The term Polya Patterns are thrown around in NLP and often associated to the Sleight of Mouth Patterns and talked about as “yes sets” but what are they really and who was Polya?
George Polya was a mathematician (much the same as Alfred Korzybski, the developer of General Semantics) at Princeton who was curious about how people became to believe something if it wasn’t provable (and lets be honest, very few things are 100% provable). He referred to this ability to believe in something as “plausibility”, he wanted to see how things became so plausible, that at some point it becomes “true” for that person (they believe in it).
Polya Patterns of Plausable Inference
He described six patterns of plausibly (I have simplified the description to remove the complex mathematics. If you love maths feel free to dig out a copy the book these came from: “Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, Volume II: Patterns of Plausible Inference: Patterns of Plausible Inference v. 2”):
1. The Meta Pattern: Probability
The likelihood that something will occur again based on its past performance. The more something occurs the more we will tend to believe it will occur again (the sun coming up for example).
Also, if something which is not very probably occurs it tends to validate the case-effect belief which predicted it (pressing the button more often gets the lift to come quicker)
2. Verification of a Consequence
If a particular belief (B) implies a particular consequence and we verify the consequence (C) than it makes the believe more plausible.
If B implies C and C is true then B is more credible.
If a belief presupposes some event or phenomenon and we verify this contingent event then it makes the belief more plausible.
Polya’s example is about criminal defence or prosecution and is believed to have committed it, and that crime needs a contingent event and that event is proven to have happened it makes it more plausible that the person committed the crime.
Say someone is accused of holding up a store with a gun and the prosecution demonstrates the person has a gun, then the possibility that they they held up the store seems more plausible.
4. Inference from Analogy
A believe (b) is more plausible if an analogous conjecture is proven true.
This is where we draw comparisons to things that appear related, but aren’t.
Animal testing is the classic analogy. In fact much of science is based on analogous testing…
5. Disprove the Converse
The plausibility of a belief increases is a rival conjecture is disproved.
This is the classic argumental process that the philosopher Nietzsche would use. He would rubbish the challenging conjecture and then provide his own. His own was often no more plausible, but because he has rubbished the alternative his appeared more plausible.
6. Comparison With Random
If the belief can be shown to be able to predict results better than random guessing then it is more credible.
Why Learn and Apply These Polya Patterns?
Understanding how a belief can be generated allows us to explore and (if appropriate) challenge, change or reinforce that belief.
The Polya Patterns fit neatly into the Meta Model patterns of “Cause and Effect” and “Complex Equivalence” and are the foundation of Robert Dilts “Sleight of Mouth” Patterns.
To learn much more about these Polya Patterns and how we can use them in practice, book on my “NLP Master Practitioner Training“.
Or, if you want to revise your skills with the Meta Model, Polya Patterns and Sleight of Mouth, click here to see my “Advanced Language Mastery” cards. Or puchase them below:
Advanced Language Mastery Volume I: Meta Model and Milton Model
Advanced Language Mastery Volume II: Polya Patterns and Sleight of Mouth
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