NLP and Darren Brown

I didn’t understand the whole part about NLP. Besides them not having a defintion, what are some of their beliefs? I know you’ve mentioned at least a couple, but it feels like you skimmed that part.

Eyes being a window on whether someone is lying actually sounds like a pretty solid claim. You don’t need more than one father to tell you so. Staring into space when remembering or thinking is also a pretty universal move in acting (whether or not it’s based on universal behavior).

In the end, your brushing off of NTP without consideration, insight, or even a guided tour of its wackeries was very un-cecil-like. You simply said there was disagreement, that papers have been published that claim to refute claims, implied that we all know what that means, and left it at that. Not very cecil-like at all.

Moreover, there is a lot of art to Darren Brown’s craft that deserves more than passing mention and would make a fascinating column. A lot of what he does is illusion (like purporting to pull off an improbable stunt, eg guessing a person’s age, by just editing out all the times he messes up), but a lot of it also exploits a profound window on human psychology and the mind. Sure, it’s not a very wide window, mainly encompasing confusing nervous people and using the environment to plant suggestions. But it’s a fascinating window, and I think this may actually frustrate a lot of people who are upset that ‘real’ psychology doesn’t have very much to say on Brown’s modi operandi.

Hi Alex. I’m sorry that you feel I ‘skimmed’ anything. I’m glad you took an interest in what I wrote, and I hope I can address some of your concerns and issues.

The point I was making about a ‘definition’ of NLP was not that there isn’t one, as you say, but that there are at least several to choose from, and not necessarily all compatible!

As for the ‘beliefs’ within NLP, if you re-read the question that I was answering, this wasn’t something the questioner asked about. He asked what NLP is, and I attempted to give the best answer I could. In any case, I doubt it would be possible to deal with ‘what NLP fans believe’ comprehensively within a Staff Report, which has to be of a moderate length. However, if this subject interests you, the article refers to several online sources which you can peruse at your leisure.

Yes, I agree, it does. But there are lots of claims in life that sound pretty solid, and turn out not to be. So the point is to try and see if the claim is backed up by any facts or research. And the NLP teachers do not just suggest that the eyes are a ‘window’ on lies, they state as a matter of fact that specific eye positions correspnd to specific states of mind (including ‘recollection’ versus ‘fabrication’) to a signfiicantly higher level than chance. As of yet, the available research suggests there is no reason to believe that this claim is true. Given that this research has been available for a while, it is curious that this fiction is still printed in introductory books about NLP.

You are entitled to characterise my article in any way you like. I’m sorry that on this occasion you felt I wrote wthout either consideration or insight. From my point of view, I felt I wrote my article with plenty of both. I’ve been studying this area, personally and professionally, for over 25 years. I have seen the rise of NLP, I’ve read the books, I’ve met and worked with some of the major players, I know some of the fans, practitioners and skeptics, and, if a modest man may make a modest claim, I believe I am well-regarded within some circles as someone who knows a thing or two about the workings of the mind and how to sort fact from fiction (or fact from illusion). Be that as it may, I do regret that you felt I was ‘brushing off’ NLP or anything else. I never do this intentionally. I’m not into ‘brushing off’. I’m into checking out whether or not there’s a good reason to believe in something.

It’s ‘Derren’. There are indeed many interesting facets to what Derren does, and to mentalism in general. However, I was answering the question as asked. The question did not ask me to begin exploring Derren’s craft or his methods. It asked me whether he uses NLP to help him achieve the effects you see on his TV shows. He doesn’t. Never has.

You are guessing. This is not how it’s done. Derren and other mentalists, myself included, can perform this trick in real time, in live performance situations, whenever we wish. No need for editing tricks.

You are guessing again, and recycling some of the myths that have grown up around Derren’s work. However, since this has nothing to do with either the question I was answering, or my answer, we can leave it there.

You can guess a persons exact age without knowing that person? Can you also guess how much money they have in their wallets? Because I can’t bloody believe the guy by this point.


Although Ianzin knows a lot more about both NLP and Derren Brown than I do, I can certainly back him up on two points.

  1. Like (for example) dowsing, NLP makes specific claims about new human abilities. However if these cannot be confirmed by scientific testing, then the claims are not worth anything.

  2. I had the pleasure of being on one of Derren’s TV shows. He did 3 pieces of magic, which were baffling and enjoyable to the viewer.
    I can assure you that Derren did the whole filmng in one go, lasting 3.5 hours :cool: . He did no ‘retakes’ and there were no camera tricks.
    He used his incredible memory, ‘stage presence’, a couple of ingenious ideas and finished with a ridiculously brilliant envelope swap.

ianzin said:

Having said that, if you read his first book - Pure Effect - he does give a long description about the reading of eye movements as described by NLP and says that he uses it in his stage act.

Maybe he no longer uses it or maybe he didn’t use it back then and was just lying in his book, I don’t know.

Either way he certainly claimed to use at least one element of NLP - eye reading - in his book.

Is Cecil the only person who realizes ‘research’ is as fallible as anything else? You will never see him arguing from the fact itself that some guy published some paper supposedly refuting some claim. He may mention it. He may explain the experiment to try to convince us of the significance of the result. He will never just state it and as if it proves anything in and of itself.

That kind of uncritical thinking belongs in Skeptic magazine, not the Straight Dope.

Well, now I just think NLP has been your long-standing pet peeve. Or, ok, how about this: It felt like you were writing to the wrong audience. Maybe you got stuck arguing this whole NLP thing too many times before. It just didn’t sound like you were effectively explaining it to someone who didn’t know NLP and wasn’t really vested in debating their most vocal claims, but just wanted an insightful perspective.
Anyway, just ask yourself this:
In the column about being able to predict the lottery, would you be the person to immediately say “obviously it’s random numbers. let me lecture about random numbers” or the person to launch into “in many games of chance, systems do work well. Generally not with lotteries. Nevertheless, ‘hot numbers’ system actually make sense… but the following safeguards have been put in place against it. BUT, there is one modest system that will, long term, make you more money: pick numbers others won’t.”

Anyway, get the drift?
Your column was much more like the “duh… you can’t predict the lottery” know-it-all drivel than to a Cecil gem. The cavalier attitiude of blind faith in studies was just one symptom of that.

Wait… so you’re a mentalist and you know many of Darren brown’s tricks? And you didn’t feel that it’d be better to dedicate most of your column to talking about them?

Do people publish papers refuting claims? I thought it was the other way around. The people making the claims publish the papers supporting them, or not, in which case the claims are unsubstantiated and don’t really need refuting.

No, you can refute claims that haven’t been first futed. On the other hand, I respect your point that it is more correct to speak of people making claims against claims of others who publish papers in support of their criticisms against the others’ claims, rather than people publishing papers that refute the claims of others.

ianzin, thanks for the report. I found it to be very informative and entertaining.

Insofar as you are suggesting that **Ianzin ** didn’t delve into the particulars of the research, I think column length is the simple answer. Indeed, given that Cecil’s columns are notably shorter than the average guest contributor column, your suggestion that Ianzin should have gone into more detail in order to be more Cecil-like is arrant nonsense.

As to your first sentence, compare it to this actual quote from Ianzin’s column:

Note: “to date”, an inherent recognition that current research could be wrong.

Note also **Ianzin’s ** comment in his column that for every source saying that NLP is scientifically supported, there is another saying the opposite.

Your implication that **Ianzin ** doesn’t realise that research is fallible is again arrant nonsense.

If I were looking for a candidate for someone with a pet peeve who is determined to find fault in an even handed account, I wouldn’t be looking at Ianzin.

Let’s see. Balanced article that first tries to define what NLP is, then looks for scientific research to either support/undermine claims of its practitioners, then goes into the specifics of whether Derren uses it.

Nice article, Ianzin. Really can’t see what Alex’s complaint is about.

The question asked was not about how mentalists do their tricks, but about NLP. That’s what he answered.

And, magicians do NOT give away the stage secrets of other magicians: it’s just not done, not without permission. Ian is a gentleman of the old school; in both this article and the prior article that was written with his input (Straight Dope Staff Report: How come TV psychics seem so convincing ?), he was very careful not to reveal any particular magician’s techniques.

Second, of course, most magicians guard their tricks zealously. I might THINK that I know how a particular trick was done, but unless the magician spells it out for me, I’m only guessing except at a very broad level (e.g., “Yeah, I think he palmed a card, but I’m not sure which card or when he palmed it.”)

Me neither. Still, I can only do my best, and of course you can’t please all the people all the time.

To those who have said nice things about what I wrote, thank you.

Haha, nice turn of logic. As anyone who aims for brevity knows, it’s a huge skill to flesh out something complex concisely. Cecil possess it, which is why he can go into more detail with far fewer words.

That’s what alerted me. I mean it’s still commendable that Ianzin wrote this statement, but it was my reason to get suspcicious when he went on to mentioned some guy who supposedly disproved some claims, and then basically concluded that that was the final word. Worse, Ianzin’s writing didn’t take us at all into the opinion-forming process, so we couldn’t begin decide on our own.

There are a number of good ways to take issue with this, but what bothers me personally is that such thinking is a hallmark of so-called skeptics who are actually just cynics. They are inumerable. They are everyone in ‘intellectual’ circles and are the types who love to poo-poo wild-seeming ideas without trying to understand and by using questionable logic. Cecil, for the most part, rises high above them, and it is the big reason that I and others love his columns.

You do realize the point of a staff report isn’t to answer a question, right? It’s to write something interesting.
Anyway, revealing Darren Brown’s secrets (or at least just some of his psychological tricks) would clearly have been an interesting column. But if Ianzin can’t do that, then that’s also understandable. However, then, he just shouldn’t write columns about magic. And if he wants to write about something else (eg NTP), then he shouldn’t pick a topic that he’s formed an opinion on many years ago. Otherwise he can’t be objective, or at least write a column from the viepoint of a sleuth. Remember, everything Cecil writes about he learns as he writes, and he communicates the winding thoughts, the uncertainties, and the clues like a good episode of Law&Order. Anyway, being a writer is hard. Nice attempt, hope you pay attention to constructive criticism, and try again many times in the future.

Since I’m the one in charge of organizing Staff Reports, dealing with Cecil’s incoming mail, etc., I gotta say, that’s not the way we’ve been running Staff Reports. We answer questions that come in, we don’t just pick a topic at random to write about.

Wow, this is really condescending to Ianzin.
Perhaps you should read this thread carefully, because plenty of people liked Ianzin’s work whilst you are the only critic.
Plus you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about: :rolleyes:

If you read the article, you will see that **Ianzin ** concludes that what NLP is claimed to be is very hard to pin down. He provides a citation to a very long article setting out a great deal of information about the numerous and contradictory claims that various NLP practioners make, to support his conclusion. Unless you have actual information to the contrary, you seem simply to be assuming that there is some precise definition of NLP which is being held back from you. In other words, you seem to be assuming the worst without obvious foundation.

Firstly this is flat out wrong. Re-read the article. The mention of the “guy who supposedly disproved some claims” is not the final word either literally or metaphorically.

What he says (in a middle paragraph, not a conclusion) is that there is no study that finds empirical evidence to support those aspects of NLP that are testable. That is not a statement of opinion, it is a statement of fact. If you think it is an incorrect statement of fact, then feel free to bring to the table some useful information in support of your view, such as a citation to a study that has found empirical support for NLP.

Again, you seem simply to be assuming the worst: that there are studies that are being held back from you (or perhaps that **Ianzin ** is lying or mistaken about the conclusions of those studies).

Of course, if you know that **Ianzin ** is wrong and there is actually an available concise consensus statement of what NLP is, feel free to provide it. If you are aware of flaws in the empirical studies to which **Ianzin ** refers, or know of other studies that contradict, let’s have the references.

Anyone can be condescendingly critical, let’s see if you have something to add to the fight against ignorance: put up or shut up. Of course, if you have nothing to put up, but are just assuming that Ianzin is leaving out detail that he could have presented in favour of NLP then, well, thanks for sharing and we’ll give your views the weight they deserve.

I don’t understand the complaint. Alex seems to even be upset that Ianzin answered the question that was asked rather than going off on a tangent.

What the hell is wrong with you?

Obviously between the “why is alex upset the question was answered strictly” and “ianzin commendably looked directly at empirical studies and stayed away from any analysis, thoughtful speculation, or subjective evaluation of the studies or anything else” I realize I’m not going to convince this crowd any different.

Just record my sentiment that the style (in a deep way, not superficial wording) was very different from Cecil’s. I found it less open-minded, less exploratory, and less enthralling to read. I guess that’s why these things are call staff reports. I mean if Dexter Haven feels this is the way it’s supposed to be, that’s fine. I just really took issue with the other thread that said “wow, I almost thought this was Cecil.”

Anyway, no point talking about it further. You’ve either understood me from the start, or let’s just agree to disagree now.