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Theory:Empathic mimicry

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Main Article Theories about Empathic mimicry Main Discussion

The following fan theories are about Empathic mimicry.

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Theory Citations Notes
Peter absorbs personalities as well as powers as a result of having to "feel" another person's presence in order for absorption. None + In his fight with Isaac, Peter displays an "evil", aggressive nature to him when he uses his telekinetic abilities, which likens to that of Sylar. Peter, being empathetic, needs to experience another person's "essence" in order to use their abilities. Being around Sylar invoked fear and chaos, so using Sylar's powers would inevitably cause Peter to have violent tendencies.
+ Peter was quite eager to telekinetically strangle Will in Kindred, suggesting that the use of Sylar's telekinesis makes him more violent like Sylar.

- Peter, when stopping Claude's broomstick or dropping the taser gun's darts, did not have a violent outburst.

Peter was getting angry because of all the hits he got from Claude and he did had a angry look on his face when he finally blocked the staff. Plus, Future Peter was often angry/aggressive while using his telekinesis.
+ Peter nearly killed when he was using his telekinesis in Kindred.

+ In Kindred, after Peter pinned Will to the wall, he tells Caitlin that he wanted to kill him. This reflects Elle's personality.

Peter can mimic non-superhuman abilities of others. None + Peter initially seemed only able to draw stick figures, but is able to paint similarly to Isaac when close to him.
- Peter may have only been able to draw stick figures because of the limited art supplies available. When given paint and canvas, he has been known to draw more accurate paintings (such as the Montreal painting). If he were able to mimic non-superhuman abilities, then he would have been able to paint or sketch a good picture regardless of his proximity to Isaac.
- When Peter drew the stick figures, he was drawing from a dream he had using Angela’s power. His eyes were normal and he was not currently seeing into the future. Every time he has used Isaac’s power, his eyes have become completely white and he has painted just as well as Isaac could.

- In How to Stop an Exploding Man, when Sylar uses Isaac's power he sees the event on the canvas in the form of a picture already - the painting takes no exceptional skill, it is just tracing the lines and filling in the colors.
If this is the case then Sylar must be able to absorb non-superhuman abilities as well, as he can paint as well as Isaac or Peter.
If this is the case though, then Sylar would have been able to control Dale's ability right away and would not have been so disoriented by the amplified sounds.
If this was the case surely Sylar would be killing good writers or watchmakers or other skilled people, to gain their abilities.
Peter is an empath, so it makes sense that he can copy talents as well as powers. Since Sylar isn't an empath, it is possible that he can't copy people's talents, only their abilities, and he was just an okay painter on his own.
Peter, Sylar and Issac's paintings are all very different in style, Tim Sale only produced Isaac's paintings, with the others being done by different artists. This would suggest that the ability taken from Isaac includes the artistic ability.

Claude was right about how Peter can call back his powers. Claude said that in order for Peter to use his mimicked powers without the original owner present he had to block them out. + When he didn't remember anyone from his past, Peter had effectively "blocked them out". That being said, he could still use the powers that he has absorbed.

What Peter actually said is that he needed to remember how the people from whom he copied powers "made him feel". It's possible to recall the emotion without recalling the person.
In a Behind the Eclipse interview, Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite stated that "Peter has learned and will continue to learn that's it's more about his heart than his memory."

Peter can only use some powers to do whatever the "source" of it can do and if he encounters them when they have refined control of it, the ability he has is refined as well. None + When Peter first met Matt Parkman in Fallout and absorbed his telepathy, he could only read minds as that's all Matt could do at that time while in Powerless, he may have gained the thought transmission / mind control aspect of that ability from meeting Matt near the vault.

+ Adam Monroe has refined control of his regenerative ability (due to approximately 350 years of experience), this stronger regenerative capability could've be absorbed by Peter when they meet in Four Months Later (once the "Haitian Pills" were out of his system).
- It appears Peter's refinement may be independent as Peter was able to see (not hear) Angela's thoughts without running into Matt Parkman another time.

Absorbing too many abilities makes an empathic mimic stupid. Noah suggested that Sylar might become mentally ill because of multiple changes in his DNA. + Future Peter's actions are illogical, if not stupid: he revealed himself to Claire (Resistance), he shot Nathan and later still revealed himself to him, he traveled to past, yet did nothing to change the future.
Maybe nothing he could have noticed, or didn't have the chance to see it changed, when he took present day Peter to the future, Future Peter was killed by Future Claire.

- Sylar's ability is intuitive aptitude, not empathic mimicry. Also, an empathic mimic's DNA changes slightly as abilities are used; when he isn't using an ability, his genes are, if not normal, well within the realm of functionality.

+ He knew the formula was the main problem, but all he did was showing his present self what happens if everyone gets powers... and told him to absorb Sylar's murderous ability.

+ In 2011 Future Peter was the most wanted terrorist. He spent four years killing hundreds of people to save the world and then he suddenly decided to go to the past to prevent Pinehearst's and his own crimes. Sounds ridiculous, to say the least.
- The Peter from the exposed future had murdered at least 200 people in an attempt to save the world. For a person like Peter Petrelli, that would cause tremendous psychological strain. He may even have become unhinged from it.
- Just because copying multiple powers could cause him mental damage doesn't mean he will become stupid. There's a big difference between stupidity and insanity.
- Peter was always too emotional to completely think things through. He cares about people too much to be completely logical.

If someone who has had their ability absorbed through empathic mimicry undergoes a major personality shift, then the mimic will become unable to access their ability. None + In the exposed future, where Claire becomes a sociopath, Peter Petrelli seemed to lack rapid cell regeneration.
- Peter healed in Resistance, while disguised as a common terrorist.

- Peter was able to use mimicked abilities when he had no memories of who he was, or he knew.
- Peter used Niki's ability.
- Peter's power relies on how he feels when he meets them, it has nothing to do with their personality.

There is a limit to how many abilities this ability can absorb. After absorbing so many it removes some to make place for others. Mohinder said this ability was like a sponge, and even sponges can only retain so much water before letting some out. + Peter only seemed to use phasing twice and did not seem to use it after Season Two, by which point he met multiple evolved humans.
- Peter didn't use many other abilities, the interval in which he used invisibility is the greatest he ever shown, but he still retained it. Peter also used induced radioactivity a very long while after Season One.

+ This would account for Peter's use of some abilities e.g. rapid cell regeneration and flight more than say super speed or precognition.
- Nothing suggests that the ability has a limit of how many abilities it can absorb, only a limit on how frequently it can absorb an ability.

+ Peter never seemed to copy all of Sylar's abilities the reason for this could be him having a limit on how many to absorb.
- Peter was long ago confirmed to absorb all of Sylar's abilities when they meet, absorbing the ability and accessing it are two different things.
+ Peter needed to go see Gabriel to absorb his ability.
- Only needed help on how to access the ability, he had it since he and Sylar first met.
The more emotionally attached Peter is to a person the easier he could access their ability. None + He was able to use flight and invisibility a lot easier than abilities from people he had only recently met such as telekinesis and telepathy. But when he met Matt and Sylar again and got to know them better these powers were more refined.
Peter's empathic mimicry evolved into power mimicry. None + Originally he had the power only to mimic someone around him. Eventually he was able to copy powers and used them, even if they weren't around.

- Claude taught him how to use his powers, because he knew other mimics like Arthur Petrelli.

Arthur acquired powers, but wasn't a mimic.

+ He originally needed to remember how they made him feel. Later, he could recall them even when he was amnesiac.

Remembering a specific person isn't necessary to feel the same emotion.

+ Arthur claimed his power was more advanced, so did the writers.

- They said the power was the same, just used differently.
They said they intended for the power to be the same, manifesting differently, it is as canon as Kaito's ability.
An Empathic Mimic doesn't need physical interaction with another Evolved Human to absorb their power. None + Peter absorbed Ted Sprague's Induced Radioactivity without any interaction with him.
- Ted's power causes him to constantly spread radioactivity around him, which caused his wife's cancer.

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See Also: 9RedTime travelEmpathic mimicry