TV’s Most Famous Mentalists


Mentalism is an art that has not received nearly as much on-screen attention as magic. This favoritism extends to a lack of fictional characters who possess the gift of mentalism.

Part close observers, part detectives and part lucky-guessers, the traits of a mentalist certainly lend themselves to airs of drama, suspense, theatrics and even the occasional heroism. Producers and writers should definitely take more advantage of the stunning and exciting displays mentalists can elicit.

Here are some of the rare characters on television that have set the standard for mentalists and given mainstream audiences a taste of their capabilities:

Patrick Jane — The Mentalist

The titular hero of the series is partly responsible for bringing the trade of mentalism to popular awareness. Jane uses intuition, observation and his brilliant deduction skills to disrupt criminals’ diabolical schemes and catch them in the act of lying.

His favorite trick is to play coy with his interrogation subjects or criminal suspects, only to pounce on their inconsistencies or obvious behavioral “tells.” He also looks dynamite in a pinstripe suit.

Dr. Cal Lightman — Lie to Me

Lightman differs from many of the other mentalists on this list in that he makes no effort to conceal the truth behind his abilities. An expert in applied psychology, he reads body language to interrogate subjects and reveal otherwise hidden details surrounding criminal cases. His character was based on real life psychologist and body language expert Paul Ekman.

 Shawn Spencer — Psych

Spencer is inarguably TV’s most entertaining mentalist. He possesses an uncanny ability to notice clues, memorize seemingly inconsequential details and deduce important case facts through the information he is able to gather.

At first he used these abilities to play “armchair detective,” calling in crime tips based on details gleaned from news coverage. When police became suspicious of his knowledge and unconvinced of his intelligence, he decides to fool them into believing his abilities stem from psychic powers. Spencer’s bumbling antics and over-acted psychic performances bely his natural abilities to solve crimes and learn surprising facts about people through subtle observations.

Dr. Gregory House — House M.D.

Including House on this list may seem surprising because most of House’s deductions are not even relevant to his job as head of diagnostic medicine. House seems to use his abilities of observation and deduction mostly to antagonize his patients and colleagues by intuiting embarrassing details about their personal lives.

Make no mistake, though, House is a mentalist through and through. His cold reading often produces lucky guesses that are either confirmed or lead to further revelations based on the subject’s responses. Owing to his influence from Sherlock Holmes, House’s abilities to solve logic puzzles and pull deductions seemingly out of thin air could certainly floor an audience.

To catch a real-life version of these characters in action, you can see a mentalist in Miami who can impress you with his seemingly prescient abilities. Click on our videos section to learn more.