he's having one of his fantasies, J.D. tends to tilt his head to the left.
  • Rodney from Stargate Atlantis starts snapping his fingers rapidly whenever he's having an epiphany.
  • Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation will sometimes cock his head sharply to one side when he's doing some deep calculation.
  • In a Season One episode of Wizards of Waverly Place, Max is shown needing to tap his foot and poke his cheeks with his tongue to focus on his textbook. Justin finds it distracting, and starts a slap fight. In the final season, Max scrunches up his face to make his "Thinking Face."
  • Bridge Carson, the Cloudcuckoolander and Green Ranger of Power Rangers S.P.D., does a full handstand when he wants to do some serious thinking. He claims having the blood rush to his head makes him think better. His Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger counterpart Sen-chan also shares this habit, which the narration constantly refers to as his "thinking pose".

  • Doc Savage: The eponymous character is known for making an eerie trilling sound when in deep thought.
  • Erast Fandorin: From "Special Assignments" onwards, the eponymous detective acquires a habit of grabbing his jade rosary beads and telling them in silence while contemplating.
  • In H.G. Wells The First Men in the Moon, Cavor's Thinking Tic of making odd noises while he's thinking is the whole reason he and Bedford even meet. Cavor has the habit of walking past the cottage Bedford lives in, while contemplating his experiments. He unconsciously sings as he walks, and the singing disturbs Bedford's attempts to write, to the point that he asks Cavor to either stop or to walk somewhere else.
  • Sir Denis Nayland Smith of the Fu Manchu books tugs on an earlobe when thinking—even if he's in disguise at the time.
  • Mediochre of the Mediochre Q Seth Series thinks best when playing the piano. As a result, when a piano is not available, he tends to start visibly playing an imaginary piano. In addition, he also has a tendency to twist his fingers into his hair when thinking particularly urgently.
  • Horatio Hornblower paces up and down when deep in thought - on a quarterdeck for preference, but anywhere of sufficient length will suffice. On one occasion he did so while staying at an inn, to the annoyance of the occupant of the room below him.
  • Whenever Archie Goodwin sees Nero Wolfe close his eyes and start pushing his lips in and out, he knows Wolfe's brain has just gone into overdrive. It's the only time Archie knows for sure that Wolfe is working, and he never interrupts it.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events's Violet Baudelaire ties her hair up with a ribbon when she starts thinking about her next invention.

    Video Games 
  • Avril Mead from Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown will often stare at her hand and run her thumb over her pointer finger when contemplative.
  • Clueless Detective Hildibrand of Final Fantasy XIV has a rather hammy thinking tic. Twisting to the right at the hip, bending his knees to tilt his body at an angle, Hildi flexes his arms and simultaneously points to his head while his eyes are closed in thought. If inspiration strikes, he splays his hands with a smile on his face.
    • The detective's low-poly clone Brandihild in Endwalker gets his own: He mimes sitting in a chair drinking a cup of tea, with one leg crossed over the other, which is accompanied by the world around him fading away, showing mathematical equations floating around him in a void.
    • The players have their own in the form of the /think emote, which varies depending on race and gender.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Sora tends to cross his arms across his chest when he's thinking, typically accompanied by tilting his head to the side while looking down. Aqua does something similar, though she props her left arm up on her folded right one and places a hand over her mouth.
  • Haruka from The Idolmaster tends to look up and to the right or left whenever she's in thought. Fans ran away with this and created the "Nonowa" meme as a result.
  • In the Mass Effect series, Liara T'soni comes to adopt a standing-up variant of the Thinker Pose. It's most noticeable in Mass Effect 3.

    Visual Novels 
  • Most major Ace Attorney characters have a thinking sprite that is used whenever they're pondering something. Phoenix holds his chin in one hand, Maya looks up and to her left, Edgeworth crosses his arms, Apollo pokes his forehead, Mia covers her mouth, Athena fiddles with her earring...
  • Seeing that the series is about murder mystery and class trial, Danganronpa has a lot of this especially for the main trial leaders. Asahina crosses her arms while glancing up to her right, Hinata and Komaeda put their index finger on their chin, Nanami scratches her chin while looking up like she's wondering. Kirigiri got a special mention; her angry pose is the same as her thinking pose (crossing her left arm under her chest while her right arm propped over it), just with a different expression. She only uses that pose when the situation is utterly ridiculous but nevertheless is the truth, as if she's trying so hard to think but it could never make sense.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Rena once lampshades that when Keiichi is thinking deeply about something stupid, he will often bend his head backwards and start speaking his thoughts without realizing it.

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: Caine drums his finger against his thigh when he thinks up the Gloink quest to get Pomni off the topic of the exit doors.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Grampy from Betty Boop wore a mortarboard with a light bulb on top as he thought of ideas. When he had an idea, he'd break into a happy dance.
  • All 3 of the human characters in Cyberchase have one of these. Matt plays with a yo-yo, Inez stands on her head and Jackie paces (usually prompted by her stating "Make room! I gotta pace!"). Interestingly none of these are perceived as annoying by those around them and the trio often does their own tics side by side while trying to work out their problem of the day.
  • Felix the Cat's famous tic of walking back and forth with his hands behind his back.
  • Gravity Falls Dipper has the irritating habit of clicking his pen when thinking.
  • Mike, Lu & Og: Og, when in deep thought, usually sits down while flicking his nose ring until he hits on something.
  • When asked what he thought of something, Mr. Horse from The Ren & Stimpy Show would rub his chin with his hoof and pucker his lips saying "Hmm...", before inevitably replying "No sir, I don't like it."
  • Skull Island (2023): Irene frequently puts her hand to her chin when she's thinking.
  • Obi-Wan in Star Wars: The Clone Wars frequently rests his elbow on his arm and strokes his beard when he is thinking.
  • Tom Terrific would go through bizarre movements whenever he would think of an idea. Smoke would blow out of his thinking cap (a huge funnel) when he did come up with an idea.


Wild thrashing

Arlo apparently does this when thinking.

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