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I know that in the real world there is nothing similar to telepathy, so there is very little to compare with. That being said, how can a telepathic being be anatomically designed to allow for telepathy with other non-telepathic beings while still being something that could feasibly exist in the real world? Assume a roughly humanoid body for the telepathic being.

Edit: I can understand how telepathy with non-telepaths is not so easily explained. In that case, how can telepathy occur within one's own telepathic species?

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    $\begingroup$ This seems highly dependent upon how telepathy works in your world. Figure that out and the answer should be obvious. However we can't tell you how telepathy works in your world, making this question require far too much brainstorming, idea generation, and personal opinion to be a good fit for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ Check-out the biological radio questions for inspiration. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ You want telepathy with non-telepaths? .. and a plausible anatomy in the telepath to explain that? .. sorry, you can't have it .. the nearest thing would perhaps be an organ that replicates a crystal radio set, and that will require those it's 'telepathically' 'talking to' to also have organic radios to be able to 'hear' anything it says to them 'telepathically' .. so, within the bounds of real science what you're asking for is impossible, without the bounds of real science you're just using magic and 'plausible' anatomy becomes irrelevant. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ And -1 for applying to the Anatomically Correct Series without following the rules. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ You still need to decide how telepathy works for your species for yourself. Pick whatever explanation makes the most sense to you. There's functionally infinite explanations and we're not in the business of brainstorming, generating ideas, or otherwise building your world for you. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 22:53

2 Answers 2

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Frame challenge

You want telepathy with non-telepaths? .. and a plausible anatomy in the telepath to explain that?

Sorry, but you can't have it.

The nearest thing would perhaps be an organ that replicates a crystal radio set, and that requires those it's 'telepathically' 'talking to' to also have radios to 'hear' anything said to them .. so .. within the bounds of real science what you're asking for is impossible .. while without the bounds of real science you're just using magic and 'plausible' anatomy becomes irrelevant.

Alternative potential answer

Howsoever.

If we consider the anatomy of the 'non-telepaths' as well as your telepaths.

A potential answer does present itself.

All members of the species have organic crystal radio sets as part of their anatomy.

Only some (those considered to be 'telepaths') have any voluntary control of them however.

If you want your telepaths to be able to read non-telepaths minds then the non-telepaths are involuntarily and subconsciously constantly broadcasting their thoughts.

Which means that, unless you want everyone hearing everything both telepaths and non-telepaths broadcast, that your non-telepaths must somehow only 'hear' anything that's being broadcast if it's directly addressed to or at them by a telepath .. or maybe their sets only send and can't receive, so your telepaths can't talk to them and can only read their minds.

Alternatively a telepath that connects to ('dials?') a 'non-telepath' can choose to put his 'radio' on mute and just listen in to his targets thoughts .. so their connection is like a mobile phone call.

In short, think of it like this .. everyone has a cell phone in their head, most people haven't any credit on theirs so can only receive calls .. and most peoples phones are infected with a virus that turns them into a bugging device .. likely range will be around the same as children's toy walkie talkies as you've no cell phone towers to boost signals on, so perhaps around a mile.

None of the members of the species need to know any of this, neither do any readers (or players?), It can just be for the authors use to help rationalise how it works and formulate rules for what can and can't be done with it.

"None of the members of the species need to know any of this" in fact it's probably best if they don't, or at least that it's not common knowledge .. because the obvious way to prevent your mind being read is to just have the organ surgically removed and you probably don't want that .. 🤔 or wear a faraday cage tin foil hat, they'd really work as advertised for a species like this 😁

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The telepath is perceptive to cues given subconsciously by the perceived.

A good example of a telepathic being is the horse Clever Hans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clever_Hans

He was said to be a really smart horse. Really he was reading the minds of people near him, by virtue of watching their bodies.

Hans was said to have been taught to add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, tell time, keep track of the calendar, differentiate between musical tones, and read, spell, and understand German. Von Osten would ask Hans, "If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?" Hans would answer by tapping his hoof eleven times...

Using a substantial number of trials, Pfungst found that the horse could get the correct answer even if von Osten himself did not ask the questions, ruling out the possibility of fraud. However, the horse gave the right answer only when the questioner knew what the answer was and the horse could see the questioner. He observed that when von Osten knew the answers to the questions, Hans got 89 percent of the answers correct, but when von Osten did not know the answers to the questions, Hans answered only six percent of the questions correctly.

Pfungst then examined the behaviour of the questioner in detail, and showed that as the horse's taps approached the right answer, the questioner's posture and facial expression changed in ways that were consistent with an increase in tension, which was released when the horse made the final, correct tap. This provided a cue that the horse could use to tell it to stop tapping...

Clever Hans could read human body language. The thing I think is so interesting is that Hans could read generic human body language, not just the idiosyncrasies of his trainer. Humans are giving cues to their thoughts and inner mental states all the time. It is proposed that horses do this too which is how a horse could pick up the cues it needed. Dogs are too, which is how Cesar the dog whisperer can do this thing - he can read the body language of dogs and so discern their inner state.

Your telepath is perceptive. Such perceptiveness might be hardwired. Just as autistic people struggle to make sense of social cues others take for granted, there are super-perceivers who can recognize cues that others can't or dont. Such abilities can seem tantamount to telepathy.

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