Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a way of organizing and understanding the structure of subjective experience and is concerned with the ways in which people process information but not necessarily with the specific content of that information. Information is processed primarily in three modes: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. The sensory modalities used in a given task and their sequence are critical to the performance of that task. Persons who are extremely skilled at a task will have radically different processing sequences than those who perform poorly on that same task. Understanding the structure by which the skilled person processes information, through the observation of eye scanning patterns and linguistic patterns, allows programs (similar to computer programs) to be codified, which can be taught to other persons (Dilts, Grinder, Bandler, Cameron-Bandler, & DeLozier, 1980; Kinsbourne, 1974).
Developed in 1975 by Richard Bandler, a mathematician, and John Grinder, a linguist, NLP has been clinically demonstrated as a powerful technology for engendering change (Bandler & Grinder, 1979; Grinder & Bandler, 1981). From their studies Bandler and Grinder developed skills of modeling that allow one person to identify in a specific fashion the structural elements of another's behavior and to teach that structure to yet a third person (Dilts et al., 1980).
Gregory Bateson (1972), whose work forms a foundation for NLP theory, postulated four logical levels of learning. The first level is the level of content, and this is the level at which most people spend their lives. Here one learns how to tie one's shoes, cook a meal, drive a car, and so on. Some people become acquainted with second-level learning: the learning of context, or learning how to learn. People who operate at the second logical level of learning may rapidly learn any new content-specific area, because they are capable of moving through the learning process in an efficient, effective manner. In rare cases, persons may rise to the third logical level of learning, the learning of how to learn context. In this case one is operating at a level of contextual pattern recognition; one is able to easily identify and operate on the structure of any experience. It is at this level that Bandler and Grinder operate when they are modeling (or teaching modeling to) some one. Bateson reserved his fourth class of learning for those accomplished persons like yogis and Zen masters.
With the foregoing as a conceptual framework for understanding NLP, we may turn to the consideration of the current research literature on NLP. The only current review of this literature was made by Sharpley (1984). Sharpley's review is a reasonably thorough summary of some published articles on NLP, and he is to be commended for his efforts. The danger of reifying terms is that one may be easily led to mistake a construct for reality (Korzybski, 1941). Sharpley does not address these issues. Other limitations of his...