The Real Reading Modality

I’ve posted before on the modality of reading.

The reason it matters is because if you’re writing persuasive copy, you want to know how it’s affecting your reader. Is it visual because he’s using his eyes to take it in? Is it auditory because she’s repeating the words in her head? Is it kinesthetic because he’s using his hand to follow the lines of copy?

At the last NLP MeetUp group I went to, I asked a couple of the most experienced NLP guys which modality they think reading is. The answer seems obvious now but I’d been missing it.

Modalities are based in the person, not the activity. It’s a matter of how each individual processes the experience.

For example, you’d think receiving verbal directions to get to a restaurant would be verbal, right? Well, not for me. For it to stick, I have to visualize the layout in my head. Otherwise I have a tendency to forget it.

Another example is a professional guitar player I know. We were talking about this and he said playing guitar is like his fingers dancing. He plays “by ear” but processes the experience kinesthetically.

We’re back to the answer being to use a little bit of all of them unless you have information telling you your target audience is predominantly one or the other. The only real way to know that is to test.

To test modalities, instead of doing 25/25/25/25, try something like 30/20/20/30. Don’t go for 100/0/0/0 all at once unless you’re goal is to make a point. Multivariate test small changes until you have the best mix.

2 Responses

  1. Louis, this is interesting stuff…I know Harlan Kilstein has said he believes reading to be auditory because people must read the words aloud in their head before processing them…does this contradict with what he is saying?

  2. Rob,

    It would seem so. My initial thought was that reading was visual because as a speed reader, I usually don’t verbalize words at all. That’s how you learn to speed read… force your eyes to move faster than your internal dialogue can verbalize. You can read without the auditory but not without the visual.

    But the truth is that everyone does something different inside their own head. Obviously we can learn that some modalities are more effective strategies than others… surely someone why tries to learn to read through the gustatory modality won’t ever reach proficiency unless we start making words out of candy.

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