David Cantrell david at
Mon Sep 10 16:19:39 BST 2007

On Sat, Sep 08, 2007 at 11:57:22AM +0100, Chris Jack wrote:
> > > But none of that means NLP isn't valuable and hasn't helped a lot of
> > > people.
> > There's real evidence of this?
> Bringing this slightly back to perl, if I said to you large scale programs
> are better and easier to maintain if they are structured, commented, and
> documented - you would possibly agree with me. I don't know if there are any
> scientific studies to back this assertion up - but your agreement or
> disagreement with me probably wouldn't be based on those studies if there
> were.

If, however, I were to tell that to my boss, and he wasn't an expert and
wasn't willing to take my word for it, then I might have to convince
him.  I've not had to justify comments, but I *have* had to justify my
"wasting time" on documentation and regression tests.  Being able to
back up what you say is part of being an expert in a field.  And those
who have spoken up in favour of NLP in this 'ere thread are the closest
we come to having experts in the field here.  Consequently I expect them
to be able to do so.

> If you search for "NLP evidence" at google (or whatever your favourite
> search engine is), you will find a lot of pages arguing about the
> appropriateness of the setup of the studies for validating or invalidating
> whatever particular bit of NLP they set out to examine.

If you search for "$foo evidence" you'll get a load of crap with a few
gems hidden in it.  I would rather learn from an expert than from the
uninformed wikiblogfiddling masses.

FWIW, the first screenful of results, (skipping past the adverts) are:

two links to Wikipedia;
the homepage of "Honest Abe", author of "Develop Your NLP Skills";
a blog by "NLP Training Scotland";
an entry in the Skeptics' Dictionary which says that "all the
  scientific evidence which exists on such things indicates that what
  NLP claims is not true";
a bunch of links to NLP coaching, blogs, and the like;
a book review, with some arguing in the bloggish comments.

None of those leap off the page as being trustworthy sources of unbiased
information or discussion about the evidence for or against, with the
Skeptics' Dictionary coming closest.

> If I make a suggestion to you that "you should be nice to yourself" - how do
> you determine if any change that results in your life - is as a result of a
> placebo effect or because it's useful to have empathic statements directed
> at you?

Is "you should be nice to yourself" what NLP is then?

Anyway, the first step would be to come up with a control - the
equivalent of the sugar pill that is used as the control when you try to
work out whether a painkiller does the job.

I am, however, having difficulty coming up with a control that could be
used in place of something as woolly and imprecise as "you should be
nice to yourself".  But assuming that NLP is in fact considerably more
than "be excellent to each other" I'm sure you could come up with some
mumbo-jumbo and teach a random sample of people using that, a random
sample with NLP, tell both groups that you're using NLP, and do before
and after quality of life surveys.  I'm sure that needs some tweaking,
but it would be a good start.

> Do you choose a plumber based on a scientific study of the plumber or even
> of plumbing in general - mostly I imagine you choose one based on prior
> experience or a personal recommendation or professional qualification.

And also on the basis that if he fucks up I can point at the fuckup and
get him to come back and fix it.  Social "science" salesmen and
mumbo-jumbo merchants don't leave such obvious evidence of their

> (usually) choose a life partner on the basis of how you feel about them, not
> on the basis of a study, and so it is with therapy.

You're not just comparing apples to oranges here, you're comparing
apples to shirts.  One tends to have a business relationship with a
psychiatrist or a plumber.  The relationship with one's SO is in an
entirely different class.  And, of course, by the time he/she/it becomes
your SO you generally *have* in fact gathered a great deal more
information than you would have about a random plumber from the yellow

> I know people who recommend NLP and I can see it has changed them for the
> better.

And I know people who recommend homeopathy and prayer, who claim that
homeopathy eases their aches and pains, and who certainly appear to get
some fulfilment out of religion.  So what?

David Cantrell | Official London Perl Mongers Bad Influence

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