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Last updated on August 23rd, 2023.

The popularity of neuro linguistic programming has seen a resurgence on the internet in the last several years. People are curious how the techniques from this psychological approach could help them better their lives in general and for therapeutic reasons. Still, this leaves open the question of whether or not there is any good science to back this up.

The science behind neuro linguistic programming is still a point of controversy, however, there are some emerging studies that suggest some of its techniques can be effective. Still, there needs to be more research to get a clearer picture of what aspects of it are most effective.

If you’re the least bit curious about neuro linguistic programming and the science behind it, this is for you. In our guide below, we will start by defining what NLP is before diving into the science and controversy surrounding it.

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What is Neuro Linguistic Programming?

Before we dive into the science behind NLP, it would be a good idea to make sure we’re all on the same page as to what it is in the first place. So what is neuro linguistic programming and how is it used in the real world?

Neuro linguistic programming is an approach to psychology that emphasizes language–and its processings–role in behavior. It can be used in psychotherapy, day-to-day communication and for personal development.

Essentially, NLP can be used to reprogram the way you interpret the world itself, or it can be used to effectively improve communicate with others.

Is Neuro Linguistic Programming Real?

According to the broader scientific community, large portions of classical NLP are based on outdated ideas about how the brain works and are not supported by meta-data. However, there are those that also argue you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and there are some ideas and techniques based in science. How do you make sense of this? Is NLP real?

The truth is NLP is a broad term that ecompasses many different ideas, techniques and scientific approaches. To truly address the question of whether or not NLP is real, you would need to go through each of these. Suffice to say, you will probably find that some of NLP is helpful while other bits don’t seem to track onto your experience.

The best thing you can do is keep an open mind and explore the topic in depth. Then you can make up your own mind on whether or not you feel NLP is real or useful.

What's the Science Behind Neuro Linguistic Programming?

The science behind neuro linguistic programming is controversial to say the least. There are those who argue it is a complete pseudoscience with very little backing in data, while others claim that there just hasn’t been enough research yet, however, there are some promising signs in the data that do exist. So, what’s the truth? What’s the science behind NLP?

NLP Was Created in the 1970s

NLP is the brainchild of linguist John Grinder and mathematician Richard Bandler. They essentially asserted that there was a connection between neurological processing and linguistics that could affect behavior.

They took a broad approach to conceiving of their study citing everyone from Noam Chomsky to Alfred Korzybski in their research. The result was a broad sweeping approach to psychotherapy that is still hotly contested and debated to this day.

Studies Have Found NLP to Help Children With Special Needs

While the research on NLP is limited, a 2013 study found that NLP techniques–that included both visualizations and language–were able to help children with special needs cultivate a positive outlook and better performance in a classroom setting.

It’s important to note that one study–while suggestive–is not enough to draw strong conclusions from, as one of the most important and overlooked steps in the scientific method is reproducibility. Still, these results are promising and definitely warrant looking into.

NLP Can Be Used in Many Career Fields

Techniques from NLP can be applied to more than just psychotherapy. Many people actually try to use these techniques in their day-to-day lives and careers. The truth is, these techniques can be applied to almost any job.

Below are some of the most common career fields where people use NLP to get a leg up on the competition:

  • Sales: Sales is all about convincing someone to purchase your product or service. It’s not hard to see how NLP techniques could potentially be put to use in this field.
  • Business: A lot of business people have turned to NLP as a way of increasing their charisma and ability to make deals. They use basic techniques both to adjust their own outlook but also to influence others. This is perhaps the area where NLP is used the most by professionals.
  • Teaching: Teachers can learn to use NLP to help keep themselves centered while working with struggling students. They can also use some NLP techniques to more effectively communicate with their students. More specifically, they could become more influential over what their students decide to do with simple programming.
  • Mentalists/Magicians: Mentalists and magicians like Darren Brown have claimed to use NLP as a part of their “mind control” acts for years. While this isn’t the most common application of NLP it certainly is one of the most fascinating.

In truth, you could really apply NLP to almost any career. How do you think it could help you in your day to day life?

Final Thoughts on Neuro Linguistic Programming

The truth is there are still a lot of questions surrounding NLP. There aren’t as many studies as there could be and there is controversy surrounding whether the whole approach is valid or not. Still, it is undoubtedly used by millions of people every day and there is some emerging evidence that is suggestive of what NLP can offer.

At the end of the day, we just have to keep an open mind. The more you dig into the science behind NLP the more questions you’ll have. Keep exploring it and you can find what works for you!

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