How to correctly interpret eye movements

How to correctly interpret eye movements

eye-brain connection

Our brain links every thought content with feelings and also sensory content. Depending on which senses are involved in our thoughts, the brain takes over the control of our eyes. In some cases this happens very clearly, in others only minimally. Especially when we remember something or imagine something, our eyes look in very specific directions. The following can be proven empirically.

Look up, straight ahead or down

When we look up with our eyes, we are imagining something visual: images, scenes or colors.

If, on the other hand, our line of sight runs straight ahead – our eyes remain at the same level as our ears, so to speak – we listen inside and become aware of auditory things: voices, tones, melodies or noises.

On the other hand, if we direct our eyes downwards, this indicates kinaesthetic thought content. This connects our brain with our sense of touch. We trace feelings or sensations and visualize what is inside.

Look to the left or to the right

Second, tests have found out what role the lateral orientation of our gaze plays. An eye movement (from the point of view of the observed) to the left indicates that the observed is remembering something. If he or she looks to the right, this indicates a mental construction.

  • 1. Visual memory: Opposite looks (from their point of view) to the top left
    Our counterpart remembers something visually or sees a remembered image.
  • 2. Visual Construction: Opposite looks (from his perspective) to the top right

    Our counterpart constructs something visually.

  • 3. Auditory memory: Opposite looks (from his point of view) straight to the left

    Our counterpart remembers certain tones, noises or voices.

  • 4. Auditory construction: Opposite looks (from his point of view) straight to the right

    Our counterpart constructs certain tones, noises or voices.

  • 5. Inner dialogue: Opposite looks (from his point of view) down leftn

    Our counterpart is talking to himself.

  • 6. Kinesthetic content: Opposite looks (from his point of view) down to the right

    Our counterpart feels a physical or tactile feeling. Finally, there is the case where someone is looking straight ahead without focusing on anything. He or she stares into space:

  • 7. Daydreaming or thinking: Opposite looks out of focus straight

    Our counterpart is dreaming or thinking deeply about something.

Visual, auditory or kinesthetic type

The NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) coaching method distinguishes between three types of perception: the visual, auditory and kinesthetic people. These use different, so-called representation systems. In other words, they look at the world through different glasses:

  • For example, the visual type says: This looks good (and tends to look up),
  • while the auditory says: That sounds good (and looks ahead).
  • The kinesthetic type, on the other hand, is more likely to say, This feels good (and casts their eyes down).

To use

1. If you observe someone closely, you can tell what type or mixed type they are by the way they look and what they say. NLP advises staying in the so-called representational system. So don’t ask the kinaesthetic type: What does that look like for you? But: how does it feel to you?

2. As described, the direction in which your counterpart is looking to the left or to the right reveals whether he is remembering or constructing something. You can use this, for example, to check something.

For example, ask your child, “Remember what I told you about that yesterday?” If your child’s eyes turn to the left, they’re remembering. If you go to the right, in all likelihood it is constructing something. Which brings us back to the detective at the end: If a right-handed suspect’s gaze constantly wanders to the right while making his statement, this strongly indicates that he is not remembering something, but is constructing something. And that’s what makes him even more suspicious.

Photo credit: vicu9 /

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