Practical NLP Podcast 18: Eye Accessing Cues

NLP eye accessing cues
NLP eye accessing cues – this chart is free to use in your blog or training materials

This week’s episode of the Practical NLP podcast is all about ‘eye accessing cues’, and covers:

  • how eye accessing cues relate to representational systems
  • lead, primary and reference representational systems explained
  • what ‘synesthesia’ means in the context of NLP

It features, among other things: why teachers should never say “You won’t find the answer up there”, some subtleties you need to be aware of, and why not everyone corresponds neatly to the standard diagram.

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This diagram and text are designed to as a support to this episode of the Practical NLP podcast. If you don’t listen to the podcast, they will only make any kind of sense if you know that one of the things that Richard Bandler and John Grinder noticed about people when they were devising NLP was that their eyes tended to move in particular directions corresponding to the sensory system (visual, auditory etc) they were using to think with at that moment. More (much more) about this in the Encyclopedia of Systemic NLP.

Note: people looking straight ahead with defocused eyes when answering a question are getting quick access to readily available information, or visualising a scene in an ‘associated’ way (i.e. as if they were in it).

Some Questions To Elicit Eye Movements


“What colour was your first car?”

“How many windows does your place have?”


“If the Owl and the Pussycat had kids, what would they look like?”

“What would your bedroom look like if it was painted silver?”


“What was the very last thing I said?”

“What does Donald Duck’s voice sound like?”


‘If tigers spoke English, what would they sound like?’

‘What would your favourite song sound like, if it was sung by a parrot?’


“Can you recite the six times table to yourself?”

“What’s your favourite proverb or saying?”


“What does velvet feel like?”

“How warm do you like your bath?”
You will probably need some more questions than these – it’s quite a good exercise to write some of your own and try them out to make sure that they elicit the response they were designed for (if most of the time they don’t, you’ve probably missed something).

Eye accessing cues are not as straightforward as some NLP books make them appear – listen to the podcast for more information about this and also bear in mind that:

a) some people’s eye movements are really rapid, subtle and hard to spot

b) if people are visualising something, they may move their eyes in the direction of whatever they’re looking at in the visualisation

c) as Bandler and Grinder pointed out when they first proposed eye accessing cues, the question you ask to elicit a particular response may get a different response depending on how the person accesses the information to come up with their answer (e.g. ‘what colour is your front door?’ designed to elicit a visual remembered response, but actually they are seeing the door on its own, which would actually be a constructed image as they’ve never actually seen it without the house around it).

d) finally, as Derren Brown, who is a better observer of people than I will ever be, points out, sometimes it doesn’t seem to happen at all (but sometimes it does).

Practical NLP Podcast Volume 2

Note: this episode is no longer available on Apple Podcasts. You can still order it as part of the Practical NLP Podcast Collection Vol. 2 – Develop Rapport.

© 2013 – 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

1 comment

  1. NLP Eye Patterns - What's Going On?

    […] show notes for my podcast about eye accessing cues has some questions designed to elicit particular eye patterns. So ‘What colour was your first car?’, or ‘How many windows does your place […]

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