The NLP Eye Accessing Cues
The NLP Eye movements indicate
how a person is thinking - whether they are imagining a future or past event, internally re-hearing a sound or making up a sound, talking to themselves, or attending to their feelings.
Why pay attention to eye movements?
Being able to notice a person's eye direction movements - and to recognise what they mean for that particular individual provides information about how they are processing (or 'thinking' in the broadest sense of the term).
Often even the person themselves will not be aware of how they are thinking yet it is available for the sharp-eyed and skilled observer.
So, let's say, you are explaining to a colleague how to do something and they say they do not understand - while looking UP to either the left or the right (indicating that they may be visualising or trying to visualise). This could indicate that they need you to demonstrate, rather than verbally explain, so they will be able to see how to do it.
The 'Standard' Eye Directions
The 'standard' eye movement directions as mapped out by NLP co-developers John Grinder and Richard Bandler are:
V - Visualising
V - Visualising
A - Auditory
V - Visualising
A - Auditory
K - Kinaesthetic
Aid - Auditory digital
(Imagine this diagram superimposed on the person’s face. So their
Kinaesthetic direction is to YOUR left as you face them.)
Be careful - it's not 'carved in stone'!
These standard eye directions will usually apply in the case of normally organised right-handed people. But,
as we explain in our NLP Core Skills entry
level course) it is quite important to remain aware that this diagram is a starting point only.
It would be lovely if we could take this map and know instantly what a person is doing internally. But people differ and not everyone will have the same pattern. Treat this diagram as a starting point only - and use your NLP observation skills to establish what they do. (Developing this skill is
a fundamental part of our
in-depth NLP Core Skills
So when your friend looks up
to their left or to their right this doesn't necessarily
mean that they are thinking in pictures - it simply means they are looking in this direction and doing something internally.
You have to establish what they mean using your 'sensory acuity and calibration skills'. (Another Practitioner skill - it is the highly developed ability to recognise these very subtle behaviours and to 'calibrate' or recognise what they indicate for the particular individual with whom we are communicating.)In other words when they look in this direction do they make pictures or do they do something else?
So does it make a difference
whether they look up to their left or up to their right?
Not for practical purposes.
Most NLP courses do teach that when a person looks up to their left
they are making pictures and when they look up to their right they are
Now while this may be true
for some or even many people, it's a highly unreliable process.Far better to
keep things simple, recognise they are looking in one of the likely Visual
Thinking directions, and then use the content of what they are saying and
how they are saying it to gauge whether they are making up pictures are
actually remember them.
The Lie Detection myth
This differentiation between
looking up to the left and up to the right has given rise to the NLP Lie
Detector myth i.e. that you can tell if someone is lying by how they move
their eyes. This is simply not true - and was been refuted by the
originators of NLP in the book Frogs into Princes (1979). They said that for
some people their eyes can indicate whether or not they are
lying - but that this was not reliable.
Pegasus NLP courses we
aim to provide a more thoughtful, systemic and considered satyle of NLP and
we have long campaigned against such simplistic and
un-thought-through 'applications' of NLP.
Related Pegasus NLP Blog articles
Detector Myth - February 2008
Detector Myth (Again) – August 2010
NLP - February 2010
How to use the NLP 'Rep Systems' (Pegasus NLP Blog)
Related Pegasus NLP Website articles
Eye Accessing Cues (1)
NLP Eye Accessing Cues (2)
NLP, eyes and lying – Q&A –
published Summer 2000
NLP Rep systems: Predicates
Eye Movements and communication
NLP and the 'Representational Systems'
More information about NLP
NLP - what's
in it for me?
How to learn NLP
7 tips for choosing an NLP training provider
NLP Core Skills - our course in the New Forest
What people have said about
By Reg Connolly,
Director of Training, Pegasus NLP