NLP Eye Movements: Can you tell when someone is lying?

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This is a guest post from Duff McDuffee, trainer with the iNLP center.

In NLP there is a model called Eye Accessing Cues. The developers of NLP noticed that when you ask a person to recall something visual, usually their eyes would go up and to their left. This isn’t an absolute by any means, but it is remarkably reliable in “normally organized” people. By contrast, if you ask someone to think about something they have to construct visually, like “what would your car look like if it had green polka dots all over it?”, most people will look up and to their right to access that part of their mind.

A very small number of NLP trainers and practitioners have concluded, therefore, that if someone is visually recalling by looking up and to their left, they must be telling the truth. If they are visually constructing by looking up and to their right, however, they are lying. This hasty assumption is false and easy to disprove!

If a person created the lie earlier, they could simply be recalling it now when you ask them. Thus they might use visual recall to access the lie they came up with.

Other people have poor strategies and use unhelpful inner processing. Any NLP trainer worth their salt knows this, because it is part of how NLP strategies are generally taught, starting with the NLP spelling strategy. In English, words aren’t spelled how they sound. Even the word “phonetics” isn’t spelled phonetically (foenetix? fownehticks?). In Spanish, most words are spelled how they sound, but that isn’t the case in English. To learn how to spell English words, it is necessary to use visual recall.

But some English spellers are what we call “creative spellers.” They use the visual constructing mechanism of their mind to make up new spellings fresh every time! This is a useful skill for graphic designers and other visually creative people, but is not so useful for recalling English words.

Getting back to lying…

If you ask someone to tell you where they were on Saturday night at 10pm, and they look up and to their right, they may be telling the truth but have a “creative memory strategy,” just like some English speakers have a “creative spelling strategy.” Creativity isn’t that great for recalling events exactly as they happened, but it doesn’t mean that a person is lying. Nor does it mean that the Eye Accessing Cue model is “wrong.” It may mean instead that this person has an inefficient strategy for recalling memories.

A recent study conducted by someone not trained in NLP, done without consulting any NLP trainer, “disproved” the supposed NLP theory about the connection between eye accessing cues and lying. Although poorly constructed, this study was unfortunately published in an online journal. You can read the full text here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040259. The fatal error in this study is that NLP does NOT make any claim about eye accessing cues and lying. The study disproved a non-claim! How scientific.

Meanwhile, other researchers in the cognitive sciences are busy proving that people’s eyes do, in fact, move when they are thinking. See: http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/21/2/96.abstract. Just keep your eye out for researchers attempting to disprove NLP theories that never existed in the first place.

If you are thinking about getting NLP training, it is important to work with trainers who can make these kinds of distinctions, so that you learn about how to read people, not make unfounded assumptions about them.

To learn more about the high-quality, 1-on-1 NLP training with me, Duff, available through the iNLP Center, you can click here now.

About Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.

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