I just heard a comment by Braddock of Lovesystems that was brilliant:  All that your brain does when you ask it a question is hit "search" and return the first hit it finds.  So be careful how you phrase your question.

Say you just arrived at work, and realized you once again left your security pass at home.  You ask yourself, "Why do I keep forgetting my security pass?"

If you believe you are a rational agent, you might think that you pass that question to your brain, and it parses it into its constituent parts and builds a query like

X such that cause(X, forget(me, securityPass))

and queries its knowledge base using logical inference for causal explanations specifically relevant to you and your security pass.

But you are not rational, and your brain is lazy; and as soon as you phrase your question and pass it on to your subconscious, your brain just Googles itself with a query like

why people forget things

looks at the first few hits it comes across, maybe finds their most-general unifier, checks that it's a syntactically valid answer to the question, and responds with,

"Because you are a moron."

Your inner Google has provided a plausible answer to the question, and it sits back, satisfied that it's done its job.

If you instead ask your brain something more specific, such as, "What can I do to help me remember my security pass tomorrow?", thus requiring its answer to refer to you and actions to remember things and tomorrow, your brain may come up with something useful, such as, "Set up a reminder now that will notify you tomorrow morning by cell phone to bring your security pass."

So, try to be at least as careful when asking questions of your brain, as when asking them of Google.

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"I'm Feeling Lucky"

This reminded me of the post on connectionism. I tried searching "a person who isn't Genghis Khan" and surely enough, the first things it comes up with are all related to Genghis Kahn.

I think that "imagine you're using Google" could be a fairly useful heuristic for trying to phrase queries to your brain.

It will not return any specific person even if you speak Google: a person -"Genghis Khan"
I googled 'a specific person -"genghis khan"' and got Bob Dylan in the top result. If you want specificity, include "specific".
Then again, if Google were optimized to provide useful answers to queries like these, it probably wouldn't be very useful.

Hi, The post is short, sweet and get's the point across. However I feel it could be better with a little bit more information including multiple sources. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust,_but_verify

"All that your brain does when you ask it a question is hit "search" and return the first hit it finds" is saying roughly the same thing that Stanovich and other researchers have said about 'default to Type 1 processing', as explained recently in this post.
"This post cites sources supporting its specific claim" is not the same thing as "this post is likely to remind its readers of a source that made roughly the same point". As it is, the post is mostly a bunch of information with no support at all, apart from anecdotes that may come to the reader's mind. I see no reason to think that the brain actually works as the post says it works. The post does contain a useful piece of advice, though: "instead of asking yourself why a problem exists, ask yourself how to fix the problem", or, more generally, "instead of asking questions that yield useless answers, ask questions that yield useful ones".

It's nice to have some backing on why not to ask "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Great post-- it really emphasizes the general rationality skill of "asking useful questions."

This seems to be common knowledge in improv theatre. For instance, here's the Improv Wiki's article on it.


To my understanding, what you are describing here is what is called a transderivational search in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It is basically a "satisficing" (suffice+satisfy) fuzzy search.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transderivational_search http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

Here's a pet peeve of mine: I think this site could find A LOT of benefit in delving into NLP. I mean, the whole field is basically a quest to find the machine-code of the human psyche. The version of NLP that is represented on sites like SkepDic seems like a poor re... (read more)

I think one of my favorite things is to see someone earnestly defend a marginally valuable and slightly controversial theory on LW, because the resulting dynamics cause the good parts of the theory to be revealed while simultaneously producing an object lesson in identifying junk science and filtering poorly tested claims with reasonableness. Most of the regular commenters wouldn't advocate or support a theory like NLP and if it was left to them the community wouldn't produce conversation trees like this one, which I find quite educational.

I wish there was some natural way for me to use the voting system to express "Boo!" to the idea of LW becoming infested with normal NLP jargon and culture, but "Thanks!" for starting and sticking with a massive comment tree defending NLP. As there is no natural way to express this, I'm writing this comment and upvoting here and here explicitly :-)

Heh, you understood my intent perfectly. I'm pretty pig-headed on my own, but thanks for the encouragement :) I propose that we create an open thread called "Fringe topics we should research for potential usefulness". In this thread, the usual downvoting norms would be somewhat laxer.

I agree that it seems worth looking into. I've looked into NLP a little bit. I'm always turned off by the voices of its practitioners. Their tonality, speed, excitement, and rhythym scream "I am trying to sell you snake oil!" to me. This is odd for people who claim to be masters of subcommunication via speech. They often repeat the charlatan pattern I first observed in Tom Brown Jr., of spending as much time telling you how great what they are telling you is, as telling you things.

This applies also to the popular self-improvement gurus, including Tony Robbins. I cannot stand to listen to an audio of him; it's like being trapped in a small room with a door-to-door vacuum-cleaner salesman.

Possibly I'm erroneously assuming that the vacuum-cleaner salesman voice is suboptimal because it annoys me.

I read an interview with a spammer, who said he experimented with different message types, and switched to writing spam in all uppercase with exclamation points because it got more positive responses.

Possibly, good mass-market salesmen optimize to sell to stupid people, whether what they are selling is good or bad.

Yes, I've talked to at least one person who worked as a car salesperson for a while and is surprisingly intelligent for that job. Their take was essentially that for a lot of people the obvious salesmany tactics work. Moreover, they asserted that the people who they don't work on are also generally people where even more polite tactics often won't work on, so one isn't losing that much.

I don't know how much this applies to cars, but I'd suspect that this applies even more to spamming.

Whether this applies to the NLP people is probably to some extent whether the NLP people are trying to attract smart critical thinkers or trying to attract the general population. I don't know enough about their goals to accurately speculate.

A lot of LWites (including you based on your mention of LoveSystems) seem to be interested in PUA, which is similar to NLP in that it contains a LOT of scammers and creepy people, but also has a group of genuinely useful and non-scammy people (eg Rob Judge and Mark Manson). I think our quest for scientific stringency should not ALWAYS get in the way of investigating cool new stuff. I'm sure NLP could be tested. If it's possible to prove eg the existence of synesthesia in a lab setting then it should be possible to prove the stuff NLP talks about. But I'll admit the lack of scientific founding is fishy. Here's another book I'm reading, btw. It's about NLP concepts of mirroring and rapport: http://www.begin2dig.com/2010/04/90-seconds-or-less-to-bond-skills-of.html In essence, mirroring is about finding out how the other person's mind is wired to think (ie visual, auditory or kinesthetic for instance) and adapting your communications to that. It's like initiating a handshake with a server and choosing a protocol that it supports, I guess.
Agreed. There are plenty of minor names in the field though, who don't give me this impression. The NLP Mind Fest Event was apparently designed to bring out a lot of these lesser known people.

I haven't heard of NLP before, but reading about it now it's setting off all my old skepticism alarms. The claims it makes seem to be very vague and optimistic. I'm especially wary of things like the links you provided that talk about having "over 200 patterns"; I don't buy my textbooks based on their page count.

Self-hacking is cool, but any advice given along those lines needs to be backed up by solid literature something fierce (i.e. see lukeprog's How to Be Happy) to be plausible, and even then you should generally expect that any given piece of advice will only have a moderate chance of working on any given person.

Saying "I'm smart and I think it's worthwhile" isn't enough; lots of smart people think religion is worthwhile. If NLP has a central theory behind it, rather than just being an umbrella term for a bunch of disparate self-hacking techniques, then where can we find a step-by-step explanation and solid justification of that theory? And if there's isn't a central theory, then each "pattern" will have to be presented and justified on its own, and survive on its own merits independent of its sisters.

The usual answer I've seen NLP practitioners give to this question is that they're too busy successfully applying NLP to waste time on proving it to the losers who aren't. Which is itself an example of the NLP technique of reframing.
Yes, there is some of that attitude which you describe. However, it's hardly descriptive of ALL neuro-linguistic programmers. NLP people would say you are Generalizing, Distorting and Deleting :)
Well, there you are, that's the concern I have about NLP, which I have to admit I have seen only in its worst manifestations, on the Usenet newsgroup alt.nlp many years ago. It was like looking into an overcrowded cage of rats fighting for dominance, with the NLP techniques as their claws and teeth.
Yes, I realize that it sets of skepticism alarms. It did so for me as well when I first encountered it. It's a detriment to the field that it looks scammy on the surface :) Yes, I love his article on happiness. The problem with ONLY going with research-backed stuff is that one might be missing out on potentially useful stuff. My argument here is NOT to take NLP on faith, but rather to perhaps to investigate it further and see what it can offer. A lot of it seems to be based on introspection and informal experimentation. Which could be said for the father of modern psychology, William James. Not trying to appeal to authority, just making a parallell. Here's an article about that similarity as well: http://www.neurosemantics.com/nlp/nlp-articles/william-james-could-he-have-invented-nlp

the amazing stuff I am always reading about

I'm sure it's amazing to read about. How amazing have you found it in practice?

I've used their "fast phobia cure" to amazing effect - at least it amazed me (and him) at the time. It took less than 29 minutes of text chat back in early April, and the issue remains solved.
Interesting, that seems like an especially cheap and concrete thing to test.
Interesting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtUatMghbHg Follow up 25 years later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjjCzhrYJDQ&feature=related I suspect the efficacy of this method depends a lot on the subject's ability to really bring forth the internal representations of the phobia (ie mental images, feelings, etc) so that they can be changed.
Indeed it is. The hardest part seems to be finding subjects. If you know one and would like to try it, I could walk you through it and explain a few failure modes to avoid.
Haven't dicked around much with it yet. But one thing I can tell is that a lot of the self-hacking stuff I came up with myself over the years has been laid out in much clearer form in NLP. Always cool to get those "ah! so that's what I was doing" moments. One thing I'm going to be experimenting with is changing my chunking and anchoring around exercise. In other words, trying to change the number of steps I perceive it to be, and the mental images and feelings it evokes when I think about it. Something I'm currently playing around with is imagining turning down negative self-talk and dimming mental images that I don't wish to have.

Wikipedia suggests that NLP doesn't have any science behind it and it's predictions have been tested and disconfirmed. I'd have to hear a good explanation for this before giving NLP much time.


That Wikipedia page confirms that its widely disrespected, but read the Wikipedia on the actual studies performed. There is supporting research, some of it fairly impressive. The list of ratio of supportive studies to dismissive studies is very much skewed in support of NLP on this wikipedia page.

There are a few issues I see here.

1) NLP sets off big time "SCAM!" flags, since they seem to be trying to use NLP to sell NLP (to idiots).

2) Their theories can be useful, but are still crap. You can test it and "disprove" it by finding a flaw without finding the part that made it useful.

Because of these, it's going to take work to extract the value that's there.

3) It's hard to test things that have more than a couple causal factors. The hypnosis research, which is more respected, falls prey to this all the time. They measure one correlation resulting from a giant mess of factors without holding other factors constant (because they have failed to even identify them) and then are surprised when they cant' get consistent results for their oversimplified model.

4) "NLP" is being used too loosely. If they do a study that fails to find evidence for one theoretical cl... (read more)

We've sort of been down this road before. versus
Sure, the "and it's predictions have been tested and disconfirmed" part is more important, though if you want to make a convincing case for NLP you'd want to at least acknowledge the first party.
I'm not sure how you interpreted what I said. The first party is making the case for leaning non-scientifically proven (or unconfirmed after testing, or whatever) systems. Arguments are several but fall along the lines that their catching on culturally and having at least some confirmed useful features indicates they have something to them, so one is better off with them than if they hadn't been considered, even if most of it is crap. The second party is attributing the valid bits to the stopped clock being right twice a day phenomenon and saying it is almost certainly not a productive use of time for anyone to study such systems (unless they are studying the system as a thing studied rather than a system used, as an anthropologist would study a cargo cult and not as a shaman would study the cult). Making a case for something involves acknowledging critics, which in this case I intended to be the second party.
I found some info on research: http://realpeoplepress.com/blog/research-in-nlp-neurolinguistic-programming-science-evidence. Disclaimer: the author of that post is a major NLP persona. Keep in mind that formal science is not the totality of research, see for example the writings of Seth Roberts on self-experimentation (the guy who invented the Shangri La diet and Morning Faces Therapy, among other hacks).
I am glad at some NLP advocates engage existing research.
Hey, I thought you might like this post on Science.
I might read that later tonight. Do you have a TLDR for now?
tl;dr: Science is designed to avoid belief in untrue things, not figure out what is most likely to be true.
Both of those visions of science are flawed, in very similar ways: Each seeks to maximize something without acknowledging the tradeoffs. Trivially: If science is to avoid belief in untrue things, you can instantly complete science by not believing anything. The "figure out what is likely to be true" at least isn't so trivially dismissable. Science should maximize expected value. The difficulty in practice is that you often must understand something before you can know what utility this understanding will provide.
You've misconstrued what you're replying to. The statement was: You misconstrued it here: Analogously: lessdazed wrote that umbrellas are designed to protect against rain. You replied that if umbrellas are to protect against rain, then you can instantly complete an umbrella by moving to a place with low precipitation. When lesswrong said that science is designed to avoid belief in untrue things, he was not saying that everything that is to avoid belief in untrue things is science. Any more than had he said that umbrellas are to protect against rain, he would be saying that anything that protects against rain is an umbrella. That is a "should" statement. However, what science is, is an is, not an ought. There are many reasons to be careful about not bridging the distinction. One is that you want to distinguish between mechanism, proximate function, and (ultimate) function. Even if the ultimate function of science is to maximize expected value, that does not tell us anything about the mechanism of science or its proximate function, through which it maximizes expected value. Science may, for example, serve the ultimate goal of maximizing expected value by helping avoid belief in untrue things. If we look at the activity of a scientist, not everything they do is science. A scientist needs to eat breakfast, but eating breakfast is not science. A scientist needs to imagine possibilities, but imagining possibilities is not science. Artists do that as well without being scientists. What makes someone a scientist - and I'm simply restating what I've heard many times and seems plausible, not something I've put a lot of thought into recently - is that he tests these imagined possibilities, which in the context of science are called hypotheses. It's putting the hypotheses to the test, particularly to a systematic, rigorous test, that sets science apart from other activities. And this bit - the testing bit - the bit which is what (I have often heard) makes science science
You wrote that "what science is, is an is, not an ought." Could you please explain what science is? I only ask because different people have different ideas of what science is or should be, and I'm a little unclear what is being referred to here. Thanks.
That's why it's a tl;dr.
So, like, what can you do with it?
Here are some common patterns: http://www.nlpu.com/NewDesign/NLPU_Archives.html Again, I am NOT an expert on NLP. I simply find it to be intriguing and full of potential. Coming here and talking about should not be construed as advocacy, merely "hey guys, this looks neat, could it be useful?" :)

Another huge link full of the jargon isn't helpful. What do the leaders in the field claim for it? I'm looking for straight-forward English sentences describing the effects of employing NLP. Like how, if I asked someone what you can do with aerodynamics they might reply "Build things that fly!".

It seems to be a kind of psychological therapy- but there are hundreds of such methods some supported by licensed clinicians and others not. All of it is subject to a huge placebo-like effect-- to the point where all of it may be no better than talking to a bartender about your problems. So picking a random set of ideas in the entire therapy/self help memeplex and saying "Less Wrong should investigate this" is a bit preposterous absent powerful claims or good evidence. Why shouldn't Less Wrong investigate one of the following instead: expressive art therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, functional analytic therapy, CBT, humanistic psychotherapy, existential psychotherapy, integrative-existential psychotherapy, re-evaluation counseling, psychodynamics, holistic psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, logotherapy, person-centered psychotherapy, primal therapy, psychosynthesis, REBT, RLT, Jungian psychotherapy, Lacanian psychotherapy, DBT, DDP, DNMS, conversation therapy, dance therapy, Daseinanalytic psychotherapy, feminist therapy, Gestalt therapy, Holotropic breathwork, rebirthing- breathwork, IFSM.

I really could keep going.

I haven't studied "NLP" much, but I've studied how it all works, mostly from hypnosis resources. CBT, NLP, and hypnotherapy all use similar approaches and can be explained by the same perspective. Useful things I've done with my knowledge include pain control, phobia cures, motion sickness near-cures, helping people deal with intrusive thoughts, that sort of thing. All quite effective- not some years of talking it out therapy. It's worth pointing out that "placebo effect!" isn't an argument against anything- if it works it works. It's just an argument for cheaper placebo's. However, the barman is not a skilled placebomancer, and neither are you unless you do your research.
Hmm. What are the tenets of Placebomancy? Could we outline the practice in some way? What can it affect and what can it not? What are the limits of it's power? And furthermore, does NLP fit neatly into the category?
I'm kinda working on writing up a few front page posts on this. There are a ton of specific techniques to guide their thought processes the way you want, a lot of which you'll recognize as exploiting crude heuristics that we're trying to patch over here. I'll get my act together and get them written. The bits of NLP that I've seen overlap with what I've tried definitely use the same mechanism as placebo, even if not really "expectation based". All mental states seem to be fair game, as well as things your brain can control, like heart rate, blood pressure, etc. I've seen conflicting evidence on allergies, it works pretty well for warts (I've personally done that one and it really shocked me that it worked)
Nothing against placebos. I'm just not in the least convinced NLP is among the cheapest or that bartenders are no good. But good to have someone around who can at least answer the question.
Oh btw, I think there is a lot of stuff that was discovered by the LW community yet was already known by NLP. Take the concept of dissolving your intuitions. NLP would agree that intuitions are not atomic, and would try to look at the compontents from various angles: Visual representation: mental images and movies Auditory representation: linguistics/labels/associations/metaphors used to describe the intuition Kinesthaetic representation: gut feelings, "uggghhh" fields Chunk size: the level of abstractness, how many other concepts it subsumes Ecology: how does this affect other parts of the person's psyche? Are there internal conflicts? Secondary gain: ie the intuition might be harmful/counterproductive but the person gets some benefit from it, even if only a sense of certainty They would probably go into more factors as well. I am still a neophyte to this. I just wanted to highlight an example of a similarity between NLP and LW. As I said, I think there are lots of these similarities. Oh one more thing: if you've seen PJ Eby's "How to clean your desk video", then that's pretty much an NLP technique he uses. I think the term is "future-pacing".

Oh one more thing: if you've seen PJ Eby's "How to clean your desk video", then that's pretty much an NLP technique he uses. I think the term is "future-pacing".

If you're not sure whether the correct term is future-pacing, I think that rather than suggesting LW investigate NLP, perhaps you should do some more investigating of it. ;-)

(Hint: technically, you could maybe stretch the term to say I am future-pacing the feeling of enjoyment, but as generally applied in NLP, future-pacing is used to link a behavior to a context, and that is not at all how it's being applied in the video.)

And, as long as I'm commenting here, I'll say that I agree NLP has LW-worthwhile things in it; the linguistic meta-model, for example, is a key rationalist toolkit.

Unfortunately, even though NLP began as an effort to make psychotherapy more evidence-based and results-oriented, the field as a whole went Affective Death Spiral a long time ago (or some other sort of death spiral), and actually extracting wheat from the chaff is incredibly difficult.

I've spent countless hours reading, analyzing, watching videos... and the REAL meat of the subject is almost always in little offhand re... (read more)

I'm reminded of a time I saw an NLP practitioner offer to work with volunteers from a crowd, and a friend of mine stepped up, and asked for help with a problem. I could tell what problem it was by the expression on his face, and it was something he'd spent months convincing himself was unsolvable. I wish I'd paid enough attention to have some idea of what the NLP practitioner tried, but it didn't work. Do you have ideas about what to do if there are months of repeated words about a problem being unsolvable? Also, what to you think of Core Transformation?
In principle, a true practitioner wouldn't give up after just one thing that didn't work. Bandler himself was all about, "if you test right away, you can find out whether something works, and if it doesn't, try something else." Hmmm... a bit like Quirrelmort in HP:MOR, now that I think of it. Actually, Bandler seems to share many other qualities with Quirrelmort, now that I'm thinking of it. ;-) I don't think I understand you. That question is like an equation with lots of terms missing. For example, where are these repeated words? Who is saying them, or are they written? (One of the reasons I describe NLP's linguistic metamodel as a key rationalist toolkit is because it's a set of challenges that can be applied to statements or questions to identify what it is that you don't know or don't understand about what somebody has just said. Originally, in fact, all NLP was, was the idea that by examining the language people use, you could identify flawed assumptions in their thinking and help them to change it.) That one of its key premises is correct: when we do things in order to feel certain basic states, we experience problems in the form of addictive, compulsive, or aversive behaviors. But if we act from a place of already having those desirable states, then we experience choice and preference and motivation instead. A further premise is also correct: if you also disapprove of your needs, you'll experience a divided self. But the assumption that this then creates "parts" or subpersonalities (Like HP:MOR's inner house members), I think that is incorrect. We don't really have such parts, they are simply a metaphorical way of describing something. It's technically incorrect, and also unnecessary to actually changing things. For a while I worked with a streamlined version of the Core Transformation process, but later abandoned it in favor of various further-simplified models that address reduced components of the same sort of problems, and which go more directly aft
The practitioner may have tried two or three things, but it was a volunteer from the crowd situation, so I suppose he was trying to cut his losses. My friend kept repeating roughly the same arguments to me about why he couldn't feel better about his situation. I rather suspect I've done something similar in regards to some of my problems. In re Core Transformation: I've read the book more than once. It sounds very plausible, but when I try asking myself about my motivations, they form cycles rather than (as the book) a straight line to the basic motivations. I tried going to a practitioner, and I'm now a lot more cynical about certifications. She was literally reading from a transcript of how to do Core Transformation, and no better at getting me out of cycles of motivations than I was. Your idea that the basis of the problem that Core Transformation is people not letting themselves feel what they're actually feeling makes sense.
The nature of self-defeating behavior is to be self-sustaining. Or to put it another way, our problems usually live one meta-level above the place we insist they are. (Or perhaps one assumption-level below?) IOW, the arguments we repeat about why we can't do something are correct, if viewed from within the assumptions we're making. The trick is that at least one of those assumptions must therefore be wrong, and you have to find out which ones. The original NLP metamodel is one such tool for identifying such assumptions, or at least pointing to where an assumption must exist in order for the argument to appear to make sense. There are at least a couple ways you could end up cycling, that I can think of. One is that you're not actually connecting with your near-mode brain about the subject, and are thus ending up in abstractions. Another is that you're not placing enough well-formedness constraint on your questions. At each level, you have to imagine that you already have ALL the things you wanted before.... which would make it kind of difficult to cycle back to wanting a previous thing. In other words, the most likely cause (assuming you're not just verbalizing in circles and not connecting with actual near-mode feelings and images and such), is that you're not fully imagining having the things that you want, and experiencing what it would be like to already have them. This is a stumbling block for a lot of techniques, not just Core Transformation. The key to overcoming it is to notice whether you have something preventing you from imagining "what it would be like", like that you think it's unrealistic, bad, or whatever. Noticing and handling these objections are the real meat of almost ANY mindhacking process, because they're the "second meta-level" issues I alluded to above, that are otherwise so very hard to notice or identify. If you don't address these objections, but instead just plow through the technique (whether it's CT or anything else), you'll get inc
The practitioner I went to was specifically certified in Core Transformation, not just NLP.
I wouldn't be surprised if they use the same training approach, though I don't have any personal knowledge of that. The one thing that's most important to know as a helper-of-people with these techniques is how to not be stopped by anything, but few trainers actually teach that. More commonly, the training doesn't even ask people to "write seven inches on how to go on when all hope is lost" (per HP:MoR), let alone practice doing it.
Is there a good book/resource in general for trying to learn the meta-model you mention?
There is a brief overview of the concept here, but the original and IMO definitive work on the subject (it was Bandler's masters thesis IIRC) is The Structure of Magic, Volume I. It's not too hard to find a copy electronically if you can't find one physically. As the above-linked page says: In the book, IIRC, there was more of a discussion about how the maps in our heads are created by distorting, deleting, and generalizing information from the territory. The meta-model is an attempt to codify how these distortions, deletions, and generalizations are reflected in our language, and provide a set of tools to allow someone to reconnect their map with the territory, to identify where the map needs updating in relation to a problem.

The main thing I think folks are objecting to here is the idea of 'swallowing the NLP pill.'

You'll see plenty of self hacks and hacks that work on others (dark arts, etc) but none of it will be labeled NLP. I imagine plenty of the techniques we have here were even inspired in one way or another by NLP.

But here's my main point. We have kept our ideas' scope down for a reason. We DO NOT WANT lukeprog's How To Be Happy to sound authoritative. The reason for that is if it turns out to be 'more wrong' it will be that much easier to let go of.

Introducing the label NLP to our discussions will lend (for some of us) a certain amount of Argument from Authority to the supporters of whoever takes the NLP side, and we really do not want that.

"We DO NOT WANT lukeprog's How To Be Happy to sound authoritative. The reason for that is if it turns out to be 'more wrong' it will be that much easier to let go of."


Whenever you give a collection of concepts a name, you almost automatically start to create a conceptual "immune system" to defend it, keep it intact in the face of criticism. This sort of getting-attached-to-names strikes me as approximately the opposite of Rationalist Taboo. (Hey, did someone just dis Rationalist Taboo? Lemme at 'em!)

I suspect that giving a name to a hypothesis can cause you to defend it but it might be able to do the opposite also if it is already a hypothesis you dislike. I suspect that it is more likely to move one's emotional attachment towards extremes rather than move one's attitude in any specific direction. I also suspect this is more likely to be a problem for extended hypotheses that are more networks of interlocking ideas than simple hypotheses (so e.g. NLP would be a name in this sense, but I suspect that "Rationalist Taboo" would be too simple to have much of an actual impact.) Shorthand hypothesis names are generally helpful. I suspect that for most purposes naming hypotheses will provide more help (in terms of efficient communication and in terms of one's own mental shortcuts and processing) than it will harm.

I think the problem is not just giving hypotheses names, but giving large collections of hypotheses names. It bundles them together so that the strongest hypotheses in the group can defend the weakest ones, or the weakest ones can damage the strongest ones, even if the different hypotheses aren't actually related in a technical sense.

Dividing hypotheses into "NLP" and "not-NLP" is an attempt to carve hypothesis-space at its natural joints, and therefore needs to be justified by clear shared dependencies among those hypotheses.

The idea that giving a name to a hypothesis causes you to defend it is an interesting one. That's the most meta concept I've heard in a while.
Absolutely agree with that. Was not suggesting wholesale acceptance of NLP (which is quite non-monolithic mind you) either, merely pointing at something and saying "let's find out if there's some value to that thing there". The way I figure it, NLP is about hacking the psyche through manipulating the individual experience at a lower level than mainstream psychology (although there seems to be some overlap with eg CBT in the linguistic part of NLP). I can't think of any other therapy form that asks the subject to manipulate their mental images in order to achieve results, for instance. That part alone makes NLP very interesting to me. I may be biased since I'm not so interested in eg quantum physics, Bayes probability, or AI theory, as many here are. My main interests lie in my own personal development/improvement. Hence my openness to checking out somewhat fringe topics. Ordinarily, "great claims require great evidence" is a great attitude, but in the field of self help my heuristic is a little bit more liberal. In this area, I tend to think "great claims are worth investigating even if the evidence is a bit lacking". So now you guys know where I'm coming from, and that I really meant no harm, and you may now continue wrecking my karma *sulk* :-)
(Sorry for replying to my own comments). NLP can be used for lots of things, one of them being reverse-engineering the minds of other which is called "modeling". Here is an example: http://www.nlplive.com/nlp/tim-ferriss-mind-hack-by-mr-twenty-twenty/ It's very interesting. He goes into how someone who is thinking in Auditory who won't truly understand a person who is thinking in Visual-Kinesthetic, like in this example, and so won't be able to take their success and emulate it. Do as I think, not as I say :) More on modeling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_neuro-linguistic_programming#Modeling Modeling can also be used on yourself. Ie figure out why you are supremely successful in one area of your life and try to map those behaviors/beliefs/capabilities/identity/environment over to to another area of your life which is less successful. I've used this myself with good results. In essence it's about using the concept of design patterns outside of computer programming.

Ahhh! Finally I have a good analogy for negative capability! You are learning to browse the first page of results dispassionately.