Sunday, 27 March 2016


Looking at what the internet thinks about NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) suggests that it has decided that NLP is pseudoscience.

NLP was a bit pretentious - by putting the term "neuro" in its name - but we could have lived with that. It is true that humans are programmable animals - and that they can be programmed using language. This is fairly obviously a topic for scientific study.

It seems a bit unfortunate that NLP didn't make more headway. If NLP fades away there will be a bit of a void in the niche it once occupied. I think we should probably hang on to the "linguistic programming" part. I can't think of any more appropriate terminology. We do have the well-established term "suggestion" - but "linguistic programming" is specifically to do with language, and not all "linguistic programming" comes in the form of suggestions.

The problem I see with "linguistic programming" is that you can program both brains and computers with language - but these are pretty different topics, so there is not all that much need for an umbrella term.

The most obvious alternative to this path that I see is to try and hang on to NLP - and turn it into a respectable topic. I'm sure that that path will have some advocates. I'm not sure at this stage that this plan would be effective.

1 comment:

  1. Well, its either physics or stamp collecting. To call something NLP or memetics a pseudoscience is often a hybrid of ignorance and arrogance. They may better be seen as proto-science, or engineering topics. NLP is more akin to the .NET framework; notice the term "programming" is a doing word, based on science but directly aimed at deep undersanding or extensive study. Similarly, field medics save lives, not write papers; does that make it pseudoscience? However there are a large academic literature particularly as psycholinguists.

    For the title: there is a legend that Bandler (being a programmer) stole the letters from Natural Language Processing - the connexion is plausable.

    Another problem for NLP is that practitioners are still being taught metaphors for '70 programming paradigms; that all needs updating. Personally, I would consider it as : human mind markup language, and "therapy" as installing updates.