Natural. Language. Processing.

Eye Accessing Cues

We experience the world outside our bodies through our senses (VAKOG): vision, sound (auditory), touch (kinesthetic), taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory). We also have the capacity to recreate ‘models’ of our sensory information, that is, we can think in pictures and words and mentally recreate our experience of, or get a sense of an imagined, physical sensation. In addition to this, we feel emotions.
Now take a moment to consider the following:
  • What was the colour of a favourite toy, or item of clothing, from your childhood?
  • Remembering a distinctive sound from your past, perhaps a whistle or a school bell. How clear is it?
  • What do you think of first when you remember a particularly happy event or emotion that you have experienced?
  • How does feel to relax in a warm bath or shower?
  • What would your name look like in colored neon lights above your front door?
  • How would your telephone sound if it were ringing underwater?
  • Each of the questions above causes you to access a memory or to mentally construct an experience. As you relax and run through the questions again. What do you notice, if anything, about the movement of your eyes?
  • Ask a friend the same questions, making sure that you are looking at his/her eyes as you are asking. What do you notice specifically about your friend’s eye movements?
The effect that you might be noticing is referred to in neurological literature as ‘lateral eye-movement’.
NLP uses the phenomenon to help recognise patterns of thinking and primary processing systems (whether people use vision, sound or kinesthetic to trigger their thinking – Rep systems).
This information can be useful in gaining rapport and achieving more effective communication The diagram overleaf shows the usual meanings attached to lateral eye movements.
What you can notice:

These are the usual meanings of lateral eye movement – the illustrations assume that you are facing the other person (so that their left is your right).
  1. Up and to the left usually means that a person is remembering something visually—get the picture?
  2. Up and to the right usually means that a person is imagining (constructing) something visually. Can you just imagine that!.
  3. Left side (horizontal) usually means a remembered sound—does that ring a bell?.
  4. Right side (horizontal) usually means an imagined (constructed) sound (I imagine that message should start to become loud and clear to you now)..
  5. Down right (which is down right obvious!) usually means that a person is accessing a bodily feeling or emotion—are you getting to grips with this idea now?
  6. Down left usually means that a person is accessing internal dialogue. This is often a repeated phrase such as “I should know better!”, “Yes! Done it again”, “Told you so”, etc., that comes up time-and-time again in; typically at times of stress or elation.
Although the patterns above are those most commonly found, there are exceptions. Some people have the patterns reversed (typical in, but not exclusive to, many left-handed people), others have a ‘mixture’. There are also some cultures where this pattern is not the norm. Bearing in mind the NLP presupposition that ‘Everyone lives in their own unique model of the world’, you might encounter different patterns.