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What if mind reading were real?

In TV, movies, and books, when a telepath reads someone’s mind, it’s typically depicted as hearing words. Also typically, these words form complete sentences and ideas. But really, who thinks like that?

First of all, do we really think in words all the time? I don’t think we do. At least, I’m pretty sure that I don’t. Sometimes I think in pictures, or concepts. When you think of your mother, do you see or hear the word “mother” inside your head, or do you generate a picture and/or the feelings and memories of that person in your mind? I would go so far as to say we never think only with words. There are always emotions and memories (and sometimes sights/sounds/etc) attached to what we’re thinking.

So theoretically, if someone could read minds, how much would they be able to “read”? Would they only hear words, or would they sense concepts and pictures and feelings and everything else that go with thoughts?

tin foil hat

Tin foil will keep you from stealing my brain-thoughts!

It goes further.

How do we think? Or rather, in what manner do we think? Do we really think in complete sentences and form whole ideas in our heads? Sometimes, certainly. But not always. Think about it. Right now you’re concentrating on reading and/or thinking about the subject matter, but next time your thoughts wander, try to take notice. While thinking, are you stuck solely on one topic and fully form each idea that enters your mind? No! (Or at least, that’s not the case for me.)

When I get lost in thought, my mind wanders. It flits from topic to topic. Someone mentions their cat, which makes me think of my cat and how she was being obnoxiously vocal and it was because I’d let her food dish get empty even though there was more cat food because I got some the day before but oh I forgot to get more cereal when I was at the store and I should stop and get some today after work but I’ll go to the other store because it’s close to the other store where I’m picking up a birthday present for my friend but should I really get that for my friend or is it kinda cool but really useless–

Well, you get the picture. And remember, I’m being forced by the medium to use words, which is already clarifying these thoughts far further than they may have occurred inside my head.

My point is, if someone could actually read minds, would they actually be able to understand anything? Or would it all be too muddled or fleeting or self-involved or abstract to truly comprehend?

It’s something to think about (if you’re so inclined).

What do you think, readers? Is mind-reading even possibly coherent even if it could happen in physical practice? Am I over-complicating things? Or do you think most people are a little less ADHD than I am? Share your thoughts!