A not-very-scientific attempt to scientifically discredit NLP http://www.dreamstime.com/-image27203365

According to research published on 11 July 2012 by three teams of scientists (Universities of Hertfordshire, Edinburgh, and British Columbia) NLP ‘proponents’ are being irresponsible in teaching people about eye movements.*

Their paper is called  ‘The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ and they have concluded:

"This work is the first to experimentally test the claims made by NLP practitioners about lie detection. 

Results provide considerable grounds to be sceptical of the notion that the proposed patterns of eye movements provide a reliable indicator of lying.

As such, it would seem irresponsible for such practitioners to continue to encourage people to make important decisions on the basis of such claims.”

The basis for this scientific research

They began by deciding that “proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim that certain eye movements are reliable indicators of lying”. They then proceeded to show that what they had decided was an NLP ‘truth’ was actually untrue…

Which is a bit like

  1. Identifying a group of car drivers who had had accidents
  2. Identifying that they each used the car steering wheel as part of their driving
  3. Teaching some non-drivers to use the steering wheel in the same way but without knowledge of the other requirements for safe driving
  4. Discovering that these non-drivers then had accidents
  5. Concluding that use of car steering wheels is scientifically proven to cause accidents.

A far-fetched analogy? Yes, perhaps a little. Though not all that far-fetched if you check how the authors went about their research. (See the link at the end of this article).

Their sources for their starting premise

Two initial questions arise when looking at this piece of research:

  1. Who did this 3-university scientific research team decide were ‘proponents of NLP’ and
  2. How did they assess whether or not these  selected proponents had actually made these claims?

This is not made very clear in their paper. In fact they are strangely woolly on both counts. Nevertheless a careful reading of their paper indicates that they used three sources.

Source (1): Bandler & Grinder.

Their paper lists 17 references.

However the scientists reference just one NLP source The Structure of Magic I (1975) by Richard Bandler & John Grinder. Not a very rich list of NLP references - but, at least, they seemed to have selected an authoritative place to begin since Bandler & Grinder started the NLP ball rolling back in the period 1971-74. The care with which the researchers perused this book is indicated by the fact that, not only is the  book primarily devoted to the NLP study of linguistics - but it does not deal with eye movements.

Thinking they may have simply got the book title and the publication date wrong, I checked the second book in the series The Structure of Magic II (1976). This is a similarly difficult book to read but, 30 years after first reading it, I valiantly rolled up my sleeves and scanned it – twice. And, yes, eye movement patterns are mentioned briefly - but eye movements and lying is (are?) not mentioned.

Strangely, the researchers do not quote the later, and much more readable, Frogs into Princes (1979) also by Bandler & Grinder which thoroughly deals with the complexity of observing eye movements.

In Frogs into Princes  Bandler & Grinder strongly caution against making facile and simplistic generalisations about eye movements; generalisations such as the link between eye movements and lying, on which this scientific research project has studied.

So, in a nutshell:

  1. The originators of NLP cautioned against such a claim - and still do so
  2. The research team either did not know this - or chose to ignore it (neither of which would indicate diligence)
  3. The research team opted to test the claim which the NLP  originators warned against.

Source (2): Widespread acceptance

The scientists announce that the Eye Movement Myth is "a notion that has received widespread acceptance among the public".  They have provided no evidence to support this claim/assumption.

Source (3): The Internet and YouTube

The scientists do identify another source for their fundamental hypothesis (the relationships between eye moments and lying) as follows "these alleged relationships … are ubiquitous on the Internet … and two well-known YouTube videos have received 30,000 and 60,000 views respectively."

Faced with such evidence we might conclude that their identified ‘proponents of NLP’ are everywhere. To put this type of evaluation into perspective, 60,000 views doesn’t compare too well with the highly recommended old lady bashing the car (439,091 views) or the drunken squirrel (3.6 Million views)

Is it just me?

Am I missing something here?

If a group of scientific researchers want to do a serious research project with colleagues at two other universities surely they would start out with a firm foundation i.e. pick an hypothesis worth testing rather than something which they Googled (because, yes, they did admit using a Google search to evaluate how widely supported was their selected starting point).

Because it was popular on Google, and on YouTube, they decided they had a sound starting point for their research.

I just checked Google for "the earth is flat" and got 2,900,000 results while “aliens live amongst us” got 32.5 million results.

The research team set up a project to test one daft claim (see the NLP Lie Detector Myth published in 2008) so maybe they will next do some research to prove how wrong are those who believe in aliens among us or flat earthers.

But isn’t it good to have myths scientifically debunked

Yes, it is, and especially if the science is sound and if the myth (as it is in this case) is un-useful to the general public.

But if the myth is debunked by poor science it undermines both the debunking and the reputation of the de-bunkers leaving the myth stronger.

Their case would have been a little more convincing if they had

  • Taken steps to create a sound premise to investigate
  • Assessed whether NLP originators and trainers were supportive of or were rejecting of this premise
  • Investigated how the eye movement patterns are actually taught and used by established and authoritative NLP training organisations.

Woolly thinking

Their case would have been stronger still if they had demonstrated the kind of precision we expect in scientific research - and the kind of precision we have assessed in the 100's of NLP Practitioners who have achieved NLP  Practitioner Certification in our own NLP Certification training programmes.

Their imprecise and quite woolly thinking, as evidenced by the concluding paragraph of  their paper, undermines the credibility and precision and thoroughness of their research.

Let’s look at this woolly thinking in their summing up:

Quote: "this work is the first to experimentally test the claims made by NLP practitioners about lie detection". 


  • Which NLP practitioners are they referring to?
  • How do or how did they determine who was or is an NLP ‘practitioner’? For example, they did not speak with either of the originators of NLP nor with anyone from the world of NLP training.)
  • Was their research aimed at the eye movement patterns in general? Or their relation to their ‘application’ in lie detection? This distinction is not made clear in their paper.
  • Did they assume that in authentic NLP we consider  the eye movement patterns to be true for everyone? (They are not and can differ considerably from one person to another. They will also differ in response to different styles of question. They will also differ depending on how recent is the event being recalled. They will also differ based on the emotions being experienced by the person. They will also differ etc. etc. etc. )

Quote: "Results provide considerable grounds to be sceptical of the notion that the proposed patterns of eye movements provide a reliable indicator of lying"


  • How is it that they did not discover that the originators of NLP cautioned strongly against this notion?
  • Would they have carried on with the project if they had encountered such an inconvenient fact?
  • Do any professional NLP trainers support this notion? (No doubt there will be some, somewhere, but I’m sure that no Member Trainers of, for example, the Professional Guild of NLP would do so.)

Quote: "As such, it would seem irresponsible for such practitioners to continue to encourage people to make important decisions on the basis of such claims.”


  • Yes, it would be irresponsible – if responsible NLP training bodies were doing so. Why have the researchers not verified if this is the case?
  • Why have the researchers not qualified their work by indicating that they have been less-than-thorough in identifying who are these irresponsible ‘NLP practitioners’ or ‘proponents’?
  • Why have the researchers not qualified their work by identifying whether or not such encouragement is widespread in the world of authentic NLP Training?

The only NLP work referenced in their paper is the afore-mentioned Structure of Magic I (1975).  Ironically, if the researchers had read and absorbed the ideas in this book their conclusion would have been much more precise  and therefore more authoritative....

... The Structure Magic I provides in-depth information on how to use the NLP Meta Model to be clear, unambiguous and precise in how you communicate -  one of the key objectives in authentic NLP training.


Later observations...


The Case of the Missing Websites

Richard Wiseman, one of the paper's authors commented on his twitter account: "Love the NLP folks saying they never believed the eye movement/lying claim. Before yesterday we couldn't find website that was critical."

Inconveniently for the research team, our first on-the-web caution about believing that the eye movements can be used as lie detector was published over 12 years ago - and this is recorded in the Web Archive for 20 August 2000 http://web.archive.org/web/20000917062055/https://www.nlp-now.co.uk/q_and_a.htm

You can comment on website which published the paper

I have now been able to access the comments section of the PLoS One site which has published this research project

My comment is here:  http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=51991

The Eyes Don’t have it: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming by Professor Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire, UK) and Dr Caroline Watt (University of Edinburgh, UK). http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040259

By adding your own comment it should remain on academic record. Should remain? Well, strangely some comments later disappeared (see below).

So many flaws in one research project

I was tempted, until  I decided that life was too short, to do further articles on this paper's many splendid examples of how not to do a piece of scientific research, such as

  • the researcher handing over his/her mobile phone to each of the student volunteers so they could then hide it in the next room
  • the researchers testing NLP, with no apparent NLP skill, by looking at news footage of people who lied on camera
  • the stunning ineptitude of the researchers in not determining how the NLP Eye Movements are actually taught in professional NLP training programmes - and their being prepared to use YouTube videos instead
  • the researchers 'training' (their description) a group of undergrad students  in NLP Eye Movement detection skills - by giving them an information sheet to read
  • and so on and on.

See this discussion, too

Check also:  Excellent article and discussion comments on Andy Smith's blog

The Case of the Missing Comments

Is this really the future of ‘science’?

This morning (Wed 18 July 2012) there were 8 comments on the website of PLoSONE who reviewed and published the scientific paper by Dr Richard Wiseman and his colleagues. This evening there were just five.

One of the commentators has since questioned PLoSONE on what has happened to his comments.

The Case of the Missing Debate

Richard Wiseman has not responded to the many questions about the validity of their research paper posted on blogs and on Twitter.

However he has, this evening (18 July), announced on Twitter that their paper on PLoSONE has had 20,000 visits – the most ever for the publication, he claims. But he denied any knowledge of the removal of the critical comments on PLoSONE.

Does this mean that 20,000 visitors (publicity) justifies the questionable nature of their research and their conclusions (truth, accuracy)?

Usually serious academics welcome debate about their work, as a way of furthering debate and knowledge. Yet, here we have a group of scientists who seem more interested in the publicity their work has received that its accuracy.  They have received great publicity, as Wiseman has accurately celebrated but have they contributed to serious scientific research?


You'll find more articles on Rep Systems here:

NLP, eyes and lying – Q&A – published Summer 2000  (from Q&A published Summer 2000)
NLP Representational Systems: Predicates  (September 2001)
Using the famous NLP Eye Accessing Cues  (January 2002)
'Gimme time to think!'  (January 2006)
The NLP Eye Accessing Cues  (January 2007)
NLP & Representational Systems  (February 2007)
The ‘NLP Lie Detector Technique’  (February 2008)
Trivialising NLP (again…)  (February 2010)
The NLP Lie-Detector Myth (yet again…)  (August 2010)
How to use the NLP 'Rep Systems' (March 2012)
‘The Eyes Don’t Have It’ – NLP scientifically disproved?  (July 2012)
Using the NLP Eye Movements  (April 2013)


  1. Tudor Barker on 15th July 2012 at 8:36 PM

    There is a belief by many, including NLP practitioners that the “Lying Eyes” technique is viable, I know one master practitioner that is totally convinced that it works and uses the technique to “wrongly” judge others.

    Personally I think eye movements suitably calibrated for each individual can be of use to analyze how a person may process thought especially used with other indicators.

    As for the so called study and results that you mention, hardly worth spending time pointing out the errors and faults.

  2. Reg on 15th July 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Hi Tudor
    Yes, even some of our ‘own’ master practitioners can develop strange and idiosyncratic interpretations of NLP – after certification. It’s a bit like the driving licence test – you can tick all the boxes ‘on the day’, get your licence, and then go off and drive like an idiot.

    The research needs to be addressed – however amateurish may have been the procedures and ‘disciplines’ – because the media have pounced on it in the ‘news silly season’.

    News media generally aren’t too bothered with accuracy these days – only headlines that will endure for a few hours. Happily blogs often give the ‘little folk’ a chance to put their side of the case.


  3. Russell on 15th July 2012 at 9:50 PM

    Hi Reg,

    I have heard this old story a few times from different people who had one thing in common: they didn’t know anything about NLP!

    A though occurred to me while reading your post: have you tried to contact the authors? If they are serious academics they should welcome the opportunity to do some field research by speaking to someone about actually knows something about NLP!

  4. Reg on 16th July 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Hi Russell

    I’ve been banging the drum about the Lie Detection Myth for about 20 years – but I think there’s something here about not letting the facts get in the way of a good story or a spicy piece of scientific research.

    There are 3 critical comments on the PLoS site but these have not received a response from the researchers.

    Field research?? It appears they relied heavily on Google – and using very selective search terms, at that – rather than actually speaking with people.

    Our first ‘NLP lying’ caution from August 2000 has been on Page 1 or 2 of Google for this search term for a long time. Search for NLP Lie Detector and our article has been in the top 4 for years…

    That said, I am trying to contact them… see ‘Additional Notes’ above.


  5. Toby Buckle on 16th July 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Hi Reg

    I have always borne your words of caution in mind since your practitioner training and I am careful around presupposing any truth from eye movements.

    I now always add this caution into my training of others and indeed rarely cover eye patterns on a short course due to the chance of misinterpretation of the theory.

    Having assisted on a number of other NLP training the explicit caution is not always present – although none has claimed you can spot lying.

    I have however read this lie detector theory in some popular crime novels by Peter James etc though and I often get asked about it by those with no NLP experience as one of the things they think NLP can help with!

    I guess these researchers may have been keen to pick on a high profile news worthy ‘NLP idea’ and debunk it rather than really get to understand the nature of the situation.


  6. Reg on 16th July 2012 at 9:18 AM

    Hi Toby

    Good suggestion – not including NLP in short trainings. These are usually packed with information ad experiences and the subtleties that need to go along with the Eye Accessing Movements could get forgotten – however carefully they are taught.

    The rigours and clarity needed in teaching NLP isn’t always present in all training courses. It’s the driving test analogy, again (mentioned above in reply to Tudor).

    Yes, the researchers do seem to making a thing about how popular their paper has proved – both on Wiseman’s Twitter and in the comments section of the actual paper.

    If popularity in public reception of the paper is more important than accuracy in design and implementation of the project then they have done very well.


    (And I can’t believe it’s 9 years since you attended the Practitioner Training – but it is, I’ve just checked)

  7. Ed Beckmann on 16th July 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Reg, a well-considered response to a paper that sounds like a waste of trees (or inconvenienced electrons).

    Perhaps like any rumours the impact of the research paper will not be because of its accuracy but whether any readers want to believe it to be true.

    Undermining the article could absorb as much energy as it’s writing (on the assumption that any research took place and it was not knocked up in an evening with a bottle of wine and a few searches on google), so I hope it does not take your time away from more valuable insights into thought and behaviour.

    And I very much hope that public funds were not spent on sponsoring Wiseman et al. Hopefully any academic accreditation process will discover that the quoted references were incorrect – if not, that would really undermine the education system.

  8. Reg on 16th July 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Hi Ed

    Good point about the impact being about what readers want to believe – and what the news media want to repeat.

    I agree that refuting the article was (and could be) time consuming. The most time-consuming part was attempting to separate the facts from the quite biased opinions – no mean task in this case.

    And, yes, quite surprised that this has been peer-reviewed – especially in view of the inaccurate (and only) NLP reference.


  9. Margaret Johnson on 16th July 2012 at 10:50 AM

    The point of “Peer Review” is that it is done by people of equal qualifications, experience, rigour and integrity to the writer/s.

    Going on the quality of this reported research and the writing thereof, that is not very high. No wonder then that the standing of our educational establishments and their graduates is in question in comparison to other parts of the world.

    These people are professors in their field and yet they have published something that would have been derided if submitted by a first year student at any University. Method sloppy, writing sloppy. Premise generalised and distorted beyond belief. More like a badly researched journalistic piece than a serious research project.

    Unfortunately it may be added to the welter of items that are produced by the establishment to supposedly debunk and discredit by association any idea that does not fit into an already closed mind. Witch hunt is the phrase that immediately comes to mind.

    Why? because Witches were wise people who were persecuted by the establishment, often by using some purported and distorted activity to convict them of wrongdoing when their practices had been wrongly reported and used by others for their own questionable purposes.

  10. Reg on 16th July 2012 at 10:59 AM

    Hi Margaret

    Reading your comment makes me glad I’m not part of the researcher team – I’d be decidedly embarrassed.

    Interestingly, one of the researchers includes in his Subject Area: “Deception, parapsychology, public understanding of science, luck.”

    Hopefully this is the neither the type nor standard of science he wants the public to understand.


  11. Sam Salt on 16th July 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Hi Reg

    A good paper to consider alongside the one mentioned is:
    Daimantopoulos, G., Wooley, S., Spann, M., 2008, A Critical Review of Past Research into the Neuro-Linguistic Programming Eye-accessing Cues Model Proceedings of 2008 Conference Current Research in NLP July 2008. ANLP:Surrey.

    In an academic paper I wrote I noted the following about this paper:

    “The interpretation of so-called eye-accessing cues (EAC) is a controversial NLP theory which is often anecdotally reported as being unproven. In this paper the authors review all the known published and peer-referenced research into EAC with a view to assessing the reliability of the methods used and interpretation of results.

    A detailed analysis suggests that there are faults in the designs of these experiments and a lack of consistency both in carrying out the observations and in the frameworks used to come to conclusions.

    One of the key suggestions is that the method used in these studies to account for transderivational search (i.e. how to account for mapping from surface to deep structures) was flawed.

    The authors conclude that the potential flaws render the conclusion that EAC is unsupported as unsafe and suggest ways in which future research could be designed to be more reliable.”


  12. Andy Steel on 17th July 2012 at 4:01 AM

    Hi Reg

    I love this area of Nlp that seems to be taken way out of proportion by the ‘Academics’ in our society.

    I’m wondering if they will start a paper on the 100’s of websites and books etc. claiming that Nlp can help you have the woman of your dreams and other topics all used by those who like mentioned above, have passed their driving test… But gone on to use Nlp in other not so ethical areas.

    I am sure that those who like to ‘think for themselves’ will not be put off or buy into the shabby research methods mentioned.

    I am concerned that like Margeret says, this is representing the standards Of our graduates.

    Richard wiseman… And to think I bought one of his books!!!!


  13. Reg on 17th July 2012 at 6:43 AM

    Hi Sam

    Sounds like the Daimantopoulos, Wooley, & Spann study – and your own – highlight the importance of thoroughness that is needed in scientifically testing NLP theories. Thanks for the reference.

    As you have suggested Daimantopoulos et al also seem to have got to the nub of the issue – that “the potential flaws render the conclusion that EAC is unsupported as unsafe.”

    I was going to do a further article on how the actual experiments were carried out but realised that there were so many in the flaws in the Wiseman et al study that the article would be almost a book!

    One important point which renders all studies as unsafe is that, as Bandler and Grinder caution in Frogs into Princes (1975), NLP models are not true – they are just models.

    In good NLP we use these models as a starting point, a very provisional hypothesis or a short-cut, to establish how the individual with who we are working is operating. If we find, as is often the case, that the individual does things in a different way to the model then we adapt our model to suit their style.

    This very fluid way of working with people requires considerable skill – and may well be impossible to scientifically prove in a controlled experiment.


  14. Reg on 17th July 2012 at 6:51 AM

    Hi Andy

    I think you’ve raised an important point in a humorous way (and wish I’d thought of it for my original blog article!)

    One thing I have just heard – and which I am sure is simply an amazing coincidence and has nothing to do with strategic marketing…

    (1) The Wiseman et al conclusions have been reported by 100’s by print and web publications around the world.

    (2) Wiseman published his latest self help book, subtitled “The radically new approach to changing your life: The Simple Idea That Changes Everything” just 6 days before the study was announced.


  15. Reg on 17th July 2012 at 7:25 AM

    This is part of an email from someone who, for professional reasons, does not wish to commend directly:

    I found an article that has done such research: http://www.springerlink.com/content/w472325576427p11/

    Having just finished a thesis myself (not in NLP) I had to undertake a literature review. I wonder how they missed the above (took me 1 minute on google scholar).

    ‘Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim that certain eye-movements are reliable indicators of lying.’ Who? What was the hypothesis based on and what was the hypothesis? There were no statements of null hypothesis outright.

    The abstract opener was: “Proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) claim …“ which is a generalisation without foundation unless specified to a specific community within NLP (a Guild, company, splinter group, individual etc). From personal experience with Pegasus you did state that eye movement is no indicator of lying unless clustered with other indicators (body language, anxiety, construction when re-construction would be expected etc).

    Sample size:
    • “The 32 participants (12 male, average age 22.3, range 18–56 years) were primarily undergraduate students recruited through contacts of the experimenters.” So, the majority were female undergraduates who might have been influenced by their friends into taking part and might have had inside biased knowledge! One could also question the demographic – intelligent, young female from a middle class background and might have come from a business or psychology faculty and be aware of techniques associated with lying through guilty knowledge and the fact that there was a declaration that this was a lying study. Hardly a good sample)

    • The 50 participants (16 male, average age 26.62 years, range 18–73) were recruited through contacts of the experimenters. I guess you could perform similar analysis on this second sample – like you say, life is too short

  16. Margaret Johnson on 17th July 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Hi Reg,

    I did a similar analysis of the paper and came to the conclusion that if I could spot all these faults plus others in 10 to 15 minutes the “research” was so flawed that it was worthless.

    At the time I was keen to get out in the garden to make use of the rare dry day so rather than go into each and every muddy footstep taken by the writers I just gave my overall opinion. Perhaps I am rather more forthright in offering opinion than most people.

    Though no research will be perfect as we human beings can only work with as much knowledge as we have at any point in our development, rigour and critical assessment of our method by someone outside our immediate circle is essential for the best possible outcome in any field of work.

    I wonder if the study area of deception includes self deception and delusion.

    The subject of research is indeed worthy of thorough discussion and a decent book Reg. Maybe this example of really appallingly bad, I almost cannot call it, work could be used in the how not to sections, maybe under the heading of spot the flaw.

  17. Reg on 17th July 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Hi Margaret

    I believe the lack of outside feedback and rigorous assessment of the work shines through. According to their website the PLoS ONE Academic Editors use these criteria to evaluate submissions for publication:


    They do seem to have been just a little lax in evaluating this particular study.

    (I hope you enjoyed the dry day – and are looking forward to many more of these that the Jet Stream is finally moving to it’s proper summer location to the North of the Isles)


  18. Justin L on 18th July 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Hi Reg,
    I think you’ve covered the most important aspect of this study, to not let it go unnoticed and pass without question. That said there’s been some more useful comments added. Treble cheers all round!

    I’ll just raise a point made by arguably one of the greatest scientists of our time, Richard Feynman. He writes in ‘The MEANING of it ALL’ that science can mean one of three things: a)a special method of finding things out b)a body of knowledge arising from things found out. c)things you can do when you have found something out (technology).

    In the same book he emphasises the importance of finding things out scientifically. He makes a great distinction to things done thoroughly. In the case of this eye-accessing study, the researchers may have been extraordinarily thorough in studying the data from two samples, in reference to the ideas they are testing.

    So if they use one data sample to demonstrate their claim, they have one data set to to show their claims are consistent and reliable, which is questionable. They have no data samples to show how they have tested their ideas beyond a partially formed control group. False knowledge is no knowledge and beyond that, doing anything further with the information is questionable.

    So in every way, this study fails to meet the conditions of Feynman’s ideas about the meaning of science. This is before looking at the authenticity of their research.

    Given that it is such a dim approach to science it’s not clear what any peer could have had to review?

  19. suzy bolt on 19th July 2012 at 8:48 AM

    Goodness me – do these people have nothing better to do with their time that to write about an area of NLP that any wise NLP’er would also not validate? Maybe the 20,000 readers of this article (or so he says) consist of all your ex students Reg, reading in outrage!

    Dismayed (of Brighton!)

    ps. I am glad, in this instance, that the tax payers are not funding this one!

  20. Mike Hughesman on 19th July 2012 at 12:03 PM

    I enjoyed reading your commentary on this classic example of the “man of straw” approach to research. (i.e. first build a man of straw and then show how clever you are to pull it apart).

    But glib half-truths are the trade of the popular journalist rather than the serious researcher and you only have to look at his (admittedly amusing) book “59 seconds: think a little, change a lot” to realise that he has crossed that particular line and is struggling to find a way back.

    The cover notes paint him as a hero who “exposes modern-day mind myths promoted by the self-help industry…” so any riposte may appear mean-spirited.

    Parody has no place in ethically sound research; humour is entertaining but it also influences how people think (probably a lot more effectively than dry academic articles!).

    Kind Regards to all

    Mike H.

  21. Reg on 22nd July 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Hi Justin

    Good points. There are usually lots of vested interests in a project this one, carried out by teams from the Universities of Hertfordshire, Edinburgh, and British Columbia. So the invitation to join in a serious debate (as opposed to throwing out Twitter 140 character pronouncements – but ignoring or dismissing dissenting replies) is often best avoided.

    “We’ve got our huge international, favourable and unquestioning media publicity – if we get into a serious debate the publicity might become unfavourable. Let’s ignore it and it will go away.”

    The manner in which this research, and its subsequent publication, has been managed does not reflect well on field of academic research and ‘scientific facts’.

    In fact, it provides a great rebuttal of the challenge ‘has this been scientifically proven?’ Here we
    – have a ‘fact’ that has now been scientifically proven
    – has been peer reviewed and published in an online scientific journal
    – has received international publicity.

    So henceforth their results are ‘true’. (Even though they are patent nonsense.)



  22. Reg on 22nd July 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Hi Suzy

    Like Mike (and Andy Smith – in his Coaching Leaders Blog) suggest it was a great idea – create a straw man and then show how clever you are by showing it’s only made of straw – and become famous for being clever.

    Don’t know how the Edinburgh and Hertfordshire universities are funded or indirectly supported so I can’t comment on the used of public money….



  23. Reg on 22nd July 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Hi Mike

    Have to say I’d never heard of Wiseman nor his books until this research paper was published – just 6 days after the publication of his latest book…

    No doubt the book sales will not have been adversely affected by the publicity received by the research.

    Thanks for the suggestion that I read one of the books but, if it contains thinking of the quality and thoroughness evidenced by his scientific research, I’ll pass.


  24. Justin L on 25th July 2012 at 10:29 AM

    I watched a repeat of QI XL on Dave the other night and that well-known proponent of comedy Rob Brydon made a comment along the lines of “If a person looks up and to the right it means they’re lying”. I’m not in touch with nlp these days, could be he’s an authority on such matters?

    Certainly from attending your practitioner course I’d say it was more a case of being aware that there are no reliable indicators and learning to check and elicit more informaion about other peoples meaning.

    I think you’re right though and this smacks of more than poor science. I’ll try and describe this misinformation I found.

    Quote from the research article:
    Throughout the 1980s researchers examined many of the claims made by NLP practitioners [5], [6]. Much of this work assessed the alleged relationship between eye-movement
    The references, 5 and 6 are misplaced and words extended to give an impression that lacks substance. It should read like this:
    “Throughout the 1980s a researcher[5], [6] examined many of the claims made by NLP practitioners (unreferenced).

    The references, 5 and 6, point to one Sharpley paper I have read and the case it presented was knocked-down years ago.

    After putting togther a number of indicators I’m reasonably sure this isn’t science and serves purposes that can’t be called scientific. The eye accessing cue facts must be tested against the eye accessing predictions, these so-called researchers only tested the reliability of a myth.

    I do like figure-of-speech expressions so I am curious to know where this granny-psychology sprang from, as you say, some years ago you also made reference to avoiding it.

  25. David Lanark on 30th July 2012 at 4:08 AM


    Ok, the research posted might be problematic.

    It shows a no go on eye accessing and lying.

    I have been looking round for NLP research in general. Is there any eye accessing related research that confirms what I have been taught in the NLP trainings I have been given?: I.e. that eye accessing cues are helpful and accurate!

    David Lanark

  26. Colette White on 30th July 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Amazing article! I love the way things have been explained by using the “Steering wheel” analogy.
    Colette White(NLP Practitioner, Infinite Excellence)

  27. David Lanark on 31st July 2012 at 1:51 AM

    Oh, sorry, I see

    Norcross, J. C.; Koocher, G. P.; Garofalo, A. (2006). “Discredited psychological treatments and tests: A Delphi poll”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 37 (5): 515

    Sharpley C.F. (1987). “Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory”. Journal of Counseling Psychology 34 (1): 103–107, 105

    Looks like there is no real substance to what I was taught at all.

    As for:

    The Wiseman et al research did take into account ecology. There was a statistical test, you would expect at least some significance if eye accessing was true.

    So sorry, I think the only reasonable reaction to the research would be to say “Good, someone has spent time and energy testing NLP and found that one of the claims was wrong, now we can move forward”.

    But instead I see stuff like this: http://www.bradburyac.mistral.co.uk/nlpfax28.htm?

    I am afraid I have gotten involved with a group who would rather do what the creationists do: Criticize evolutionary biology and claim that the criticism makes their creationism valid.

    Sorry, but I think I may have to ritually burn my NLP certs and rejoin the land of reality.

    Or does anybody here have some research that trumps the negative reviews?

  28. Reg on 31st July 2012 at 7:16 AM

    Hi David

    I began a reply but it was beginning to approach blog article length so I will post it as a separate article later.

    (I think blog comments should be succinct – rather than essays or platforms or pulpits. A commentator on a different blog, but on the same theme, managed to make his first two ‘comments’ exceed 15,000 words 🙂 )