In article <mike.757294513@motion> email@example.com
(Mike Dawson) writes:
>In regards to a request from Lee Lady about what cognitive psychologists
>have claimed about mental imagery, here is a thumbnail sketch:
>1) In the 1960s, cognitive psychology was emerging as a discipline
>interested in representational states, but methodologically speaking
>was still very behaviourist. The result: verbal learning theory.
>Paivio and his students were able to take the methodologies of the
>verbal learning theorists and show convincingly that variables related
>to the concreteness/abstractness of words was a very powerful
>predictor of their ability to be remembered. As a result, mental
>imagery became something respectable (once again) for study in
Thank you very much for this! It's enormously helpful. And I know from my own experience how much effort goes into writing up even a short summary like this. (One remembers Voltaire's comment ``I would have written you a shorter letter but I couldn't spare the time.'')
At this point, it becomes much clearer to me how NLP and cognitive psychology relate to each other and I can see that they mesh very nicely. Neither of the two needs to complain that the other is studying ``the wrong questions.''
In fact, it is no slur on the cognitive psychologists to say that NLP begins where they leave off. (In somewhat the same way that one can say in mathematics that Newton's ideas begin where Weierstrass leaves off. Weierstrass came about a century after Newton and provided a rigorous foundation for what Newton had done on the basis of intuition. This rigorous foundation, for one thing, explained some of the well known errors which one can fall into in using naive calculus. And secondly, it laid the ground for the more sophisticated approach of mathematicians like Lesbesgue that enabled calculus to be useful in a much wider realm.)
To me, the difference in the NLP approach and the cognitive psychology approach says something interesting about the scientific method and the top down approach in its use versus the bottom up method.
>2) In the 1970s, cognitive psychology has progressed somewhat
>philosophically. As a result, it was coming to grips with the
>requirements of its functionalist methodologies to map out the
>fundamental architecture for cognition (``the functional architecture
>for cognition", ``the virtual machine''). A key question was whether
>mental imagery was a component of this architecture.
In terms of the scientific method, one can think of NLP as saying ``Let take as a hypothesis that mental images (and also 'auditory images' and 'somasthetic images' --- 'kinesthetic,' in the slightly incorrect NLP terminology) are fundamental components of cognition. And let us take as a further hypothesis that these components, plus language, are in fact the fundamental atoms of cognition and that all those things which we call thoughts, beliefs, memories and the like are nothing more than gestalts made up of images (in the general sense indicated) and strings of words.''
Now imagine testing these hypotheses by seeing whether, by using them as a basis, one can actually discover ways of changing the structure of people's subjective experience --- in short, to do therapy.
Let me elaborate on this some, at the risk of repeating some things I have already gone over in various postings in the past. People who are primarily interested in imagery might want to bail out at this point, or skip forward to the next installment of this. (Like Voltaire, I don't have time to write a short article.)
Bandler and Grinder started with the hypothesis (in this pseudo-history I am creating) that for the most part we humans interact with the world not on the basis of what the world really is but on the basis of an internal model of the world we create for ourselves. (One can find this idea, in various forms, in lots of places, for instance in Kant.) And therefore changing someone --- doing therapy on them --- amounts to changing the way they interpret the world, changing their model.
The idea in The Structure of Magic, vol. I was that people's model of the world is linguistic. In other words, people have an internal store of things they say to themselves about the world (some, but not all of which we might call beliefs or judgements) and that these internalized propositions determine how they respond to the world. (Someone for instance might fail to return a book I have lent them, and my response is determined not by the simple fact of not getting the book back but by internal sentences such as ``She is so damned inconsiderate. She never thinks of anyone but herself. I always get taken for a sucker by being too nice.'')
Now this idea was not new. It is one of the fundamental ideas in est, for example, and I think one might almost say that just about any counseling proceeds from this premise. But what was new was the hypothesis by Bandler and Grinder that the way to change someone's model of the world was to pay attention not to the content of the internal statements but rather to their structure. In fact, to their grammar, if one understands the word grammar in the sense of transformational grammar. (Grinder had co-authored with Suzette Haden Elgin the first generally accessible textbook on transformational grammar.) And they believed that this was what Fritz Perls had done as a therapist, on the basis of studying audiotapes of his work.
(To me, this is really very conspicuous in reading some of the transcripts in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, of which, incidentally, Steve Andreas was the editor --- in his pre-NLP days when he was known as John O Stevens.)
For instance, two of the ``grammatical'' elements that Grinder and Bandler singled out were deletions and nominalizations. (The deletion phenomenon had been one of Grinder's major interests as a linguist.) I remember that during my first NLP training one of personal issues I was concerned with was to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. (This is still a major issue for me.) And I often said ``It's important to me to do things that are worthwhile.'' And one night the assistant leading the study group I was attending asked me ``Worthwhile for whom?'' And at the moment, that question stopped me; I ``drew a blank'' (which is usually a good indication that some significant change is occurring).
My phrase ``do something worthwhile'' was incomplete; it contained a major deletion. It didn't take me long to realize that the way (for me) to complete it was to say ``worthwhile FOR ME,'' but realizing this generated a lot of thinking over the next few weeks that led me to some major insights.
Likewise, nominalizations were considered a significant point of attack in therapy. In a nominalization, an action or process has been linguistically changed into a noun. Now it seems that on some level the language processors in the brain do not really distinguish between abstract nouns and concrete ones. This distinction is something we need to be formally taught in school. So when one identifies a process as a noun, one some level to mind responds as if one were talking about an actual thing.
For instance, Bandler and Grinder asserted, when a client comes in and says ``I have a lot of fear; I want you to help me get rid of my fear,'' then the therapist can accomplish something by changing to process-oriented language: ``What are you afraid of? How can I help you to be less afraid?''
This process of doing therapy by addressing the grammar of a subject's statements was called the Meta-Model. Every leading NLP figure I know of has said that the Meta-Model is the basic foundation of NLP.
But by the time the Structure of Magic, vol. I, describing the meta-model, was published, Bandler and Grinder had become interested in a new idea which I personally consider even more important --- the idea of representational systems. I will discuss those in a separate post.