NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming): Primary Representational Systems

Neuro Linguistic Programming

The unofficial form of applied psychology known as NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming, which is more of a compiled set of useful psychological techniques, has many useful presuppositions or presumptions that can be utilized. One of these presuppositions is that 'the map is not the territory' which, in simpler terms, means that our internal perception of the world we live in is only how we perceive it via our senses which form a map in our mind of the external world and that is how we represent the outside world to ourselves.

This is not a complete representation of the actual exterior world due to the limitations of our senses (sight, smell, taste, etc), or modalities as they are commonly referred to in NLP. In fact humans can only hear ranges between 20Hz to 20,000Hz whereas certain animals are capable of hearing outside of this range. In NLP these internal representations are known as representational systems.


Representational systems are commonly referred to as VAKOG which stands for Visual (see), Auditory (hear), Kinaesthetic (feel/touch), Olfactory (smell) and Gustatory (taste). It is these five senses that determine our experience of the world therefore the map is not the territory, it's just the way we experience and therefore internally represent the world.

Upon being reminded of an incident or event you may form an image of that event in your mind (visual) or you may remember the music that was playing at the time or something someone said (auditory). When we are dreaming we utilize these internal representations of the world which is why our dreams can often seem a bit weird. Under hypnosis, which is also a part of NLP, the representations in these dreams would make perfect sense.

Primary Representational Systems

Most people have a primary representational system, one that they use most of the time. However, this is not always the case as some people may use a combination of more than one representational system primarily. People don't always use their primary representational system(s) and may use different combinations at different times. A musician's primary system is likely to be auditory whereas an artist's primary system is likely to be visual. In general, a persons hobbies may give indication to what primary representational system they use.

It's possible that people's strongest representational systems results in others being weak. For example, a musician may have a strong auditory system but a weak visual system whereas an artist or painter may have a strong visual system but a weak auditory system. For this reason the musician may find it hard to start painting and the artist may find it difficult to learn music. However, representational systems can be strengthened which would result in the learning tasks becoming easier.


The representational system that a person is using comes through via their unconscious verbal communication. If someone says to you 'I see what you mean' then they are using a visual system whereas if someone says 'I like the sound of that' then they are using an auditory system. These systems can be used to increase rapport and they also play a big part in unconscious communication, which is also a part of NLP.

By Sparkster

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MADLVF 11 months ago from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Very interesting. Thank you !!

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