NLP Now – The Map is Not the Territory

George Miller in 1956 wrote a paper “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information” In this paper he reviewed psychological experiments, that said the human being has problems remembering more than seven unrelated items at any one time.

Try remembering a telephone number or a list of items for the weekly shopping. Difficult.

We have a memorising span that we as individuals have as limitations to take information in.

We live by our learning from our past experiences, our culture, our religion, language, beliefs, values, interests and assumptions.

We live our lives by our own unique reality taken from our own individual experiences of life, our model of the world as we perceive it, having had deleted much of the information from the situations as they happened.

I have been places and done things that the vast majority of people will never experience. I have scuba dived around the world logging over 600 dives, swimming with sharks, riding on the back of a turtles, been inside sunken wrecks, I have flown and aircraft, I have sand boarded down huge sand dunes, I have driven over a glacier on a snow mobile, climbed to the top of a volcanoes.

I have lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, I have lived/stayed in many countries, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Turkey, Italy, India, Bahrain, Libya, being influenced by their culture, beliefs, religions and language.

I have had many adventures, influencing my thoughts, my actions, my beliefs.

We are all bombarded by our own experiences, and take our learning from what we perceive as reality, the real things from these experiences. Yet Miller implies that we can only take in 7 +/- 2 prices of information.

Let us take a simple scene that you see in front of you now. Perhaps you are at the computer screen.

How much is being shown on the actual screen? The tool bar buttons, the web address, how about the keyboard, the layout, what key follows the character “G”, or the character “K”? Is the screen on a table? What is on the table? What is on the wall? On the floor/ What are you wearing?

Lots of visual information, yet we can only take in 7+/-2 items. We delete a lot of information being given to us.

What about sound? The clicking of the keyboard, the computer fan? Sounds of the house or the office? Sounds from outside?

We have to share the 7+/-2 items.

How about the taste in your mouth? Taste something now I point it out?

How about smells?

Your feet on the floor. Were you aware of them before I asked? Bottom on the chair. Aware of it now?

The human mind is designed to delete the vast amount of information it is given, only concentrating on the important things, remembering consciously those 7+/-2 things.

The world is so vast and full of rich information, that we have to simplify it to make sense and understand it.

Let us take the analogy of a map as compared to our conscious memory.

Consider that you have to travel to a new town you have never been to before under your own steam. How would you plan to get there? Yes, you would look at a map. As you look at the map, does it show every turn in the road, every rise and fall , hill or valley, does it show every lamp post, tree, drain? No, it just gives you a representation of the area or territory.

In NLP we say the Map is not the Territory. Click to read.

Consider the underground railway, tube or metro.
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London Underground Map

London Underground Map

If you had to go from station “A” to station “Z”, you could look at the tube map and find the way. But does that map show the bends in the tube? Does it give the correct distances between the stations? No, it is a representation.

So it is with our representation of the world. We pay attention for example of those things that interest us and ignore others. We filter information. If we have limited beliefs, interests and perspectives, then our understand of the world will be impoverished, and not as rich as it could be. The world is not as we see it, but by the filters we use to perceive it.

A person who has a profession of a chef, will see the world different to that of a garbage collector, than a doctor.

Think of the word “work”, and you will have memories and experiences, internal sounds, pictures and feelings associated with that word that help you understand its’ meaning, but I will have different experiences, so my map will not be the same as yours.

Are you correct or myself? Is my cat the right one or yours?

Change your filters and change your world.

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