Neuro-Linguistic Programming – Snake Oil or Powerful Management Tool?

For some years I’ve been observing the quiet infiltration of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) into many respectable professions. I’m not an expert on NLP but it seems to me to be a rather bizarre mixture of science, ancient religion and new age thinking. Lately, I’ve noticed it being used in the IT Security field, mainly for social-engineering exercises.

NLP is a highly controversial field that offers practical benefits, though it lacks a reliable scientific basis. Even the Wikipedia entry is disputed. If you believe its practitioners, you can read peoples’ subconscious signals and manipulate their behaviour. With a bit of practice you might even be able to hypnotize people into carrying out your suggestions. Of course the problem is that it’s not guaranteed to be 100% reliable, so you can easily be wrong or perhaps fooled by someone sending out false signals. So don’t try it for poker unless you’re certain your opponent is not an exponent.

So what should we do with this strange new tool? Exploit it or consign it to the dustbin? Some professional psychologists assure me it’s one of the most powerful tools in their armoury. Others tell me it is dangerous, to be avoided. It’s your choice. Because the jury will always be out on tools that only work some of the time.

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I've often wondered who would win a Social Engineering competition between Paul McKenna and Kevin Mitnick? I think you are missing a point in your article though David - it doesn't matter to attackers if NLP isn't 100% effective because it doesn't need to work 100% of the time. One in 100 attacks succeeding is still a very significant threat to UK CNI.
A great website on NLP is: There is a bunch of NLP related articles up there.
NLP was found to be ineffective for persuasion purposes back in the 1980s. It was also found to be totally wrong in its eye accessing/representational system ideas and so on. In theory, practice, and excuses, it remains a pseudoscience. I've had a pro NLPer try "patterns" out on me and I have to say its totally useless. Its basically a new age religion. The presuppositions are all based on new age beliefs. Funny thing now is that it is spreading (mostly as flavour of the month) through some organizations. Some psychotherapy groups also promote it. Neurologists, linguists, and HRM experts are completely horrified. They really don't want to see such a rich collection of misconceptions being spread around the world. The only serious research being conducted on NLP nowadays is by cultic studies researchers who marvel at how much pseudoscience can be spread using such an ineffective set of rituals. Explanations come down to "confirmation bias" and "cognitive dissonance". Whole groups are set up on the web for NLPers to dismiss negative research and to hype anything confirming their beliefs. The head honchos are making a killing by selling misinformation about the brain for big bucks. Scientology all over again!
Here's some useful information on NLP and how to identify similar pseudosciences: