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Big Question: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible?

Research Backed Methods For Faster Reading

Research points to speed reading being a form of skimming, which is appropriate for short text but not for longer ones.


For long texts, reading more to increase vocabulary or read things you already know a lot about are the only scientifically backed methods to increase speed and comprehension.

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Big Question: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible?

Big Question: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible?

https://www.wired.com/2015/09/big-question-speed-reading-actually-possible/

wired.com

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Key Ideas

Research Backed Methods For Faster Reading

Research points to speed reading being a form of skimming, which is appropriate for short text but not for longer ones.


For long texts, reading more to increase vocabulary or read things you already know a lot about are the only scientifically backed methods to increase speed and comprehension.

Measurements Of Speed Reading And Comprehension

Although there is an academic consensus that speed-reading decreases comprehension,

On the other hand, the same can’t be said for comprehension measurement techniques, as we can process text differently according to context.

Woody Allen

Woody Allen

"I took a course in speed-reading...and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It's about Russia."

Elizabeth Schotter

Elizabeth Schotter

"The software and apps don't know what you're doing, they don't know what your internal representation is, so they can't compensate for a failure in understanding because they don't have access to that knowledge,"

The Fundamental Flaw On Speed Reading Softwares

Softwares using the RSVP (Rapid Serial Visual Presentation) method eliminate time-wasting eye movements by presenting you one word at a time.

Again, the science says this tends to have a negative impact on comprehension as the rereading is important for understanding text.

The Types of Eye Movements

  • Regressions: Quick, unconscious re-readings we do when we don't understand something.
  • Saccades: Jerky, 0.1-second eye movements we use to move our fovea (center of vision) from one word to another.
  • Fixations: Brief, 250-millisecond pauses, each word receives during reading.

Elizabeth Schotter

Elizabeth Schotter

"Is this word a food, yes or no?" "If you give them a word that's not a food, say 'MEET,' but the word sounds like an actual food word (M-E-A-T), then they're more likely to say yes even though it's the wrong answer."

The Impossibility Of Ignoring Your Inner Voice

Proponents of speed reading claim sub-vocalization is a detrimental habit that can be suppressed to increase ones reading speed.


On the other hand, research indicates even using techniques to stop sub-vocalization, the mere visual recognition of words accesses the sounds of those words anyway.

Elizabeth Schotter

Elizabeth Schotter

"Because we all learn to speak and listen before we learn to read, almost everyone tends to access the sounds of speech when they read."

Sub Vocalization

Is the inner speech readers hear in their heads as they read silently.

The Complexity Of Reading

Unlike speech, reading and writing are "cognitively unnatural."

As a human instinct, speech doesn’t have to be taught to an infant. Writing does, because it is not a purely visual process, both reading and writing piggyback on language and speech

Reading's Mental Dance

Reading involves the visual acquisition of the symbols by the eye and the cognitive processing that goes on in the background. It's an intricate dance between a number of visual and mental processes highly dependent on language.

Elizabeth Schotter - cognitive psychologist

Elizabeth Schotter - cognitive psychologist

"… no human being can read 1,000 or 2,000 words per minute and maintain the same levels of comprehension they do at 200 or 400 words per minute."

The Average Reader

Most educated people can read between 250 to 400 words per minute) with good comprehension. For comparison, a normal conversation produces 150 to 160 words per minute.

Speed Reading Versus Evidence

There are different techniques that claim to increase ones reading speed but decades of medical and psychological research indicates that said speed gain comes at the cost of understanding.

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The Shortest Answer To Faster Reading
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Read. The more you read the more familiar you are with linguistic structures, contexts and content, which speeds up your reading. That’s especially true when learning new words or familiar w...

The Problem With Some Speed Reading Software

Software using rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) methods claim to eliminate unnecessary eye movements, thus increasing reading speed. It presents words above the average reading speed, one at a time, at a single location on the screen.

Unfortunately, experiments show RSVP software does increase reading speed, but subjects could only sustain reading at high speeds with good comprehension for short bursts.

The Flaw With Methods That Eliminate Regressive Eye Movements

This methods are supposed to let you read it right the first time, but regressive eye movements generate enhanced understanding beyond what could be obtained on the first pass.

Due to sentences unfolding linearly, often contrary to the messages they convey, rereading becomes necessary for proper understanding.

6 more ideas

Skimmed Read

Reading is a complex process that involves the brain's visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency and comprehension. There are billions of pages available to read online,...

Slow Is Good

The speed-reading habit is making us lose our deep attention and focus, gradually shunning denser, more complicated content. Instead of optimizing for speed, we need to optimize for comprehension, deep understanding, and retention of information.

Deep or slow reading, when the brain is attentive, absorbing, understanding and analyzing text expands our attention span and improves concentration and learning.

Better, Not Faster Reading

The brain develops stronger analytical skills and gets into critical thinking mode, forming new connections and even creates new ideas.

Deep focusing on a book is one of the best investments of your time.

Strategies speed readers use
Strategies speed readers use
  • Skimming: quickly going through passages to find the main points.
  • Meta guiding uses a pointer, such as your index finger or a pen, to guide your eyes along the lines...
Effectiveness of Speed Reading

Regardless of which reading method you use, the evidence points towards the fact that speed comes at the sacrifice of understanding.

Depending on what you’re reading, this might not necessarily be a bad thing: If you’re trying to get through a dry piece to capture a few key points or you are going through a short piece that’s easy to understand, speed reading strategies might make sense.

Make the most of what you read
  1. Choose different reading pieces for different occasions: articles and light reads can be reserved for short periods. Books that require less focus can be listened to in audio format etc.
  2. Incorporate reading into your daily habit: put a book on your bedside table.
  3. Share your reads with others, to help you to better understand and appreciate what you read.
  4. Reflect on your reading: take notes or check out films that are based on novels (to compare interpretations).