NLP Eye Accessing Cues


In NLP, Eye Accessing cues are one of the more controversial subjects - simply because for every NLP practitioner who believes they are a useful tool, there is someone who doesn't believe they work at all.

To put it simply, NLP eye accessing cues are useful and very dependable, as long as you remember that they are a generalization.

When working with someone it is important to calibrate their NLP eye accessing cues to ensure that you are interpreting the signals correctly.

The list below is typical for a right handed person. Left handed people tend to have the left and right reversed but remember do not rely on their left/right handed preference.

These are the usual NLP eye accessing cues:

Movement Mental Activity Description Example Questions
Eyes up and to the right Visual Construction (Vc) The client is making an image of something that they have not experienced. While some element of the picture may be from memory, some elements are being constructed (imagined). I imagine myself with red hair. What would you look like if you had two heads?
How would you decorate this room differently?
Eyes up and to the left Visual Remembered (Vr) The client is remembering an image of something that happened I remember my car. What color is your front door?
Can you remember the cake on your fifth birthday?
Eyes right Auditory Constructed (Ac) The client is imagining something they have never heard before. In my opinion, this is probably the least observed accessing cue. I imagine myself speaking in a foreign accent. What would you sound like if you were of the opposite sex?
Eyes left Auditory Remembered (Ar) The client is remembering a sound from memory. I remember the sound of my mother's voice. What did you mother used to tell you when you misbehaved?
Eyes down and to the right Kinesthetic (K) The client is focusing on an internal feeling. I notice how thinking of an uncomfortable event makes me feel. How did you feel when she left you?
Have you ever been car sick?
Eyes down and to the left Auditory Digital(Ad) The client is listening to a voice inside their head. I look at an attractive person in a bar and say to myself "you're far to ugly." What happens when you think about walking up to an attractive stranger?

Once you have learnt the list of NLP eye accessing cues, the best thing is to observe people for a while and see if their eye movements make sense to you.

For instance, while they were talking about their new car and how flash it was, they kept looking up and to the left which suggests they're making pictures. Does this seem likely?

But do be careful with your conclusions: If a right handed person says that they did post a letter to you, but their eyes are going up and to the right, many people would assume that this could suggest that they are lying. Of course without calibrating you can't be sure. All this information really tells you (assuming that you know that they remember visual memories by looking up and left) is that they are constructing an image. They may be making up a picture of them posting the letter or they may be visualizing something completely different. Maybe they didn't actually post the letter themselves and are imagining the letter being posted.

A simple way to calibrate in this instance would be to ask something that you know they can remember and see if their eyes go to the same direction or not. And remember that this must be done subtly and only tells you whether they were remembering or constructing the image.

When you start trying to watch for NLP eye accessing cues it takes a while to begin to notice these often subtle signals and ignore the noise. Many peoples' eyes will move very quickly to access a memory before projecting the image with a much more obvious gaze. For instance if you ask someone to remember their fifth birthday, they will probably look up and left quickly, the look to a point on their time line and visualize the image there (I will cover this more in the advanced lesson).

Often these accesses happen in pairs, and it's worth thinking about the logic of what someone has to do to answer the question. For instance, what is the eye movement likely to be if you ask someone to think of a time when they felt really relaxed?

Will the person respond by accessing the feeling (k) by looking down and to the right?

Or will they visualize the place where they had that feeling (Vr)?

The answer is that they are almost definitely going to do both. They will access the feeling first, then they will go back through their past looking for the matching time and visualize it.

And this brings me to an important point - if you start asking people questions about the images and sounds they make when they think, you will eventually find someone who will swear blind that they don't make pictures in their head at all.

As you ask them the relevant questions you will notice that their eyes move exactly as you would expect, so what is going on?

Well firstly they are not lying - they are just working with what they are consciously aware of, but they do make pictures.

Otherwise how would they know what car was theirs in the car park? How would they know the way home?

I once watched someone ask directions of a blind person. Not the obvious first choice, but I had to stop and watch them to see what happened.

I don't know whether the blind person was blind from birth or not, but he made absolutely huge images, and laid them out in front of him using his hands. It was so clear that I could see his images from across the street!

In the advanced lesson I will be covering extensions to the eye accessing skills that will make you seem like a mind reader!

Postscript July 16th 2012:

Currently it seems the world and his wife are trying to prove that NLP is quackery. And for some reason they are all going after NLP eye accessing cues. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it seems an easy area to test.

There is a lot of smugness around the paper: The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which isn't really the best way to do science. And having read the article it's a pity that no one involved seems to know anything about NLP. Firstly, within NLP eye accessing isn't generally believed to be a reliable measure of lying only a reliable measure of remembered verses constructed images, so all the smugness about proving NLP is wrong is based on redefining the NLP view. Secondly within the experiment the lying was pre-planned which is not a good test of remembered verse constructed images in the least. If I tell someone that they are to go into a room and make an image of a pig with a giraffes head, surely they're going to make that constructed image now and then simply remember that image in the room when called upon to lie? Ah well what do I know after all I'm not a scientist.



Previous comments

Problems with Eye accessing

One of the things that slowed me down using NLP eye accessing cues when I first learnt NLP is that it's really easy to look for what you expect to happen, and miss what actually happens.
Many people don't immediately access the 'correct submodality'. For instance, if I ask someone to think of a time when they were happy, before making an image, they may go through a list and say each event they think of (internally) before visualize the scene. So their strategy can be seen if you look closely enough, but if you are just expecting a 'visual memory', their eye accessing may seen rather odd.

Marty-M, Hong Kong

Posted May 8, 2010 at 12:02

More Complicated than some people think

In NLP eye accessing, there is often more going on than people think. If you know about timelines and strategies it is often easier to get a clear idea of what the underlying process is.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted May 9, 2010 at 09:12

what i don't get..

are the eye movements in the direction of their perspective or mine? like their left is my right. so when their eyes goes right, i see them going left, right?

allah jk lol boom!, New York

Posted November 6, 2011 at 22:35

To make it clear...

In this article I am referring to nlp eye accessing movements from their perspective not yours. For most people the past is on their left and their auditory digital accessing is also their left.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted November 7, 2011 at 09:07

are eye accessing cues for Vc and Ac always in the same side of K cues? Or can the K be replaced by the Ad?


Posted January 15, 2012 at 17:52


Usually if the cues are reversed then the whole set would be reversed. Of course this is not to say that there aren't people with very unconventional eye accessing cues.

Chris Harrison, UK

Posted January 25, 2012 at 13:06