Directory:The Wikipedia Point of View/NLP and science (Wikipedia)

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The article NLP and science was begun by the Wikipedia administrator FT2 in June 2006, and was largely complete by the version of 13 June 2006.

The introduction reads:

Due to its inherent preference for pragmatism over theory, its lack of formal and theoretical structure, and its lack of controls over usage, NLP doesn't always lend itself well to the scientific method. Equally (as scientific researchers have pointed out), attempts have also been greatly obfusticated by other factors, not least of which are poor scientific appreciation of the subject being researched, failure to fully consider, control and understand all key variables, unrealistic claims by some practitioners, and often, lack of high quality experimental design.
This finding was supported when, in 1988, both Heap and Druckman independently concluded that most studies to that date were "heavily flawed"[1] and that the "effectiveness of NLP therapy undertaken in authentic clinical contexts of trained practitioners has not yet been properly investigated. [1].

It is grossly misleading to suggest that 'this finding' (namely that NLP does not always lend itself well to the scientific method, and that experimental design has been poor, that scientific appreciation of the subject is poor &c) was supported by the work of Michael Heap. The reverse is true. Heap's 1988 literature review (see below) was expressly conceived in order to take three specific hypothesis made by proponents of NLP, and review these assertions against the experimental literature. He says that, in fact, many of [NLP's] assumptions and predications are easily testable by objective procedures and several such studies have now appeared in the literature. After reviewing these, he concludes "that the assertions of NLP writers concerning representational systems have been objectively and fairly investigated and found to be lacking."


Heap's 1988a paper

Heap (Heap, 1988a) considers three claims stated in unequivocal terms by the originators of NLP , and states them in the form of three empirical hypotheses that can be tested using experimental techniques, as follows.

1. A person has a primary representational system which is observed in his choice of linguistic predicates, i.e. a person with a visual PRS will tend to use a style of speaking using predicates such as 'I see..' 'it appears, someone with an auditory prs will use phrases like 'I hear', 'it sounds as though' and so on.

2. A person has a prs which is observed in the direction of his eye movements. There is supposed to be a correlation between perceptual processing (visual, auditory, kinasthetic) and eye movements, and it is supposed that there is a consistent difference between individuals in preferred direction of gaze.

3. Communicators may enhance their effectiveness if they match their client's prs in their choice of predicates.

After reviewing a wide range of experimental literature, Heap writes that he is "satisfied that the assertions of NLP writers concerning representational systems have been objectively and fairly investigated and found to be lacking. These assertions are stated in unequivocal terms by the originators of NLP and it is clear from their writings that phenomena such as representational systems, predicate preferences and eye-movement patterns are claimed to be potent psychological processes, easily and convincingly demonstrable on training courses by tutors and trainees following simple instructions, and, indeed, in interactions in everyday life. Therefore, in view of the absence of any objective evidence provided by the original proponents of the prs hypothesis, and the failure of subsequent empirical investigations to adequately support it, it may well be appropriate now to conclude that there is not, and never has been, any substance to the conjecture that people represent their world internally in a preferred mode which may be inferred from their choice of predicates and from their eye movements.

These conclusions, and the failure of investigators to convincingly demonstrate the alleged benefits of predicate matching seriously question the role of such a procedure in counselling. [...]

This verdict on NLP is, as the title indicates, an interim one. Einspruch and Forman (1985) are probably correct in insisting that the effectiveness of NLP therapy undertaken in authentic clinical contexts of trained practitioners has not yet been properly investigated. If it turns out to be the case that these therapeutic procedures are indeed as rapid and powerful as is claimed, no one will rejoice more than the present author. If however these claims fare no better than the ones already investigated then the final verdict on NLP will be a harsh one indeed.

Heap 1988b

"There is ... another growing market, namely those wishing to learn the skills of therapy... Indeed, in Britain at least, it is usually more lucrative to teach therapy than to actually do it with patients.... With this more attractive market in mind, therefore, the product has to be created and presented to appeal first and foremost to the learner - i.e. the would-be therapis - rather than the patient. I contend that NLP and Ericksonian therapies have been created very much in this mould. Firstly observe, as I mentioned earlier, how the product itself is advertised. We are told that by learning to use NLP we will be well-nigh capable of performing miracles on our clients. Note, also, how there is always something new on the market, some workshop coming up offering us YET EVEN MORE ADVANCED TECHNIQUES, or some book that gives the very latest word in Milton Erickson. Secondly, observe how the authors or trainers are advertised - wonderful, gifted individuals, sometimes even described, as noted earlier, as 'magicians' or 'wizards'. 'Knew Milton Erickson' or 'worked with Richard Bandler and John Grinder' appear to be strong selling points. Finally, notice now NLP training is offered to such a wide range of people, unlike hypnosis which traditionally has been jealously guarded as the property of the few. Why this difference? A cynic might say that if your product has been designed for patients, then you will want to restrict those who have been trained to dispense that product, so reducing competition. But if your product has been designed to be taught, then you don't want to limit your market by only offering it to restricted groups."

Heap 1989

Introduction: "Fortunately, many of [NLP's] assumptions and predications are easily testable by objective procedures and several such studies have now appeared in the literature. These will be reviewed and some tentative conclusions will be drawn."

Conclusion: "It ought to be the case that writers refrain from, and editors of books and journals disallow, the presentation of such allegations as though they were well-established scientific facts rather than a series of unsubstantiated speculations about how the human mind operates. These conclusions, and the failure of investigators to convincingly demonstrate the alleged benefits of predicate matching seriously question the role of such a procedure in counselling."

Notes

  1. ^ From this version of the article. FT2 first makes the claim that NLP does not lend itself to the scientific method here, then wrongly attributes this to Heap here

References