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A quick introduction to Representational Systems

Sensory channels (visual)

There are five sensory channels we use to represent our experience – visual, auditory (hearing), kinaesthetic (emotions, touch and bodily sensations), taste and smell. In NLP books you will sometimes see the acronym VAKOG used to signify these.

In addition, we can make sense of our experience in words. This is a different kind of representation – it’s not sensory (although it can evoke sensory images). Rather, words are a kind of code which can convey sensory, conceptual and metaphorical information. If you didn’t know the code (i.e. the language) the words wouldn’t mean anything.

This kind of information is known as ‘digital’ in NLP (here’s an in-depth article about the Analogue vs Digital distinction). One way we represent experiences to ourselves in a ‘digital’ form is through internal dialogue or commentary, which because it’s an ‘inner voice’ is sometimes known as ‘auditory digital‘ in NLP. It’s a representational system, but not a sensory one.

All of our memories, imagination and current experience are made up of elements of these six ‘representational systems’ – in NLP they’re often called ‘rep systems’ for short.

Everyone uses all of these systems in various proportions to represent their experience. The proportions vary depending on what you are doing – for example, if you are in an art gallery, you will probably be paying more attention to your visual sense; if you’re at a concert, to get the most out of it you really need to use the auditory channel most.

Image: Mihai Tamasila/sxc.hu

© 2012 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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