Forms of Chunking

Reframing processes frequently alter the meaning of an experience or judgment by "re-chunking" it. In NLP, the term "chunking" refers to reorganizing or breaking down some experience into bigger or smaller pieces. "Chunking up" involves moving to a larger, more general or abstract level of information - for example, grouping cars, trains, boats and airplanes as "forms of transportation." "Chunking down" involves moving to a more specific and concrete level of information - for example, a "car" may be chunked down into "tires," "engine," "brake system," "transmission," etc. "Chunking laterally" involves finding other examples at the same level of information - for instance, "driving a car" could be likened to "riding a horse," "peddling a bicycle" or "sailing a boat."

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Chunk Up

Foims of Transportation

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Chunk Lateraliv

Chunk Lateraliv

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Chunk Down whistles wings wheels propellers head lights landing gear

"Chunking" Involves the Ability to Move Attention Between Generalities and Details

Chunking, then, has to do with how a person uses his or her attention. "Chunk-size" relates to the level of specificity or generality with which a person or group is analyzing or judging a problem or experience, and whether a judgment of generalization applies to a whole class or only certain members of the class. Situations may be perceived in terms of varying degrees of detail (micro chunks of information ) and generalities (macro chunks of information). Someone could focus attention on small details, such as the spelling of individual words in a paragraph, or on larger portions of experience, such as the basic theme of the book. There is also the question of the relationships between big chunks and smaller chunks. (If a particular spelling is inaccurate, does it mean that the idea expressed by that spelling is also inaccurate?)

Given a particular situation, the way a person is chunking his or her experience may be helpful or problematic. When a person is attempting to think "realistically" it is valuable to think in smaller chunks. When brainstorming, however, attention on small chunks may lead the person to "losing sight of the forest for the trees."

Unhelpful criticisms are frequently stated in terms of fairly large 'chunks' or generalizations; such as: "That will never work," "You never follow through," or "You're always coming up with ideas that are too risky." Words like "always," "never," "ever," and "only," are known as universals or universal quantifiers in NLP. This type of language results from "chunking up" to a point that may no longer be accurate or useful. Transforming such a criticism into a 'how' question (as we explored earlier) frequently serves to help "chunk down" overgeneralizations.

Chunking down is a basic NLP process that involves reducing a particular situation or experience into its component pieces. A problem that seems overwhelming, for instance, may be chunked down into a series of smaller more manageable problems. There is an old riddle which asks, "How do you eat a whole watermelon?" The answer is an example of chunking down: "One bite at a time." This metaphor can be applied to any type of situation or experience. A very imposing goal, such as "starting a new business," may be chunked into sub-goals, such as "developing a product," "identifying potential clients," "selecting team members," "creating a business plan," "seeking investments," etc.

To develop competence with Sleight of Mouth, it is important to have flexibility in being able to move one's attention freely between little chunks and big chunks. As the Native Americans would say, "seeing with the eyes of a mouse or an eagle."

Finding the intention behind a particular behavior or belief, for instance, is considered the result of the ability to 'chunk up' in NLP. That is, you need to be able to find the broader classification of wrhich the judgment or behavior is an expression (i.e., "protection," "acknowledgment," "respect," etc.). Redefining involves the additional abilities to 'chunk down' and 'chunk laterally', in order to identify concepts and experiences that are similar or related to those referred to in the initial statement, but which have different associations and implications.

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