BBC 4 have run a 30 minute piece on NLP called "Power to Persuade: The Story of NLP"
Within it journalist William Little interviews Richard Bandler, Michael Carroll and several others with a view of exploring what it is, does it work and questioning the "science" behind it.
The interview (IMHO) doesn't really add much to the story of NLP for anyone who has read an introductory text but it does highlight the increasing drive by some people looking to validate/invalidate its claims.
This isn't the first or last time someone has challenged if "NLP works", "isn't it just pop psychology?" etc. etc. Others have called NLP a cult (see Sects, 'Cults' & Alternative Religions, written by a David V. Barrett).
My experience of learning and using NLP has taught me that the distinctions and meaning someone can make about any subject or experience depends on who is looking, how they are looking at it and what filters they are looking at it from.
NLP isn't a science. It focuses on creating models of excellence in performance - whose worth is measured on usefulness, not whether what we as NLPers describe/presuppose is "true". The ultimate question is - does it get you results? For many people this has been most certainly yes and also at times, no. People aren't robots, so it is unreasonable to expect that it will work for everyone in every context.
Either way, the curiosity and energy of the co-founders that started the field has resulted in many great frameworks, techniques and strategies for achieving all manner of outcomes being created and are widely used in many trainings and professional contexts.
The Research Question:
Research may or may not find 'validity' in the techniques and processes of NLP.
Either way I'll be taking any 'conclusions' under review. Here is why.
Much of what passes as 'research' isn't a solid as you think.
Just because researchers says something is so doesn't necessarily mean it is. All claims to facts of science and research should be appended with "to the best of our (research team's) current knowledge as of this date."
The results of tests vary on who is doing the testing, what is being tested and how it is being measured and reported. When it comes to NLP, a big factor is also who is doing the intervention/change/technique etc.
Of course to be given any serious weight any research should go through the peer review process. Yet a lot of "research" isn't. Even when it is, and assuming that it is an accurate peer review, the conclusions that make headlines are often expressed without the full context on which these conclusions have been reached and therefore can easily mislead.
Bottom line - without looking deeper into the who/what/how the research was done and who by/how it was reviewed - you may want to hold any conclusions at arms length…
Of course it is also worth saying that just because something hasn't been empirically tested or that a piece of research hasn't been peer reviewed doesn't automatically mean that the conclusions aren't sound. Rather it raises concerns about the credibility of the research - and also may be a warning flag that some company or body has an agenda to grind and wants "scientific" research.
Ideology also plays a role. The ideology of the persons doing the testing will influence how they perceive, act, look for answers, formulate hypotheses etc. Researchers are human beings and not devoid of being influenced by their own beliefs, or indeed the social and ideological structures in which they exist.
For years tobacco companies funded scientific research demonstrating that cigarettes did not cause negative health effects. Other companies/organizations are no doubt looking to 'science' to help substantiate the conclusions they want.
Knowing where to look, what to look for and how to look and prove yourself wrong is vital to designing effective research projects. If anyone is involved in that work now, or in the future, or if you know of any good NLP- or neuroscience-related projects happening near you - feel free to let me know.
In the meantime, check out the BBC 4 broadcast here.
[Note: This broadcast is online for 6 more days before they take it down.]
Got a question, opinion or comment - feel free to submit it below.