Empathic mimicry

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Empathic mimicry
Powers peter flight.jpg
Peter inadvertently mimics Nathan's flight while in his presence.
Originally held by: Peter Petrelli (lost)
Absorbed by: Arthur Petrelli (deceased)
Ability to: Mimic other abilities on an empathic level
Examples of empathic mimicry

Empathic mimicry is the ability to duplicate the abilities of other evolved humans within proximity and reproduce them at will.



Peter possessed an empathic ability that allowed him to duplicate or "absorb" the abilities of other evolved humans near him. As of Dying of the Light, his father Arthur has stolen this ability from him. Originally, Peter had to concentrate very hard to think about the person from whom he received his ability (Distractions). Eventually, he was able to use this ability almost as second nature, and occasionally without even knowing the person from whom he received the ability.

The exact range at which mimicry occurs is not known, but Peter could mimic Claude's ability from at least several meters away. He could duplicate Claude's ability almost immediately upon coming within range. Whether the maximum distance and minimum time is the same to mimic any ability is uncertain. Peter did not necessarily have to see other people's abilities in use to absorb them. In The Hard Part, Peter began to absorb Ted Sprague's ability even though Ted had not used it in his presence. Also he absorbed at least two abilities on Kirby Plaza during his fight with Sylar: Niki's enhanced strength and D.L.'s phasing. Niki was standing right next to him, but D.L. was much farther away. It has to be at this point that he absorbs D.L.'s ability, as Peter had never encountered D.L. before and never encountered D.L. again before his death. If this is so, he may also have absorbed Molly's clairvoyance and Micah's technopathy, but he has never displayed these abilities.

Peter's control over other abilities that he mimicked varied; Abilities that required active concentration seemed to be more difficult for him to manifest or control. Peter would typically absorb abilities involuntarily, but he might not be aware of absorbing an ability that requires active concentration to use.

Although Peter shows traces of Isaac's precognition the day after accompanying Simone to Isaac's apartment (Don't Look Back), it was not clear until Distractions that Peter could manifest an ability in the absence of the person from whom he absorbed it. He has since reproduced many abilities without the original holder of the ability being nearby. He seems to be able to copy both natural abilities and synthetic ones, as he mimicked Nathan's ability of flight (Genesis) and Niki's strength (How to Stop an Exploding Man).

Peter once stated that in order to recall another person's ability when they were not present, he had to remember how that person made him feel (Distractions). While amnesiac, Peter was still able to recall abilities, even without memories of the person from whom he learned them. He also has demonstrated the use of abilities absorbed from people that he wasn't aware had any, meaning that an absorbed ability is triggered when Peter feels an emotion linked to the person he absorbed the ability from, rather than remembering the actual person. For example, Peter is unaware of D.L.'s ability, who has been near him (Kirby Plaza). However, even having no recollection of D.L. because of amnesia, in Four Months Ago Peter used this ability in situations where he felt incarcerated or trapped (tied up in a chair and locked up in a cell at Primatech Research), something that D.L. has felt throughout his whole life.

Peter's ability and those he absorbed made him one of the most powerful evolved humans. This is mentioned by his mother (Out of Time), and by Claude (Unexpected). With the absorption of so many abilities from many evolved humans, he became the "Swiss army knife" of Heroes. However, he could still be affected by the Haitian's ability (Four Months Ago...).

A side-effect of the ability to mimic is being unaffected by the abilities of many other evolved humans. For example, Peter was able to see Claude while he was invisible (Godsend), he could still move when Hiro froze time (Collision), and he was unaffected by Matt's telepathic commands (Powerless).

Peter used multiple abilities simultaneously on several occasions.

Selected Examples

Memorable Quotes

"Peter's specific DNA allows for a blend. Like colors in a mosaic, resequencing itself to mimic the abilities of those around him."

"Like a chameleon?"

"More like a sponge. It's precisely why I've been studying him."

"Could his condition become dangerous to himself or to other people?"

"If he absorbs too much, or comes into contact with an unstable ability, then most definitely yes."

- Mohinder, Nathan (The Fix)

"You know, before I hit the ground... when I knew what was about to happen, I had this flash... in my head, of this girl that I met in Texas. This cheerleader. She could heal herself. Oh, gosh, she's this sweet kid. Sad little smile, and she just... You were wrong! I don't have to cut her out! I have to remember her!"

- Peter Petrelli (to Claude) (Distractions)

"You need to focus. You can move objects with your mind, heal; you can paint the future."

"How do you know about that?"

"You absorb abilities from other people. You are the most powerful of us all."

- Future Angela, Peter Petrelli (Out of Time)


  • In doing research for Peter's ability, Aron Coleite said that the Heroes crew consulted several scientists about the concept of mosaic DNA.
  • Press materials released before Heroes aired skirted the issue of Peter's abilities, saying instead that he was "trying to convince his brother he could fly." The exact nature of his ability did not become clear for several episodes.
  • Mohinder says that Peter's ability is "like a sponge" to the abilities of other evolved humans (and not like a "chameleon"), and it could be dangerous for him to get near someone with an "unstable" ability. (The Fix)
  • Claude opines that it is fitting for an "empath" to be a nurse, as though he has had a prior familiarity with people of Peter's ability or at least an ability that is similar to it. (The Fix)
  • In an interview, Tim Kring elaborated on the similarities and differences between Peter and Sylar's abilities, calling them "two halves of a similar coin".
    "Both are able to absorb people's powers, but in two very different ways. Peter's is based on his empathy and his ability to connect with people and when he's around them. Sylar actually has to take your brain and do something with it."
  • Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli), in a behind-the-scenes video, reveals that Peter passes out at the end of Fallout because he is overwhelmed by all of the abilities he has been absorbing.
  • When Peter yells at Isaac, some have speculated that he may have (unsuccessfully) used Eden's ability of persuasion. However this is more likely a reflection of production effects rather than the use of an ability. The sound effects for Eden's persuasive voice (listen) and Peter's yell (listen) are very different (Unexpected). In an interview, it is stated that the voice change was for the "coolness factor."
  • Despite Peter using multiple abilities simultaneously on several occasions, it was stated in an interview that Peter only has access to one ability at a time.
  • Arthur Petrelli stole this ability from Peter, but he did not demonstrate it.
  • It was stated in an interview that Peter could not absorb his future self's acquired abilities; he was only exposed to empathic mimicry itself.
  • Even though Peter's original lost ability was empathic mimicry, Peter gained the similar ability of ability replication when he injected himself with the genetic modification formula in Dual.
  • In special feature "The Writers Forum" found on the Season 3 DVD, writers Tim Kring, Adam Armus, and Aron Eli Coleite reveal that Arthur's ability and Peter's are actually different versions of the same ability.
  • Despite being exposed to all of Sylar's abilities at Homecoming and then later on the couple he'd gained since then, Peter only ever demonstrated telekinesis and intuitive aptitude the latter of which required the help of a future Sylar to access.
  • In the original timeline Peter was exposed to enhanced memory due to Sylar stealing that from Charlie Andrews before Homecoming, but as Hiro changed history, Peter was never exposed to that power.


  • Empathic mimicry is the first ability to be demonstrated on Heroes. When reading Charles Deveaux the stock pages, Peter fell asleep, and used this ability to access his mother's.

See Also

Fan Theories

Please refer to Theory:Empathic mimicry for fan-created theories and other speculation.

Evolved Human Abilities edit

Ability absorptionAbility replicationActivation and deactivationAdoptive muscle memoryAlchemyAlejandro's abilityBody insertionClairsentienceClairvoyanceCloakingCloningDisintegrationDream manipulationElectric manipulationElectronic communicationEmpathic mimicryEmpathyEnhanced hearingEnhanced memoryEnhanced strengthEnhanced synesthesiaFire breathingFlightFreezingGravitational manipulationHealingHealing touchHeat generationIllusionImpenetrable skinInduced radioactivityIntuitive aptitudeInvisibilityLie detectionMagnetismMeltingMemory manipulationMental manipulationMetal mimicryMicrowave emissionMohinder's abilityPersuasionPhasingPlant growthPoison emissionPrecognitionPrecognitive dreamingPuppet masterPyrokinesisRapid cell regenerationSedationSeismic burstShape shiftingShatteringSound manipulationSpace-time manipulationSpontaneous combustionSuper speedSuperchargingTechnopathyTelekinesisTelepathyTerrakinesisUnderwater breathingWeather control

Evolutions Abilities

Accelerated probabilityAcidic bloodAge transferalAnimal controlBelief inductionCarbon isolation and formationConstrictionDanger sensingDavid's abilityDimension hoppingDimensional storageEmpathic manipulationEnhanced teleportingExtraskeletal manipulationHealth optimizingInflammationLight absorptionNerve manipulationNon-biological duplicationPhoenix mimicryPrimal rageShiftingSize alterationTeleportationTemporal rewindWater generationWater mimicry

Graphic Novel Abilities

Ability augmentationAcid secretionAge shiftingAppearance alterationAura absorptionBliss and horrorBone spike protrusionChlorine gas exudationCrumplingDehydrationDisintegration touchElasticityElectrical absorptionEnergy absorption, transference, and redirectionForcefieldsFuture terrorist's abilityGold mimicryGranulationGreen energy blastImprintingLaser emissionLevitationLuminescenceLung adaptationMass manipulationMediumshipNerve gas emissionNeurocognitive deficitOil secretionOmnilingualismPlant manipulationSound absorptionSpider mimicryTelescopic visionWall crawling

See Also: Ability developmentAbility extensionAbility heredityAbility immunityAbility lossAbility theftBrain examinationBrain penetrationExamples of simultaneous ability useEye alterationList of abilitiesList of abilities with multiple usersParadoxProphecyRiftExamples of empathic mimicry