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The Sad Truth About Speed-Reading: It Doesn't Work

Rebecca Treiman - Psychology PhD

“It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”

Rebecca Treiman - Psychology PhD

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The Sad Truth About Speed-Reading: It Doesn't Work

The Sad Truth About Speed-Reading: It Doesn't Work

https://www.thecut.com/2016/04/the-sad-truth-about-speed-reading-it-doesnt-work.html

thecut.com

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Key Ideas

Human Body X Speed Reading

The fovea is a small high visual acuity area in the retina. Our eyes are seriously limited in their precision outside said area.

We can take in only a word or so at each glance, and a little bit about the words on either side. 

Multiple experiments confirm that speed reading,” leads to decreased comprehension of the parts of the text that reader's eyes skip over.

Rebecca Treiman - Psychology PhD

Rebecca Treiman - Psychology PhD

“The factor that most strongly determined reading speed was word-identification ability.”

Speed-Reading Versus Science

Research shows that reading speed is more about an individual’s language skills than anything related to their eye movements. Another unsubstantiated claim, is that hearing an “inner voice” while reading slows down readers.

The only reliable way to become a faster reader is to expand your vocabulary — and the best way to do that is to read more.

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The Shortest Answer To Faster Reading
The Shortest Answer To Faster Reading

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.

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Speed reading
Speed reading
  • Speed reading promises to help anyone read at speeds of above 1000 words per minute with full comprehension.
  • The average college-level reader read at the speed of 200-400 words pe...
How speed reading works

Speed reading uses methods such as chunking, scanning, reducing subvocalization, and using meta guiding. For example, reading the first sentence of each paragraph can indicate if it's worth reading more or to move on. Or guiding your eye by using your finger.

Some researchers looked into speed reading and found there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy.

Speed reading and information retention

Speed reading can help you skim to content, which is useful at times. However, speed reading cannot help you read faster and retain more information.

  • Our eyes are designed only to see a tiny portion of our visual field with the precision needed to recognise a letter in a 10 to 12 point font. Everything outside that small area is blurry. The idea promoted by speed reading that we can use our peripheral vision to see whole sentences is biologically impossible.
  • While we spend most of our time reading forward, our eyes often go back to reread some text. This is the way our brain links content together. Speed reading attempts to help you read faster by showing one word at a time. This has a bad impact on overall comprehension.

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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

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."

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