Speed-Reading Apps Aren’t All They Claim

Mark Tuminello’s latest blog post –

It seems that some people out there are obsessed with reading as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. For people who read regularly, we know that reading is about so much more than the sheer quantity of information taken in. So much is published every day, there is simply no chance of reading even a significant portion of it.

A new slew of apps have been getting a lot of attention – apps that focus on speed-reading. Besides being a foolhardy attempt to take in more information in each reading session than necessary, apps like Fastr or Spritz are simply too good to be true.

These apps rearrange the reading interface, showing one word at a time instead of the entire piece. The creators claim this method eliminates the need for the eyes to move while reading, which can boost reading speeds to 400 – 1000 words per minute. They also claim that when reading like this, comprehension doesn’t suffer.

The journal Psychological Science has thankfully published a study taking this claim to task.

mark tuminello speed reading

Looking at the speedy succession of words above, you’ll probably find that 500 words per minute is do-able. The short sentence given is somewhat easy to follow. But what happens when you’re in the middle of Anna Karenina? Is this speed sustainable with real comprehension? What about appreciation?

In terms of comprehension, what is helpful for readers who truly want to take in information and process it, we need the ability to go back every once in a while and re-look at a word again. The study shows that most readers look back at words about 10% to 15% of the time. This is specifically for comprehension.

For the study, researchers selected 40 students who didn’t know what the test was all about. Their heads were restrained so that eye movement could be tracked, and they were told to read a series of sentences for comprehension. Some of the sentences were repeats, with one version being clearly written, the other being ambiguous. Additionally, some students had words they’d already read covered up by eye-tracking software – this made it impossible to go back and reread words.

Students who were not able to go back to look at words again understood less. This doesn’t directly address the efficacy of speed reading apps, but it does seem to suggest that 500 words per minute with no backtracking would harm comprehension. This is even more true when sentences are ambiguous.

from Mark Tuminello http://ift.tt/1qdySKc

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