Eye Movements and NLP | Robert Dilts – NLP Universtiy

Source: Eye movements and NLP

by Robert Dilts

Eye movements as indicators of specific cognitive processes is one of the most well known, if controversial, discoveries of NLP, and potentially one of the most valuable. According to NLP, automatic, unconscious eye movements, or “eye accessing cues,” often accompany particular thought processes, and indicate the access and use of particular representational systems.

The notion that eye movements might be related to internal representations was first suggested by American psychologist William James in his book Principles of Psychology (1890, pp. 193-195). Observing that some forms of micromovement always accompany thought, James wrote:

In attending to either an idea or a sensation belonging to a particular sense-sphere, the movement is the adjustment of the sense-organ, felt as it occurs. I cannot think in visual terms, or example, without feeling a fluctuating play of pressures, convergences, divergences, and accommodations in my eyeballs…When I try to remember or reflect, the movements in question. . .feel like a sort of withdrawal from the outer world. As far as I can detect, these feelings are due to an actual rolling outwards and upwards of the eyeballs.

What James is describing is well known in NLP as a visual eye-accessing cue [eyes moving up and to the left or right for visualization]. James’ observation lay dormant, however, until the early 1970’s when psychologists such as Kinsbourne (1972), Kocel et al (1972) and Galin & Ornstein (1974), began to equate lateral eye movements to processes related to the different hemispheres of the brain. They observed that right-handed people tended to shift their heads and eyes to the right during “left hemisphere” (logical and verbally oriented) tasks, and to move their heads and eyes to the left during “right hemisphere” (artistic and spatially oriented) tasks. That is, people tended to look in the opposite direction of the part of the brain they were using to complete a cognitive task.

English: Richard Bandler in a NLP seminar in L...

English: Richard Bandler in a NLP seminar in London sept. 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In early 1976, Richard Bandler, John Grinder and their students began to explore the relationship between eye movements and the different senses as well as the different cognitive processes associated with the brain hemispheres.

In 1977 Robert Dilts conducted a study, at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco, attempting to correlate eye movements to particular cognitive and neurophysiological processes. Dilts used electrodes to track both the eye movements and brain wave characteristics of subjects who were asked questions related to using the various senses of sight, hearing and feeling for tasks involving both memory (“right brain” processing) and mental construction (“left brain” processing). Subjects were asked a series of questions in eight groupings. Each grouping of questions appealed to a particular type of cognitive processing_visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and emotional (visceral feelings). Each was also geared to either memory (non-dominant hemisphere processing) or construction (dominant hemisphere processing). Dilts’ recordings tended to confirm other tests which showed that lateralization of eye movements accompanied brain activity during different cognitive tasks. This pattern also seemed to hold for tasks requiring different senses.

As a result of these studies, and many hours of observations of people from different cultures and racial backgrounds from all over the world, the following eye movement patterns were identified (Dilts, 1976, 1977; Grinder, DeLozier and Bandler, 1977; Bandler and Grinder, 1979; Dilts, Grinder, Bandler and DeLozier, 1980):

Eyes Up and Left: Non-dominant hemisphere visualization – i.e., remembered imagery (Vr).

Eyes Up and Right: Dominant hemisphere visualization – i.e., constructed imagery and visual fantasy (Vc).

Eyes Lateral Left: Non-dominant hemisphere auditory processing – i.e., remembered sounds, words, and “tape loops” (Ar) and tonal discrimination.

Eyes Lateral Right: Dominant hemisphere auditory processing – i.e., constructed sounds and words (Ac).

Eyes Down and Left: Internal dialogue, or inner self-talk (Ad).

Eyes Down and Right: Feelings, both tactile and visceral (K).

Eyes Straight Ahead, but Defocused or Dilated: Quick access of almost any sensory information; but usually visual.

Read more:http://www.nlpu.com/Articles/artic14.htm


Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. Vol. II, Grinder, J., DeLozier, J. and Bandler, R., 1977.
NLP Vol. I, Dilts, R., et al, Meta Publications, Capitola, CA, 1980.
Roots of NLP, Dilts, R., Meta Publications, Capitola, CA, 1983.

Eye and Head Turning Indicates Cerebral Lateralization; Kinsbourne, M., Science, 179, pp. 539_541, 1972.
Lateral Eye Movement and Cognitive Mode; Kocel, K., et al., Psychon Sci. 27: pp. 223_224, 1972.
Individual Differences in Cognitive Style_Reflective Eye Movements; Galin, D. and Ornstein, R., Neuropsychologia, 12, pp. 376_397, 1974.
The Effect of Eye Placement On Orthographic Memorization; Loiselle, Fran_ois, Ph.D. Thesis, Facult_ des Sciences Sociales, Universit_ de Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, 1985.
Eye Movement As An Indicator of Sensory Components in Thought; Buckner, W., Reese, E. and Reese, R., Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987, Vol. 34, No 3.

Also see the NLP Pattern of the Month or the Archives if you are interested in checking out NLP in more depth.

You also may want to visit the Anchor Point Page. Anchor Point is the practical journal of NLP.

For information on Robert Dilts’ products and services, please see Upcoming Seminars or Robert’s Product Page or return to Home Page. If you have problems or comments concerning our WWW service, please send e-mail to the following address: michaelp@bowsprit.com.

This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1998 by Robert Dilts., Santa Cruz, CA.



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