I have heard that people look up and to the left if they are not truthful, and up and to the right if they are telling the truth. Is there any truth to this?

  • 6
    was the person telling you this story looking up to the left or to the right?....+1 for entertaining factor Jul 9, 2011 at 21:21
  • i'd like to see the mythbusters test this one! :)
    – russau
    Feb 7, 2012 at 1:46
  • 1
    And if it were true would left-handed people look the other way?
    – RedSonja
    Oct 4, 2018 at 9:07

2 Answers 2


You are probably talking about eye accessing cue of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).

NLP is a pseudo-science and many skeptics & experts expressed their opinion in various documents.

Criticisms about NLP commonly mention:

  • It's a pseudo-science (no scientific proof provided)
  • It references outdated theories
  • It uses manipulation and misinterpretation
  • It may be sectarian in some cases

NLP is a huge success because it makes people believe they will be able to control others.

I firmly believe NLP is a huge brainscam.

Additional references:

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    Welcome to Skeptics! We expect users to back up any significant claim with a reliable source. You cite Wikipedia in this answer, please follow up to the primary literature and cite that, Wikipedia alone is not enough. NLP also seems to be a bunch of different methods, the answer would benefit from a critique specific to the eye accessing cue, not NLP in general.
    – Mad Scientist
    Jul 10, 2011 at 10:43
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    @Fabian: I wish I could. I was not able to add more than 2 links (because I have less than 150 points of reputation), so I kept the two that lists all the scientific references, rather that putting all links directly.
    – user3979
    Jul 10, 2011 at 10:45
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    I understand the frustration, I have argued to remove that restriction a while ago. It is only for users below 10 reputation though, so you should now be able to add in the references.
    – Mad Scientist
    Jul 10, 2011 at 10:54
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    You can't charge at the same time that NLP manipulates people and that it doesn't work. You either burn witches or you admit that there's no real witchcraft.
    – Christian
    Jul 10, 2011 at 11:00
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    @Christian: NLP doesn't work, so NLP is not used to manipulate people and make them believe in NLP. Other well known mechanisms are used instead, such as exploiting human's need for hope, control, aversion, etc, like any other sales men will use to sell any product.
    – user3979
    Jul 10, 2011 at 11:39

Richard Bandler and John Grinder proposed in Frog into Princes that the direction in which people look when they access information has something to do with the mental processes that they use to access the information.

The proposed that subjects look instinctively to their right when they construct a new mental image but look to their left when they remember something.

They propose the principle as a general rule but at the same time assert that there are individuals differences between people. An NLP practitioner is supposed to look whether the rule applies to a certain individual at certain question where he knows that the person remembers something to calibrate to the specific individual.

NLP practitioners are supposed to train their calibration skills through practice. As far as I know there are no studies that investigate whether trained NLP practictioners can use the eye accessing cues to infer something about the mental state of another person.

Kevin Hogan did an experiment in which he tried to test his interpretation of NLP's eye accessing cues. He found that eye accessing cues didn't work the way he saw them portrayed in the NLP literature.

NLP practitioners on the other hand assert that Hogan's experiment tested a misunderstanding of their eye accessing cues concept.

In any case it isn't as simple as having a straightforward rule that you precisely whether the other person is lying.

  • This aspect of NLP is used by Derren Brown in stage shows, and is reliable in untrained liars so long as you first check with some neutral questions the direction the person looks when they tell the truth (it changes from person to person). When a person is lying, they tend to do something different. Brown is using this cue, and other body and language cues, for lying. You can tell that he isn't using other methods both because he can't control the balls, and further, because the trick sometimes fails on an occasion where a truth-telling person acts strangely, as attested by audience members.
    – Ron Maimon
    Nov 27, 2012 at 14:59
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    As has been discussed on this site previously, Derren Brown is a stage magician who admits (when off stage) that he lies (when on stage). He cannot be used as serious argument that some technique works, just because you can't figure out another technique he might be using. That's his job.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 29, 2014 at 11:31

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