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empathy is (n.) modeled on German Einfühlung (from ein "in" + Fühlung "feeling"), which was coined 1858 by German philosopher Rudolf Lotze (1817-1881) as a translation of Greek empatheia "passion, state of emotion," from assimilated form of en "in" (see en- (2)) + pathos "feeling" (from PIE root *kwent(h)- "to suffer").

An empath has this ability more than average, and the more empathetic we are, the more we can relate to each other emotionally.

Emotions are conditionally triggered reactions that include biological, physiological, expressive, and cognitive elements too, not just the feelings most people recognize. Empathy recognizes the emotional expressions of others and effectively “feels/suffers with them.”

I’m looking for a word that’s similar but recognizes “the thoughts of others and effectively thinks with them.” This skill or genetic ability recognizes all of the elements of thinking and how someone expresses each one in speech and behavior, and with corresponding behavior, makes necessary adjustments until their thoughts match.

Thinking includes more than reasoning, which is more about logic than everything else thinking includes. So the word I’m searching for is not limited to reasoning.

Intuition includes consciously recognizing the complex calculations of one’s unconscious mind, not the thoughts of others, so the word I’m looking for is not intuitive.

For example:

Jane might be more empathetic because she feels what other people feel, but John is more ____ because he thinks what other people are thinking.

There are methods to becoming more empathetic or ____, but they are distinctively different and usually require different teachers, as well as being naturally easier to learn based on one’s genetic temperament.

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    Yu got me thinking about reading the room and telepathy, but neither are scientific terms. I doubt there is one... But perhaps perceptive is a good option, though more general.
    – fev
    Nov 15, 2022 at 11:44
  • The word telepathic (@fev) [CD] certainly covers this: << having or showing the ability to know what is in someone else's mind, or to communicate with someone mentally, without using words or other physical signals>>. But 'more telepathic' doesn't sound natural; the word is usually used in SF and perhaps occult domains. 'On X's wavelength' is used for a more typical level of rapport. Nov 15, 2022 at 12:54
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    Intuition can be outward directed, about others. It is not only self directed.
    – Lambie
    Nov 15, 2022 at 14:00
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    Well, there's "insightful".
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 15, 2022 at 14:02
  • @fev I like perceptive, but I understand it's more about my subjective perspective than theirs. Nov 29, 2022 at 11:00

4 Answers 4

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Jane might be more empathetic because she feels what other people feel, but John is more perspicacious because he thinks what other people are thinking.

Perspicacious (adj.)

Someone who is perspicacious notices, realizes, and understands things quickly. Collins

Quick in noticing, understanding, or judging things accurately. Cambridge

Some perspective on perspicacious: the word combines the Latin perspicac- (from perspicax meaning “clear-sighted,” which in turn comes from perspicere, “to see through”) with the common English adjective suffix -ious. The result is a somewhat uncommon word used to describe someone (such as a reader or observer) or something (such as an essay or analysis) displaying the perception and understanding of subtleties others tend to miss, such as the distinctions between the words perspicacious, shrewd, sagacious, and astute—something our synonym chooser can help with. M-W

How does the adjective perspicacious differ from other similar words? Some common synonyms of perspicacious are astute, sagacious, and shrewd. While all these words mean "acute in perception and sound in judgment," perspicacious implies unusual power to see through and understand what is puzzling or hidden. M-W


Although broader in meaning, perspicacious often refers to, or includes, insight into what is usually hidden, especially what others are thinking. Mind-reading, on the other hand, can be a single instance or coincidence, as in "You must have read my mind!", a stage act, or the ability to truly read the thoughts of others in fine detail as another sense, like aliens in science fiction.

Coppola represents Vito first and foremost as a listener. ... Vito is perspicacious and he is able to divine what others are thinking and revealing not only in what they say but in how they say it. Stephen Brauer; Criminality and the Modern Contingency and Agency in Twentiether-Century America (2022)

Often they were uncomfortably perspicacious and used to say outright what others were thinking. Bo Giertz; With My Own Eyes (1960)

The examples of Ralph and Madame de Ramiere suggest, then, that high levels of affective empathy and generosity can coexist with well-developed mind-reading skills, though this coexistence is far from given, as the examples of Noun, Indian, Raymon and Laure indicate.
Mind-reading skills and affective sharing are sometimes shown to work at cross-purposes in Indiana, and are sometimes presented as compatible. One of the two stances can be prioritised over the other, as the extreme examples of Noun and Laure suggest: Noun is utterly seduced by, and trusting of, the stranger figure that is Raymon, while Laure, as a perspicacious mind-reader, is not at all seduced by him. Maria Scott; Empathy and Strangeness of Fiction (2020)

This unwieldy 'alternate consciousness' approach means that, to present a full picture, as the characters always strive to do, they must effectively take up mind reading. Thus Savage speaking of Victoria's father at one point: 'I could read her father's mind as easily as I could read hers'; and, later, of Victoria, 'I could almost hear her saying to herself, men are extraordinary'... Besides showing how perspicacious the Anglo-Indian hero is, these examples of Savage claiming to know the thoughts of other characters and narrating them as fact is a sign of the way having space to tell a story gives power. R. Srinivasan, et al.; Our Indian Railway: Themes in India's Railway History (2006)

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  • What about shrewd, astute, etc.? These all fit the bill then. I think OP needs a very specific word for this.
    – user405662
    Nov 15, 2022 at 13:46
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    @user405662 I point out that perspicacious is not limited to reading thoughts; however, I believe it fits the OP's sample sentence better than other synonyms, given how the word is often used to refer to things that are hidden, including thought. I've added M-W notes. Note the example from Google Books that contrasts it with empathy.
    – DjinTonic
    Nov 15, 2022 at 15:16
  • "I point out that perspicacious is not limited to reading thoughts." That's my main issue with this and the other answers. They are rather general. I doubt if that's what OP is looking for. But then there might not be a more specific word/phrase for it.
    – user405662
    Nov 15, 2022 at 15:24
  • @user405662 I agree. Note that the OP said "Intuition includes consciously recognizing the complex calculations of one’s unconscious mind, not the thoughts of others, so the word I’m looking for is not intuitive", which would supports an answer that includes, but is not limited to, thought-reading.
    – DjinTonic
    Nov 15, 2022 at 16:57
  • @DjinTonic as soon as I learn how to pronounce this word I'll use it! The more I study it, the closer it gets to the meaning I intended, because anyone who's able to consistently discern what a person is thinking is likely able to 'read' many other things well. I'm trying to capture the skill of quickly deducing complex causation to predict behavior and or intent, and I don't believe there's anything more complex than the human mind. Poker players, interrogators and counselors have this skill, and I believe it's just as valuable as empathy...but insightful is a lot easier to pronounce (lol) Nov 29, 2022 at 11:13
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I suggest "in tune [with]"

1931 Times 21 May 9/5 Old buildings, he said, taught us that our new buildings should not be reproductions of the old, but should be equally in tune with the thought and methods of the day.

2009 Conf. & Incentive Trav. July 20 A fantastic website that keeps me on trend with fashion and in tune with the latest celeb gossip.

2016 Global Public Procurement Theories and Practices - Page 326 Khi V. Thai ... the complex intergovernmental and inter-organizational networks themselves that limit bureaucracy's ability to implement public policy in tune with public preferences,

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  • attuned is the word that captures this sentiment, but that is more aligned with someone's understanding and values as opposed to quickly learning what someone is thinking. Nov 29, 2022 at 10:52
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People can be said to be on the same wavelength.

on the same wavelength [idiom]

(of two or more people) to think in a similar way and to understand each other well

[Cambridge Dictionary]

  • We could complete each other's sentences because we were on the same wavelength.

[Collins: Easy Learning Idioms Dictionary]

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  • this is more the effect than the cause. Nov 29, 2022 at 10:56
  • 'We could complete each other's sentences because we were on the same wavelength' [Collins; see above] has 'we were on the same wavelength' in a because-clause (ie a PP showing cause / facilitation). Nov 29, 2022 at 12:53
  • Yes Edwin, because we were on the same wavelength we can finish each other’s sentences, but ‘what made us on the same wavelength’ is what I am referring to. There are three paths I know of, existing shared understanding, empathy and [the skill of recognizing behaviors and verbal expressions coupled with deduction and inductive inquiry], the later being the word/term I’m looking for. Nov 30, 2022 at 12:55
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Mind reader, Freedictionary

Also found in: Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

mind reading n. The faculty of discerning another's thoughts through extrasensory means of communication; telepathy.

Thought-perceptive? Alive to other's thoughts? Thought reader? Thought intuiter?

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  • 'like a mind reader' could work, but then again, any hint of supernatural abilities would be sending readers/listeners in the wrong direction. I'm looking for something that deduces what someone is thinking by their actions, words and reactions to triggers, which is a developable skill, not limited to someone who's naturally giftend Nov 29, 2022 at 10:55

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