CRITICAL THINKING AND NEURO-SEMANTICS- L. Michael Hall Ph.D Founder of Neuro Semantics.

If “the map is not the territory” then your mental mapping is only as good as it corresponds, structurally to the territory.  This is obvious when we are trying to navigate the geographical territory.  If my map is that New York City is west of Chicago and so I set out westward from Chicago to find NYC, because this mental map does not correspond to reality, when I go west I will not find NYC.  People will say, “The other way, go back the other way.”  And I will argue with them, “No, it’s this way.  Come join me to go to NYC.”  And they will say, “No, it’s not that way, turn around, go east young man!”  If our map puts NCY to the left of Chicago on our map to represent west, the problem is simple: the map is wrong.  It does fit with the territory.

Mental maps about how to love and to be loved, to create a business, to be healthy and fit, to enjoy one’s work, to patiently listen to a child, etc. can also be wrong.  The mental maps can be erroneous, distorted, contorted, convoluted, and so on.  Where we “learned” whatever we learned can be the source of that error.  Our thinking patterns and the maturity of our thinking can be the source of that error.  So can our cognitive biases to distort things.  There are many factors which can contribute to us ending up with a distorted map that will not take us where we want to go.  So, what’s a human being to do?

In NLP and Neuro-Semantics we begin with embracing “the map is not the territory” premise so that we stop over-trusting our maps.  Whatever model we have in our head about things is just that- a model, an idea that we are using as a map to navigate our way through reality.  No matter how real the map feels, it is just a map.  Those who do not know and appreciate this will over-trust their map.  And because they do, they will not question it or explore it or even test it.  Here is a fundamental cognitive bias- deferring to our mental maps as if they are real.

I say “fundamental cognitive bias” because we all seemed wired to do this- to confuse map with territory, to think our thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc. are “real.”  When children go through this stage, we call it the magical thinking stage.  They give so much power and reality to their thoughts. They are convinced that by thinking something, that makes it so.  As a cognitive bias, they have to learn how to do the critical thinking of distinguishing map and territory.  When they do, they leave the primitive world of world-magic.  And yet many adults still live there.  Maybe not in eveyr aspect of life, but some aspects.  So they are superstitious, or hold to childish “magic thinking” ideas like the so-called “law of attraction,” or various new age ideas or even traditional religious ideas that are nothing more than the same.

Critical thinking starts by distinguishing map and territory, thought and reality, mental mapping of understanding and believing from what’s actual. Critical thinking looks for relationships between one thing and another, “How does this X lead to or trigger this Y?  What mechanism is involved in this?  How does the process work?”  This is the Meta-Model distinction of cause-effect and the questions that explore it.  Critical thinking then moves to precision and specificity as we identify in see-hear-feel terms (empirical) the referents.  “What specifically are you referring to?”

Assuming that words are real is the mistake, that’s the cognitive bias here. They are not.  Words are symbols.  We use a word to stand for something else.  And if a word stands for, and represents something else, then it is not the thing it refers to.

For me, all of this highlights and reveals the power of the NLP Meta-Model of Language for developing, training, and refining critical thinking skills. I wrote about this in Communication Magic (1997/ 2001) many years ago.  At that time I said that when I discovered this, it was so amazing that my sense was that it put into my hands a more powerful tool than everything I learned at University for my Masters Degree in Clinical counseling.  With the Meta-Model of Language, I could discover and understand another person’s
model of the world and help the other change it if they wanted to.

And yet I had more.  Not only did I have a process for challenging erroneous maps and facilitating changing maps that were inadequate, my own and those of others- the process was developing within me true critical thinking skills.

If you would like to learn this highly precision questioning tool, please clear your dates in Aug from 9th-15th,2015 for Bangalore. Click here to get details about our upcoming International Meta NLP Certification program.