Landsiedel NLP TrainingNLPNLP LibraryRepresentational systems: VAKOG


Representational systems: VAKOG

Immerse yourself in the sensory world of your conversation partner to gain deeper understanding and be understood. This “sensory awareness” will give you access to unexpected levels of communication.


We experience the world through our sensory organs. The external stimuli, e.g., a ray of sun or a friend's voice, are transmitted by the nervous system through electrical or chemical signals to the brain. In the brain, the signals are converted into pictures, sounds and other sensations which represent the external stimuli.

The following letters stand for the VAKOG System:

V visual seeing

A auditory hearing

K kinesthetic feeling

O olfactory smelling

G gustatory tasting

According to the NLP model, people use those five sensory channels with varying emphases. Some people are very visually oriented; information over the other channels have less impact. When people with different dominant sensory channels meet, misunderstandings can easily arise.

The preferred or currently dominant representational system can be recognized by signal words or physical signs, such as speech tempo, breathing, etc. On the next page you will find a list of words which point to a specific representational system.

  • How many more figures of speech can you find if you keep your eyes open?
  • Listen! What other formulations come to ear?
  • It will feel easy for you to collect more expressions.
  • You will soon have a nose for this language and acquire a taste for it!

Sensory words

Sensory words are verbs, nouns and adverbs that refer to a certain representational system. NLP assumes that a person's favorite expressions related to seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting indicate his representational system of preference.


Visual expressions:

See, look, picture, imagine, observe, focus, notice, watch, visible, overview, clarify, illustrate, overview, appear to be, clear-cut, looks like, plainly see, short-sighted, take a peek, apparently, at a glance, image, dark, bright, gloomy, dazzling, bright, foggy, gigantic, gain an insight, a transparent argument, obscure references, shadow somebody, put things into perspective, keep an eye on, examine, inspect, illuminate an aspect, look ahead, in retrospect, catch a glimpse of something, love at first sight, be in the dark, apparent, mask sb/sth, veil sb/sth

A visual oriented person might say:

  • Can you show me other houses in this area?
  • I need to see more before I can even imagine making a decision.
  • I can already see it quite clearly, but I still want to look more closely at some of your offers.
  • Look, I am not sure if you have shown me everything. I am still in the dark.

Visual idioms:

  • We keep our eyes on the prize.
  • Despite his success, he has both feet on the ground.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.


Auditive expressions:

Quiet, calm, loud, that sounds good, discuss, rumor, hear, speechless, say, whine, something clicked, listen to somebody, clear as a bell, loud and clear, hear somebody out, squeaky, word for word, unheard of, crashing, tramping, rattle, hoarse, snort, clearly expressed, call on, music to my ears, listen, tune in, to tell you the truth, remark, sounds like, hoarse, dull voice, screaming, nagging, last call, roar, shout, final call, call to mind, whimper, voice an opinion, state a reason, catchy tune, at the top of our lungs.

An auditory oriented person might say:

  • Tell me more about the product. I have already heard many good reports.
  • I am not satisfied yet with what you have told me so far. You are not the first one to promise me that the product will last forever.
  • That sounds great. Everyone talks about how amazing your product is.
  • It is always the same old story. You shout from the rooftops that you are the best, but I am trying to explain you that I cannot afford your services. I will need to be clearer to make my voice heard.

Auditory idioms:

  • This cries out for a new solution.
  • His idea sounds too vague and needs to be clearer.
  • It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.
  • The relationship simply lacks harmony.


Kinesthetic expressions:

Feel uncomfortable, broken-hearted, gritty, creepy, heart skips a beat, be on cloud nine, hold on, pull some strings, hand in hand, slipped my mind, keep one's feet on the ground, feel secure, ice runs down my spine, foot asleep, sticky, slimy, heartache, take ones breath away, get cold feet, warm one's heart, soft, rough, cold, start from scratch, shiver, hang on, fluffy, stiff upper lip, heated argument, butterflies in one's stomach, work up a sweat, from head to toe, stab in the back, with a heavy heart

A kinesthetic oriented person might say this:

  • I need your help on this matter. I don't think I can do this on my own.
  • I don't want to rush into this. I’d rather take it slow or I might go from the frying pan into the fire.
  • I was struck by the presentation. They really put the cards on the table.
  • I have a good feeling about this. The whole problem will sort itself out.

Kinesthetic idioms:

  • If we don't deliver results, our credibility will hit rock bottom.
  • She is cold as ice.
  • The mere thought of the conference makes him tremble.
  • The memory makes him shiver.
  • Why should they carry a burden that we cannot carry ourselves?
  • The pressure is unbearable.


Olfactory expressions:

Turn up one's nose at sth, the scent of the chase, running nose, have a good nose for sth, just follow your nose, smell, scent, burned, rosy, smoky, mossy, earthy, woody, odorless, perfumed, thumb one's nose at sth, stink, inhale, smelly, burnt, flowery, rotten, odorous, sweet, stench, strong smell, blow one's nose, by a nose, brownnose, look beyond one's own nose

Olfactory idioms:

  • Looking beyond your nose is crucial for personal growth.
  • He nosed the car out onto the highway, looking both ways.
  • I can’t smell out his meaning.
  • Don't stick your nose in other people's business!


Gustatory expressions:

Juicy, suck, fatty, smack, lick, sip, slobber, taste, burnt, nutty, delicious, dry, oily, spicy, hot, mellow, bitter, sweet, sour, creamy, fast food, hot, cold, salty, tasty, soft, drinkable, crispy, tepid, feast, munch, to shoot one's mouth off, savory, piquant.

Gustatory idioms:

  • In our 30-days free trial you can get a taste of all the features our program has to offer.
  • The last match left a bad taste in the mouth of the players since the team lost against its arch-rival.
  • That is a mouth-watering proposal.
  • Every man to his taste.

Three types of VAK

In the following, the three main types: the visual, the auditory and the kinesthetic type will be presented in detail. Preferences and special characteristics will be mentioned.

Book report

Three people read the same book and now share their experience. Pay attention to signal words! The first person reports that he discovered a lot from the book, that the examples were well-chosen to illustrate the topic and that the book was written in a brilliant style. The second person has a completely different view: he describes the writing style as shrill prose, is not in tune with the ideas expressed in the book and would like to voice his opinion to the author. The third person thinks that the book handles a weighty topic in a balanced way. He likes the way the author touches on the key issues and grasped the new ideas easily.

Sales letter

Dear Mr. X, as discussed in our phone call, I am sending you my book collection and audio CDs of the previous seminar. I hope that the language is clear enough and that I will hear back from you.

Dear Mr. Y, I have taken a detailed look at your words in the letter. I see the problem and am sending you a photo set and our video recordings. I hope you will soon take a look at the videos to get a clear picture of us. I am looking forward to your early response. Goodbye!

Dear Mr. Z, I am deeply touched by your recent visit. Now I can fully sympathize with your feelings concerning your specific problem. Thus, I am sending you my used handkerchief. In the next seminar, you are more than welcome to unburden your heart to me. Until then, I wish you all the best. With warmest greetings and affection.

NLP Eye Movement Patterns

Short, unconscious movements of the eyes in different directions are indicative of the representational system through which we currently process information.

Leading, Representational and Reference System

Often, the eye-accessing clues are misrepresented or wrongly interpreted. Here, you will learn about the fine differences.

Minimal nonverbal information

Besides verbal information and eye-accessing cues, there are a range of other cues, such as breathing, speech tempo, etc. You will find these explained in this section.

Sensory Systems and Eye Movement Patterns

Short, unconscious movements of the eyes in different directions provide information about which representational system is currently retrieving information. The following graphic applies to most "normally" organized right-handed people. For left-handers, the sides may be reversed.
Note: This pattern is a generalization, which of course means that is not always correct. Therefore calibrate!


Visually constructed (fantasized, inner images)


Remembered images


Auditory constructed (fantasized noises/sounds)


Remembered noises/sounds


Movements, tactile feelings, emotions


Inner voices, inner dialogue

Sample questions for eliciting eye-accessing cues:

Eye accessing cues are the ones most easily available to the outside observer.

Questions for evoking visually constructed images:

  • Can you imagine a purple cow?
  • If you wanted to repaint your room, which color would you prefer?
  • Can you imagine what you would look like if you weighed 5 kg less?
  • Imagine an elephant on a cloud. A parasol hangs from the cloud, a black and on that, a black and white checkered mouse with roller skates on its feet.
  • What will you look like when you are 80 years old?
  • Imagine the top half of a ball resting on a cube.
  • How would you look with green hair?
  • Imagine the American flag, but with the colors yellow, brown and pink.

Questions for evoking visually remembered images:

  • What color are your mother's eyes?
  • Which color was your first car?
  • On which occasion did you first see your friend for the first time?
  • What color is the carpet in your bedroom?
  • How many doors are there in your house / apartment?
  • How many windows are there in your house / apartment?
  • Who was the first person you saw today?
  • What does the face of your alarm clock look like?

Questions for evoking remembered sounds/noises:

  • Think of your favorite song and hum it inside.
  • Remember the conversation with the last person you spoke with yesterday.
  • Try to hear the sound of your car’s engine inside.
  • Try to hear the difference between your doorbell and your telephone ringing inside.
  • Which voice you know is most unpleasant for you?
  • Which voice do you like to listen to?

Questions for evoking constructed sounds/noises:

  • What would a bagpipe sound like playing the national anthem backwards?
  • How would thunder sound as it slowly turns into harp music?
  • What would it sound like if a whole football stadium would sing your name?
  • Now compose a song in your head.

Questions for evoking kinesthetic accessing cues:

  • Imagine what hot sand on the beach feels like.
  • Remember how your first kiss felt.
  • Remember the last time you had to make a sudden, emergency stop.
  • When you are depressed and sad, what can make you happy the quickest?
  • How does it feel to jump into cold water when your body has been heated up?
  • How does the sting of a mosquito feel?
  • How does a stone in your shoe feel in your shoe?

Questions for evoking olfactory/gustatory accessing cues (pay attention to mouth and nose movements):

  • How does a lemon taste?
  • How does a rose smell?

Inner Dialogue:

  • What rhymes with "cup"?
  • How does the alphabet continue after "O"?
  • Write a letter in your mind!
  • Inwardly, say a few words of appreciation to yourself.

Differences between Lead, Representational and Reference System

Often, the eye-accessing cues are misrepresented or misinterpreted. Here are some finer distinctions.

It is necessary to distinguish between a primary representational system, a lead system, and a reference system.

The primary representational system has to do with the process of taking in information, and the lead system with remembering and retrieving of information.

Among other things, the primary representational system is recognized by the predicates chosen to describe how the data was originally recorded.

The lead system can be recognized by the eye movements that someone makes while accessing information from the long-term memory (LTM). The reference system refers to the decision as to whether the retrieved information is true or not after it has been accessed and brought into consciousness. The reference system is the system that someone uses to answer the question:

Is that really the case?

Very often the reference system is the kinesthetic system.

It feels right!

Definitions from the NLP dictionary:

The modalities of how we record information, store it and code it into our brains. The representational systems are also referred to as perception systems or levels of perception with which we perceive the environment.

They are the modes of the five senses:

  • Seeing (visual),
  • Hearing (auditory),
  • Feeling (kinesthetic),
  • Smelling (olfactory) and
  • Tasting (gustatory)

For short: VAKOG.

The sense of touch (tactile, haptic) is usually not treated on its own, but is associated with feeling, the body sensations.

Lead System

The lead system (also called guidance system) is that representational system with which a person makes information accessible internally. The lead system is sometimes different from the representational system that a person uses to make information consciously accessible (this system may be the preferred representational system).

An example are the processes used when remembering:

When asking a person about a past experience, a person may first activate a visual image and then internally hear the dialogue that was being spoken. (This sequence is called the NLP memory strategy.) The visual system here is the lead system, the auditory system the preferred one. The visual image is needed here to make the memory accessible at all, the further "thinking" then takes place in the auditory system. A lead system that deviates from the preferred system is usually an unconscious system: the process of accessing information takes place on a subconscious level. Other people's lead system can be recognized by posture, gestures, breathing, and eye movements.

Reference System

The reference system internally verifies the accuracy of an experience and the truth of the information retrieved. A person reacts e.g., to the question of an event from their past with the following memory strategy:

  1. first the question is commented upon internally (auditory lead system),
  2. then it is represented visually (visual preferred system) and
  3. the result is now emotionally checked. So, this person has a kinesthetic reference system. In many cases, the reference system is unconscious. It can (inter alia) be learned by accurately perceiving the eye movement pattern.

Minimal nonverbal Information

In addition to language usage and eye-accessing cues, there are several other indicators, e.g. breathing, speech rate. These are presented here.

Visual channelAuditory channelKinesthetic channel
Eye movementsup and to the left
up and to the right
straight ahead with a glassy look
down and to the left
straight to the left
straight to the right
down and to the right
Head positionupwardstraight
tilted to the left
turned with an ear
to the speaker
tilted to the right
Breathingupper chest
evenly with the whole cheststomach
Rate of speechfast
longer pauses
Skin colorpaleevena lot of color
Muscle tonetensed
high shoulders
even movements
abrupt movements

Further characteristics

  Visual channel Auditory channelKinesthetic channel
WritingBeautiful writing is important and easy to learn. Spelling is easy as this person sees the words in his mindMay write less well than speak and often speaks while writing. Spells phonetically, thus less secure in spellingBroad, often tense handwriting. Transfers letters into body movements and checks with his feeling
ReadingReads well and at high speed as he captures the words. Reads rather than listening. Is easily confused by words never seen beforeReads rather slowly, as he speaks internally (possibly the lips move). Likes to read aloud listen. Copes with unknown words easilyPoints at the text as he reads or accompanies the reading with body movements. Prefers books with a lot of action
LearningNeeds an overview, a goal and a pictorial idea of the details. Remembers with images, can therefore not remember verbal instructions well. Is careful before everything is clear Learns by listening and remembering things step by step in their order. Remembers spoken content well. Tries out alternatives verbally first (in inner or outer dialogue)Learns by doing and trying out. Walks and looks around while memorizing. Remembers overall impressions well
Other behaviorLively pictorial imagination. Pays attention to the exterior (neat, tidy). Barely distracted by noise. Can plan well in the long term. Rather calm and prudent. Very attentive in conversations.The most talkative of the three types. Loves discussions, tends to spring between thoughts and verbose explanations. Loves music, talks to himself. Easily distracted by noises. Hears sounds and (inner) voicesSeeks closeness and likes to touch others. Moves a lot and reacts strongly physically. Responds to tangible rewards. Is very intuitive, acts out ideas, rather weak regarding details