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Eye Accessing Cues
By Roger Ellerton Phd, ISP, CMC, Renewal Technologies Inc. www.renewal.ca
Have you ever noticed that peopleís eyes move when they are thinking? This is valuable information that can provides us with clues as to whether they are thinking in pictures, sounds, feelings or talking to themselves. Or in other words, information about their lead and preferred representational systems.
William James (Principles of Psychology, 1890) first suggested that internal representations and eye movements may be related. This observation was not explored further until the 1970ís when Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts and others conducted further experimentation in this area.
According to neurological research, eye movement both laterally and vertically seems to be associated with activating different parts of the brain. In the neurological literature, these movements are called lateral eye movements (LEM) and in NLP we call them eye accessing cues because they give us insights as to how people are accessing information.
To get an idea how your eyes move, consider the following questions. For each question, as you think of the answer, notice the direction(s) your eyes move (up down or to the side) or if your eyes do not seem to move notice if you have a sense that you are looking in a certain direction (even if only for a fraction of a second).
Did you notice your eyes had a tendency to look up for the first two questions, to the side for the next two questions and down for the last two questions? In general, if you are making a picture in your mind your eyes will tend to go up to the left or the right, for sounds laterally to the left or right, and down to the left or right for feelings or when you talk to yourself.
More specifically, if you are right-handed, you may have noticed the following (for people who are left handed, interchange left and right in the following text):
Note: The above eye patterns are how your eyes would move if you are right-handed. The following picture describes the eye patterns for a right-handed person as you look at them - please note this distinction. These patterns are fairly consistent across all races, with the possible exception of the Basques, who appear to have a number of exceptions to the rule. For many left-handed people, the chart is reversed i.e. mirror image.
Eye Pattern Chart
If you would like to have some fun with your friends or family, here are some other questions you can take turns asking each other - or you can make up your own.
Peopleís Eyes do not Always Move
Sometimes peopleís eyes do not move and this may be due to:
Using Eye Patterns to Assess Truthfulness or Congruence
If a person is describing something that they have seen or heard, then their eyes should primarily move to visual or auditory remembered. However if a person is making something up, then their eyes will tend to move to visual or auditory constructed, indicating that the person is constructing some part of the situation they are describing. This may indicate that the person is uncertain or untruthful about what they are thinking.
Be careful assuming someone is untruthful. For example, suppose you asked me a question about something that I had never thought about before. To formulate an answer, I may have to look at or hear one or more pieces of true information in a way that I had never done so before. In this situation, I would be constructing an answer and my eyes would most likely move to visual or auditory constructed.
Lead and Preferred Representational Systems
People have habitual eye movements related to their lead and preferred representational systems.
I am right-handed and my lead system is auditory digital. If you were to ask me, what is the colour of my front door, my eyes would first go down to my left (auditory digital) before going up to my left (visual remembered). Why? Because the first thing I would do is repeat the question and make sense of it (auditory digital), and then get the answer (visual remembered).
In a similar manner, if your lead system is visual and I asked you what does it feel like to be in a nice warm bath, you would probably get a picture of being in the bath (visual remembered) before accessing the feeling.
Your preferred representational system is the sensory modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, auditory digital) you use to organize and understand some experience or situation. If I am speaking to someone or giving a presentation and I notice that their eyes keep going up to visual, even if I am not using visual words or pictures, then this is a clue that they may be forming visual internal representations and their preferred representational system is visual. On the other hand if their eyes are tracking on the horizontal plane, then they are processing in sounds and their preferred representational system is auditory. If their eyes are going down, then they may be processing kinesthetically or making sense if what I am saying (auditory digital). If in addition, their eyes are going down to the right and they are right-handed, then their preferred representational system is most likely kinesthetic.
Building Your Confidence in Reading Eye Accessing Cues
There are a number of ways to practice reading eye accessing cues, here are two:
And NLP is Much more than that!
Author: Roger Ellerton is a certified NLP trainer, certified management consultant and the founder and managing partner of Renewal Technologies. He can be reached at Renewal Technologies www.renewal.ca. The above article is an extract from his book Live Your Dreams - Let Reality Catch Up: NLP and Common Sense for Coaches, Managers and You.
Copyright © 2004, Renewal Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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