NLP Representational systems

Knowing how human experience is constructed can be extremely useful in communication. Our inner subjective experience is structured in terms of our senses. When we think, or process information internally, we “re-present” the information in terms of the sensory systems that are our only contact with the ‘outside world’:

seeing Visual
hearing Auditory
feeling Kinaesthetic
smelling Olfactory
tasting Gustatory

It is possible to access any experience in any one, or any combination, of these five representation Systems (abbreviated to: V, A, K, 0 and G).

Eye Accessing Cues

People move their eyes in systematic directions depending on which representational system they are accessing. These movements are called eye accessing cues. The picture shows the kind of processing most people do when they move their eyes in a particular direction. Remember that this model is a stereotype, and always calibrate to the individual. (NB a small percentage of the population, including about half of all left-handers, are reversed – i.e. their eye movements are the mirror image of those shown.)

Imagine this picture superimposed over the eyes of the person you are looking at.

Visual constructed seeing new or different images, eg a pink elephant.
Auditory constructed hearing new or different sounds, eg the sound of your name backwards.
Kinesthetic emotional feelings, proprioception (feeling muscle movement), tactile sensations (sense of touch).
Visual remembered seeing images seen before, eg your face.
Auditory remembered. remembering sounds heard before: eg your doorbell.
Auditory dialogue sometimes called auditory digital, talking to oneself, eg “say something to your self that you often say”.
Visual the blank stare ahead, either constructed or remembered.

VAK questionnaire

Most people use a combination of learning styles but often find there is one particular style which suits them best.

Visual learning style

Visual learners prefer learning resources which can been ‘seen’. If you are a visual learner make sure you look at all the available study materials, you will find diagrams, charts and graphs, diagrams, maps, video, notes and flashcards useful. Make sure you can see clearly in class. Try seeing or picturing words and ideas in your head and try associating words and ideas with pictures. Draw cartoons or doodles. Write everything down in note form so you have a quick reference guide for the information you need to learn.

Auditory learning style

Auditory learners prefer learning resources which can be ‘heard’. If you are an auditory learner you may find it useful to use audio tapes. Read your notes out loud and record them, then play them back and listen to them. Make sure you can hear clearly in class. After you have read through what you need to learn try summarising it and then saying it out loud. Play your tape quietly when you go to bed. Pair up with someone else who prefers an auditory style of learning and read out both your own and each other’s notes.

Kinaesthetic learning style

Kinaesthetic learners prefer learning resources which are ‘hands-on’. They like to be actively involved. Writing several sets of notes can help you with facts which need to be learned. Make study sheets, draw diagrams and try to put the information into table format. Tracing the words with your finger and speaking them out loud may be useful. Sing or rap your notes and dance around to the rhythm, either on your own or with a friend. If it is possible then make a model of something to help you learn about a topic.

Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic responses

Visual learners will often use and respond to phrases like:

  • That looks right
  • I get the picture
  • I’m still in the dark over this
  • What is your view
  • I see that now
Auditory learners will often use and respond to phrases like:

  • Does that sound ok?
  • Listen
  • I hear what you are saying
  • That’s music to my years
  • That ring’s a bell
Kinaesthetic learners will often use and respond to phrases like:

  • How does that grab you?
  • Can you relate to that?
  • That doesn’t feel right
  • It’s difficult to handle that
  • Given me a concrete example

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