Meta Programs in MindSonar: NLP Thinking Styles

Meta Programs and Criteria in MindSonar
MindSonar basically measures two things: Meta Programs (thinking style) and criteria (values). In other words MindSonar measures how people think and what they find important. Metaprograms do not describe what someone thinks, but how they think. In this document we describe the thirteen sets of Meta Programs that MindSonar measures and the categories in which it places criteria (the Graves ‘drives’).

Meta Programs Measured in MindSonar
The following Meta Programs are measured in MindSonar.

If you want to see some great examples of these patterns in famous quotes, click here.

Meta Programs set 1: Proactive versus Reactive
Proactive = a preference for acting quickly and taking the initiative.
= a preference for waiting, considering, and reflecting.

Meta Programs  set 2: Towards versus Away from
Towards = a focus on achieving goals
Away From = a focus on avoiding problems.

Meta Programs set 3: Internal Reference versus External Reference
Internal Reference
= using one’s own standards in evaluations.
External Reference = using other people’s standards in evaluations.

Meta Programs set 4: Options versus Procedure
= a preference for many different possibilities.
Procedure = a preference for step-by-step planning.

Meta Programs set 5: General versus Specific
General  = a focus on the broad overview
Specific = a focus on the small details.

Meta Programs set 6: Matching versus Mismatching
Matching = a focus on what is good and correct.
Mismatching =  a focus on what is bad and incorrect).

Meta Programs set 7: Internal locus of control versus External locus of control
Internal locus of control = a focus on how someone influences their circumstances) versus
External locus of control (focus on how someone’s circumstances influence them).

Meta Programs set 8: Maintenance versus Development versus Change
Maintenance = a preference for things staying the same.
= a preference for gradual change.
Change = a preference for fast and radical change.

Note: In many overviews of Meta Programs, the desire for stability or sameness versus change or difference is assumed to coincide with its perception. Someone with a desire for change is thought to also perceive more change. However, these two preferences might not reflect the same Meta Programs. People often desire change precisely because they do not perceive enough change and often desire stability when they perceive too much change. We have therefore chosen in MindSonar to focus this set of Meta Programs on the desire for—and not the perception of—stability or change.

Meta Programs set 9: People versus Activity versus Information
= a focus on people and what moves them
Activities = a focus on activities being done
Information = focus on information; facts and figures.

Meta Programs set 10: Concept versus Structure versus Use
= a focus on essentials and principles.
Structure = a focus on relationships between elements.
Use = a focus on practical applications.

Meta Programs set 11: Together versus Proximity versus Solo
Together = a preference for working closely together with shared responsibilit.
Proximity = a preference for mutual support with individual responsibility.
Solo = a preference for working alone).

Meta Programs set 12: Past versus Present versus Future
Past = a focus on past events.
Present = a focus on the “here and now”.
Future = a focus on future events.

Distinctions set 13: Visual versus Auditory versus Kinesthetic
 = a focus on images and movies.
Auditory = focus on sounds and words.
Kinesthetic = focus on feelings and movement.

Note: These last three distinctions are sensory modalities rather than meta-programs. They are measured together with the meta-programs for the sake of convenience.

Criteria are values. They indicate what someone finds important in a given context. In the TOTE (Test–Operate–Test–Exit) Model of goal-directed behavior, the present situation is compared with a criterion to determine whether operations (actions) are necessary. Meta-programs can be understood as ways in which people handle their criteria. MindSonar asks the respondent to define:

  • Four criteria (four things they find important in the context their profile is measured for).
  • A meta-criterion (what happens when the first four criteria are met).
  • The opposites of all criteria (e.g., for a particular person, the opposite of “inspiration” might be “dullness”).
  • The hierarchy of the criteria (their order of importance).

Categorizing Criteria
Originally, MindSonar simply took stock of people’s criteria by storing their verbal descriptions. This made it difficult to compare criteria, since different people attach different meanings to the same words. We wanted to be able to accurately define and compare criteria based on numbers. To achieve this, we needed a typology of values, and we chose the Graves (Spiral Dynamics®) model. Graves theorized that there are eight value systems which evolved over the course of human history.4 He assumed that each value system flows from the previous one as a response to ever more complex living circumstances and the problems which are inherent in the last system. MindSonar now measures the extent to which criteria are associated with seven of the eight Graves categories, using colors derived from Spiral Dynamics5 theory:

  • Purple Drive
    When someone has a strong purple drive, their criteria in that particular context have to do primarily with security and safety. Other key words for this drive are: belonging, tradition, feeling at home, togetherness, and seniority.
  • Red Drive
    When someone has a strong red drive, their criteria primarily relate to power and respect—to getting respect in particular, but also to showing respect. They act impulsively, quickly, and forcefully without thinking of the consequences. Other key words for this drive are: reputation, power, strength, honour, and courage.
  • Blue Drive
    When someone has a strong blue drive, their criteria have to do primarily with order and security. Other key words for this drive are: discipline, reliability, duty, and control.
  • Orange Drive
    When someone has a strong orange drive, their criteria have to do primarily with competition and winning. Other key words for this drive are: success, achievement, results, progress, and influence.
  • Green Drive
    When someone has a strong green drive, their criteria have to do primarily with ideals and loyalty to the group. Other key words for this drive are: harmony, community, connectedness, love, social contact, and consensus.
  • Yellow Drive
    When someone has a strong yellow drive, people criteria have to do primarily with learning and independence. Other key words for this drive are: creativity, analysis, and personal growth.
  • Turquoise Drive
    When someone has a strong turquoise drive, their criteria primarily have to do with the big picture and a holistic vision. Other key words for this drive are: responsibility for the earth as a whole, spirituality, balance, and integration.

To summarize:
MindSonar measures thirteen sets of Meta Programs (thinking style elements) and defines criteria (values) as well as the hierarchy of the criteria. It categorizes the criteria in seven categories based on the Graves value theory.

Definition of the Word Meta Program
Meta Programs are a pattern that can be observed in the way someone thinks. Meta Programs are expressed in verbal and non-verbal behaviours. Meta Programs influence feeling states and emotions. Synonyms for ‘Meta Programs’ are ‘cognitive-perceptual preferences’, ‘cognitive style elements’ and ‘ways of thinking’.

Definition of the Word ‘Meta Profile’
A metaprofile is a combination of several different Meta Programs. Together, these Meta Programs characterize an individual’s way of thinking and perceiving. A MindSonar profile combines Meta Programs with someone’s value hierarchy.

Meta Profile and Context
The Meta Programs someone uses can change depending on the situation, which is why we talk about someone’s MindSonar profile in a particular context. In a different context (situation) the same person may have different Meta Programs. For instance, an individual may have a particular combination of Meta Programs when they are at work, a different combination of Meta Programs when they are enjoying their hobby and yet another combination of Meta Programs when they are discussing politics with their friends.

Meta Programs, mental strategies and belief systems
In the term neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) the term “programming” refers to mental strategies (sequences of inner images, sounds, and feelings). Meta Programs are “meta” to these strategies. Strategies describe the sequence of sensory experiences in thinking. Meta Programs describe the general trends in the content of that strategy. In that sense, the term ‘meta’ in Meta Programs, indicates that Meta Programs are meta to mental strategies. In terms of concepts, Meta Programs are located between mental strategies (thinking sequence) and belief systems (values). MindSonar categorizes values using Graves (Spiral Dynamics) categories.

To see how Meta Programs are used in various MindSonar projects, please click on the link.
To look up Meta Programs in the NLP Encyclopaedia, please click on this link.