When Lore is feeding Data negative emotions in Descent, Troi notes with surprise that she could "sense" emotions in him. Now, "sense" is a word that Troi only seems to use when referring to her half-Betazoid empathy, not general intuition. When she loses her powers, she says repeatedly that she cannot "sense" anyone, etc. This would seem to imply that she didn't just deduce that Data was experiencing emotions, from his behavior or something similar, she actually felt them empathically.

How is this possible? We know from a number of episodes that Betazoid telepathy, and therefore Troi's half-Betazoid empathy, are biological in nature. There's a specific part of the brain for it, and a neuro-chemical involved in its function. We even know that there are certain species on whom Betazoid telepathy doesn't even work, because their brain structure is too different.

So if a Ferengi's brain is too different to be read by a full-Betazoid, how can Data's not-even-a-brain be read by a half-Betazoid?

  • Related, not dupe : scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/53323/…
    – Valorum
    Nov 24, 2014 at 19:40
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    I think "How does Betazoid telepathy work, period?" has to be answered before we can know the answer to this question. Nov 25, 2014 at 1:09
  • Consider that in the context of Data/Lore, it was about sensing emotion. In the case of the Ferengi, it was about reading their minds - well beyond emotion. And, Troi, only half-Betazoid wasn't a true telepath like her mother. Where the matter came up was when Lwaxana was unable to telepathically connect with a Ferengi because of their different brains. Perhaps, from an in-universe perspective, the qualities of emotional state transcend the host implementation (natural vs. artificial) to be available telepathically, where actual thoughts must be expressed by a living mind to be read.
    – Anthony X
    Nov 25, 2014 at 1:22
  • It not hard, Data was made by Humans. Data feels it is appropriate to act and feel more human like to encourage a more comfortable approach to interacting with others around. Human AIs have a particular signature, so understanding what Data is feeling is more mere if this and or syntax.
    – Virusboy
    Nov 25, 2014 at 22:42

3 Answers 3


Pure conjecture: Data's positronic pathways are designed to mimic, as closely as possible, the human brain. As such, when he is given emotions through the interactions of the emotion chip with his positronic circuits, the electrical impulses are similar enough to way in which electrical impulses travel along human (and presumably Betazed) neural pathways that Troi "senses" it as if it was a human brain. This is similar to how you can hear an approaching rumble, regardless of whether the rumble is caused by cars or horses.

I've just put more thought into this than a dozen Star Trek writers.

  • 1
    You're dead to @Tango Nov 24, 2014 at 21:13
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    @DVK: I said thought, not talent. I'm sure a dozen Star Trek writers can at least equal me in that. Nov 24, 2014 at 22:19
  • Juliana Tainer is your evidence, she holds the real Tainer's memories
    – Izkata
    Nov 25, 2014 at 1:02
  • @Izkata: Thanks. I always forget about that episode. Nov 25, 2014 at 3:40

While a Ferengi's brain may be "too different to be read by a full-Betazoid" - there are far stranger creatures (and minds) that can be read by Betazoids - Tin Man, the creatures at Far Point, even the 2-dimensional creatures heading to the cosmic string in The Loss (admittedly, they interfered rather severely with Troi's empathic ability for most of the episode).

These instances demonstrate that the empathic ability of Betazoids operates over vast distances of space (especially Tin Man) - and there are many examples of Troi using he empathic ability to read people across the viewscreen. This means that the ability is most likely not chemical (the neuro-chemical Psilosynine seems to be something more akin to serotonin or other hormone that is produced internally).

Oddly - Troi seems unable to detect Lore's emotions in Datalore (although he did not have the advanced emotion chip that Soong intended for Data at this point), but no mention is made of Troi not sensing Juliana Tainer's emotions in Inheritance. Tainer is an advanced Soong-type, and Lore/Data are eventually fitted with upgraded emotion chips, so perhaps this is the explanation.

So, all this adds up to: Data is experiencing emotions. In what ever way these emotions function is similar to how emotions are experienced by any number of extremely disparate lifeforms that can also be detected by Betazoid empathy and/or telepathy.

  • The Ferengi resistance to telepathy was at one point attributed to their unusual four-lobed brain (I believe in a DS9 episode with Lwaxana Troi)
    – Izkata
    Nov 25, 2014 at 4:15
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    sorry - one of those places where language is fuzzy... yes, Ferengi brain's are obviously different - but I'm trying to show that there are plenty of other species that are readable that might be considered more different.
    – HorusKol
    Nov 25, 2014 at 5:47
  • I thought the Ferengi resistance to telepathy was due to the one-sided nature of their thoughts. Greed, sex, and gluttony all rolled up into a big ball of mush.
    – Omegacron
    Nov 25, 2014 at 18:31
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    @Omegacron: If that's the case, how the hell can she read a human brain? You've basically described my life. Nov 26, 2014 at 15:53
  • Well, I was joking but come to think of it, that would make reading some humans difficult.
    – Omegacron
    Nov 26, 2014 at 16:22

The only thing we have clearly stated for why the Ferengi are unreadable is the four-lobed brain, and even that is speculation from Data. We also have examples of Troi reading supposedly unreadable species (granted, these are probably writing inconsistencies rather than exceptions). Soong created the current version of the emotional programming after creating something of this nature for the android version of his wife, and prior to that, the failed emotional programming Lore had. While Lore's early programming need not be readable, Juliana almost certainly would run into telepaths in here travels and be outed as an android rather quickly, so it's reasonable that Soong would design her emotional programming to broadcast emotions in the same way a human does. This broadcasting may be why a chip was required instead of a mere software update.

Lore, however, still has his original emotional programming. He uses the chip on Data, but we never see him using it for himself. It's also noteworthy that the emotions are being broadcast into Data over a great distance, so her initial read may have been bleed-over from that signal.

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