I am writing a book with my friends that has telepathy as a main element. What would you call someone who only has the ability to read the thoughts that others are thinking at that time?

Thus, someone who can't go through your mind but can I guess see/read what you are thinking about at that very moment. This includes communicate with you in your mind. I've been researching it and all that has been coming up is Telepathy, Psychic power, Psychic ability and Psionics. Do I use these terms and just explain in the story that they can't read others minds fully?


closed as off-topic by sphennings, L.Dutch, Vincent, adaliabooks, Thucydides Sep 2 '17 at 2:17

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  • $\begingroup$ Found something similar on Quora: What do you call the ability to speak and read people's mind?. $\endgroup$ – zzz Jul 6 '16 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ This might actually be a better question for Writers.SE. You don't really need worldbuilding here, but rather the best way to convey an idea to readers. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 6 '16 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ I would refer to it as "surface level telepathy". $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 7 '16 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ George Martin et al call this power skimming in Wild Cards. They kinda explain it the first time they use it, and later on they assume the reader knows what a skimmer is. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 7 '16 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ seconding @HenryTaylor 's surface telepathy $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 7 '16 at 17:12

This may be old fashioned but 'telepathy' or plain 'mind-reading' will pass muster. if there are other telepaths who can communicate mind-to-mind, then you might want to differentiate your character's version of telepathy from theirs by giving it a different name.

You could call it 'mind-scanning' if you want to coin a new name. The character could be called a 'scanner' but that has been done but there's nothing to stop from being reused. perhaps it could be simply 'mind-sight'.

However, if you want to be fancy it could be called 'psychescopic' (literally 'mind-seeing') adjectivally. The noun would be psychescopy. I'd even suggest finding out what the equivalent word(s) of mind-reading or telepathy is in another language, say, German or Norwegian or Japanese and use that.


Is there to be a whole lexicon of various powers associated with telepathy? You could create a whole culture around it, if you were so inclined and, as you say, explain a bit. Just for fun, here's a rif I hope is inspiring... Telepathy - generally the ability to send or receive thoughts over distance; refined as...

Telecog (teleconitive, telecognition) - the ability to lift thoughts and some emotion directly from the active cognition centers of a mind and to place ideas/thoughts in the waking mind of others.

Telememnic - the ability to read memory or implant memory in the minds of others

** Telegogue - the ability to dominate others, implant suggestions or commands in the minds of others.

** Teledemic - the ability to implant a personality in the mind of another - typically your own, as a sort of homunculus riding shotgun in the semi-consciousness of another human. Perhaps sublimating the others personality over time??

telephobic - the ability to induce intense, persistent, and irrational fear in others

telesomic - the ability to induce sleep / unconsciousness in others. Perhaps a broader ability to enter into the sleeping mind with significant powers but complete lack of ability to affect the waking mind.

telethesis (teleanethesis, teleanethetic) - the ability to share the senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) of another mind, but not conscious thoughts or emotions.

Just in case I wasn't clear -- all of this is invention based on existing word roots in modern English.

  • $\begingroup$ Worlbuilding by neologism is an excellent approach. Are they all yours? A first class piece of invention. A few queries. Under telecog, I presume "telecognitive' not 'teleconitive'. Shouldn't 'telesomic' be 'telesomnic' instead? I'd add to your list: telememetic -- the ability to spread ideas in the minds of others. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 7 '16 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my, thank you and yes that was inspiring to say the least. $\endgroup$ – Danny Dark Jul 7 '16 at 7:13

I've seen the term "Surface Scan" used fairly frequently.

This is opposed to a "deep scan" or "deep probe."

If you want to be a bit unique, you could call it "skimming."


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