Representational systems are the systems that we use to internally code and store the data that we take in through our five senses. The coded data is stored in the form of internal representations which combine to build our internal maps or models of the world.
We touched on representational systems in the NLP Communication Model.
There are four major representational systems that we use to represent our experience:-
- Visual (things that we see)
- Auditory (things that we hear)
- Kinesthetic (things that we feel)
- Auditory Digital (things we say to ourselves in our own mind)
The olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) systems tend to be less used as representational systems although strong scents and odours in particular can be powerful triggers in accessing past memories. Has the scent of pine ever led you to think about Christmas?
V, A, and K are all analogue systems. Analogue systems are constantly variable (and, in theory, infinitely variable) and are measured in terms of amplitude i.e. brightness, volume, temperature, weight.
Auditory Digital (AD) is, as the name implies, a digital system in that the units of measurement are discrete values.
Binary is a good example of a digital system - it has two discrete values - 1 and 0 or On and Off.
Denary or base 10 (or decimal if you prefer), the number system that most of us are familiar with is another example of a digital system and has ten discrete values - 0 to 9.
The AD system has thousands of discrete variables in the form of the individual words that make up our language. As AD is a measurement of the words we say to ourselves in our own minds (our thoughts) it is also referred to in NLP as self-talk.