Yep, it’s back yet again – the NLP Lie-Detector myth or lie. I’ve just come across a Google Alerts’ reference to this NLP lie-detector article from Alabama’s North Jefferson News.
What myth?? You know, it’s the one which says that you can tell if a person is lying by whether they look up to the right or to the left when you ask them a question.
In essence it suggests that if you ask someone a question and their eyes move up and to their left they ‘should be’ remembering something they have already seen. And if they look up and to their right they ‘are’ creating or making up an image.
So if I ask you a question and you look up and to your right this shows me that you are making up the answer i.e. you are lying. Simple! And false.
(By the way, there’s a previous Pegasus NLP Blog article about the lie-detector myth published in February 2008.)
Teresa Vise, the article’s author, says the eye movement indicators of lying relates to the right and left sides of the brain. Broadly stated, the parts of the brain handling creativity and feelings dwells in the right while and facts and memory hang out in the left. The research behind this is called Neuro-linguistics Programming (NLP) theory was developed in the 1960s.
She does add that it doesn’t always mean the person is lying. It could mean that the person is uncertain of the answer, and is creatively speculating...
Having said that she then adds Either way it may be good to know that a look right in search for an answer to a direct question means that the person is probably lying or guessing according to this theory. What you really want to see is a direct straight on look with the direct straight on answer.
So, amazingly, she is asserting that if people don’t look you straight in the eye it’s likely they are being devious…
Teresa does somewhat undermine her credibility by describing NLP as a research (!), stating that is is called Neuro-linguistics Programming (NLP) theory and announcing that it was developed in the 1960s. It is called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. And her starting date is a bit earlier than the original developers would put it – they seem to think they began developing NLP between during the period 1974-1976.
It may be not a big deal, in the wide world of NLP, to have an inaccurate article about NLP appear in a twice weekly newspaper with a circulation of 3000.
Nevertheless it shows how easily myths become reality. People quote people who quote others. So writers owe it to their readers to be accurate. The author is not only an MSc and an MBA but also appear to be quite active in her community. So she has credibility and her views may carry weight.
According to someone called Billy Boy Franklin “If a lie is repeated often enough all the dumb jackasses in the world not only get to believe it, they even swear by it.” It’s a wise and much-repeated quotation though I’ve been unable to trace who he is or was. And, anyway, Francis Bacon put it more subtlety “Lies are sufficient to breed opinion, and opinion brings on substance”.
However this article points to a weakness in NLP. There is no central NLP organisation or governing body so there is no-one looking out for how NLP is being presented to the general public. Anyone can write anything anywhere about NLP without fear of being criticised or corrected.
Yet, this weakness in NLP is also, in my opinion, its strength.
NLP is a powerful and dynamic system of insights and knowledge, supported by a great methodology. It would long since have been hijacked by universities and the psychological and psychiatric professions had it not been for the fact that, in the early days, Bandler and Grinder were so cocky and scathing in their attitude towards these august bodies.
When in the mid to late 70s the NLP co-developers first began running NLP workshops around the US, Richard Bandler was in his mid 20s and John Grinder was in his early 30s. So it was particularly galling to the medical and psychological and psychiatric professions that these young upstarts were gleefully goading them with how NLP could resolve problems such as phobias much more quickly and effectively then could the professionals with their years of training.
When I first came across their comments over thirty years ago I thought they were being short-sighted and that, instead, they should cultivate the establishment and become ‘accepted’.
I was wrong.
Had they not done it their way NLP would now be carefully managed and organised, run by committees of the great and the good, policed by university academics, all NLP methods would have to be peer-reviewed and published in learmed journals, and you’d probably need a university degree to be able to attend an NLP course.