Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed a system known in NLP as Eye Accessing Cues that allows us to see inside a person’s mind through her eye movements.
Grinder and Bandler discovered that people involuntarily move their eyes in certain directions as they are accessing information. They noticed that people who were visual tended to look up when accessing their thoughts; auditory people tended to look sideways; and kinesthetic people tended to look down.
The following picture shows the six possible eye movement directions for a right-handed person as you look at them. For left-handed people, the chart is reversed.
The eye movement patterns are explained in greater detail below.
This is what you would see if you asked someone to "Imagine a pink elephant in a yellow polka dot skirt”. The person is "Visually Constructing" a pink elephant in a yellow polka dot skirt in her mind.
This would be the direction of their eye movement, if you asked someone "What did you eat during lunch yesterday?" The person is "Visually Recalling" what she had for lunch yesterday.
If you asked someone "What would you sound like, if you had Donald Duck’s voice”, this would be the direction of their eye movement. This eye movement indicates “Auditory Construct”. In her mind she is imagining and creating the sound of herself speaking like Donald Duck.
If you asked someone "Can you remember the sound of your father’s voice?” this would be the direction of their eye movement while recalling the sound. This eye movement indicates “Auditory Recall”.
This eye movement indicates a Feeling / Kinesthetic is being created. If you ask someone "What would it feel like to touch a hot stove with your finger?” this would be the direction of their eye movement while they recall the sharp pain of their finger touching a hot stove.
This is the direction of someone's eyes when they are engaged in "Internal Dialogue” or self talk.
How can we use NLP eye accessing cues?
One common use is to establish rapport by noticing where the person's eyes go. If they do a lot of side to side movement which is in the auditory plane, you can use more auditory words in your conversation. If they do a lot of movement in the visual plane, you can use more visual words in your conversation.
Depending upon where their eyes move, you can respond in kind by matching the predicates (nouns, verbs, adverbs) in either visual, auditory or kinesthetic terms. You will have huge rapport with them as you will be speaking with them in their own language. This is called pacing their eye accessing cues.
Eye accessing cues can also be used to determine how truthful or congruent a person is being.
Let's say your child asks you for a candy bar, and you ask them "well, what did your father say?" As they reply "Daddy said... yes" they look to the left (as you look at the child). This would indicate a made up answer as their eyes are showing a "constructed” image or sound. Looking to the right would indicate a "remembered" voice or image, and thus would be telling the truth.