Monitoring eye movements and arriving at possible deductions might sound as bizarre and even absurd to many. However, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) suggests something quite different. It connects cognitive processes and eye movements and this linkage, in NLP is referred to as ‘eye accessing cues’. NLP suggests that these unconscious eye movements are indicative of the utilisation of specific internal representations (Dilts, 1998).
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Being skillful in the eye movements of NLP does not mean that you will be able to deduce what someone is thinking about. Rather, how someone might be thinking is what you will be able to recognise. Thoughts are not universally facilitated through the same means for all. While some might think through visuals, others might think through feelings. Some others might engage in self talk and a minority might think auditorily (Connolly, 2019).
NLP Eye Accessing Cues
An insight into the thought process of the person you are working with is what is obtained using the NLP eye accessing cues. This observation information however, in no way can be generalised. There are several cases in which what is observed might not be the reality of the thought process. Another point to note is that the eye directions for a left-handed person would be the opposite of that of a right-handed person (Tools, 2020). The eye-nerve being of closest proximity to the brain forms the basis for eye accessing. Now, let us take a look at the six key eye movement forms. Do note that the eye positions are as looking at another person.
1. Visual Remembered (VR)
One moving their eyes upward and to your right would indicate that they are recollecting an image that they have seen or visualised before. De-focusing eyes is another way that some might gain access to the visual remembered. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
What is the colour of the walls in your bedroom?
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
What is the colour of your car?
How many couches are there in your living room?
2. Visual Constructed (VC)
One moving their eyes upward and to your left would indicate that they are trying to construct an image in their mind. This could mainly be due to two reasons. Either they might not have seen this image before or they might have seen it in the distant past and might find it difficult to recall at once. Visual construction is employed when one creates an image in their head. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
Can you imagine a pink elephant?
Can you imagine yourself three feet taller than you already are?
What would your car look like if it were yellow?
What would an orange ocean look like?
3. Auditory Remembered (AR)
One moving their eyes laterally and to your right would indicate that they are trying to remember something that they have heard previously. This sound could take several forms and range from being the voice of oneself or another, or even a conversation. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
Can you think of your favourite song?
What does the doorbell at your house sound like?
Can you think of the sound of waves crashing against the shore?
Can you think of the sound of a whistle?
4. Auditory Constructed (AC)
One moving their eyes laterally and to your left would indicate that they are trying to construct a sound or a series of sounds that has not been heard by them before. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
Can you imagine if it sounded like a violin playing every time you spoke?
Can you imagine if it sounded like flowing water every time your phone received a text message?
Can you imagine if it sounded like cymbals every time you laughed?
Can you imagine if it sounded like a dog barking every time a bird chirped?
5. Auditory Digital (AD)
One moving their eyes downward and to your right would indicate that they are trying to access their internal dialogue or the talks they have with themselves. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
What is the sound of your own internal voice?
What situations encourage you to talk to yourself?
What are the nicest things you say to yourself?
When you hear a voice, how do you know it is your own?
6. Kinesthetic (K)
One moving their eyes downward and to your left would indicate that they are trying to access their internal or external feelings. While one’s emotions might be an internal feeling, trying to recall touching a hot spoon could be an external kinesthetic. The following are a few examples of questions that might result in the above orientation:
Can you think of how it felt the last time you were complimented by someone?
How does it feel to dip your hand in ice-cold water?
When was the last time you were furious at someone?
What does it feel like to be exhausted after a long run?
Situations in which there is no eye movement
While asking certain questions, you might observe that they respond to you immediately and directly. This could imply that the information already exists at that point in time and did not have to be retrieved. Other NLP techniques could help verify this. As for some others, their eyes do not seem to move regardless of what has been asked of them. This could either be because their eye movements are extremely swift or because their entire head moves. The latter would make it seem as though they are still looking at you whilst the eyes do find their way to the needed orientation so as to retrieve or construct information using their brain (Tools, 2020).
This article is written by Alita Maria Stephen, a final year psychology major at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is also a delegate at the 2021 Harvard National Model United Nations.
Connolly, R. (2019, March 3). The NLP Eye Movement clues. Pegasus NLP. https://nlp-now.co.uk/nlp-eye-movement-clues/
Dilts, R. (1998). The Article of the Month. Article of the Month Page. http://www.nlpu.com/Articles/artic14.htm.
Tools, M. (2020). NLP Eye Accessing Cues. Mind Tools - Tools for your Mind. https://www.mindtools.co.th/personal-development/neuro-linguistic-programming/nlp-eye-accessing-cues/.