Speed reading

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Speed reading is a collection of reading methods which attempt to increase rates of reading without greatly reducing comprehension or retention. Methods include chunking and eliminating subvocalization. It is important to understand that no absolute distinct "normal" and "speed-reading" types of reading exist in practice, since all readers use some of the techniques used in speed reading (such as identifying words without focusing on each letter, not sounding out all words, not sub-vocalizing some phrases, or spending less time on some phrases than others, and skimming small sections). Speed reading is characterized by an analysis of trade-offs between measures of speed and comprehension, recognizing that different types of reading call for different speed and comprehension rates, and that those rates may be improved with practice. [1]


[edit] History

Psychologists and educational specialists working on the visual acuity question devised the tachistoscope, which is a machine designed to flash images at varying rates on a screen. The experiment started with large pictures of aircraft being displayed onscreen. The images were gradually reduced in size and the flashing-rate was increased. They found that, with training, an average person could identify minute images of different planes when flashed on the screen for only one-five-hundredth of a second. The results had implications for reading.

Using the same methodology, the U.S. Air Force soon discovered that they could flash four words simultaneously on the screen at rates of one five-hundredth of a second with full recognition by the reader. This training demonstrated clearly that, with some work, reading speeds could be increased from reading rates to skimming rates. Not only could they be increased but the improvements were made by improving visual processing. Therefore, the next step was to train eye movements by means of a variety of pacing techniques in an attempt to improve reading. The reading courses that followed used the tachistoscope to increase reading speeds; it assumed that readers were able to increase their effective speeds from 200 to 400 words per minute using the machine. The drawback to the tachistoscope was that post-course timings showed that, without the machine, speed increases rapidly diminished.

Following the tachistoscope discoveries, the Harvard Business School produced the first film-aided course, designed to widen the reader’s field of focus in order to increase reading speed. Again, the focus was on visual processing as a means of improvement. Using machines to increase people's reading speeds was a trend of the 1940s. While it had been assumed that reading speed increases of 100% were possible and had been attained, lasting results had yet to be demonstrated.

It was not until the late 1950s that a portable, reliable and 'handy' device would be developed as a tool for increasing reading speed. The researcher was a school-teacher named Evelyn Wood. She was committed to understanding why some people were naturally faster at reading than others and was trying to force herself to read very quickly. It is told that while brushing off the pages of the book she had thrown down in despair, she discovered that the sweeping motion of her hand across the page caught the attention of her eyes, and helped them move more smoothly across the page. She then utilized the hand as a pacer, and called it the "Wood Method", which was renamed to Reading Dynamics in 1958. She coined the term "speed reading."[2]

More recently, speed reading courses and books have been developed to help the consumer achieve even higher increases in reading speed, some at 10,000 words per minute with high comprehension[citation needed]. With specific reference to pseudoscience concepts, companies have claimed to be able to extract meaning out of consciously unnoticed text from the para-consciousness or subconscious. These courses go by various titles such as photo-reading (1994), and alpha-netics (1999). Reading experts[who?] refer to them as Snake oil reading lessons because of their high dependence on the suspension of the consumer’s disbelief.

[edit] Claims of speed readers

According to some speed reading advocates[who?], the World Championship Speed Reading Competition stresses reading comprehension as critical, and that the top contestants typically read around 1000 to 2000 words per minute with approximately 50% comprehension. The 10,000 word/min claimants have yet to reach this level.

Much controversy is raised over this point. This is mainly because a reading comprehension level of 50% is deemed unusable by some educationalists (Carver 1992). Speed reading advocates claim that it is a great success and even state that it is a demonstration of good comprehension for many purposes (Buzan 2000). The trade-off between "speed" and comprehension must be analyzed with respect to the type of reading that is being done, the risks associated with mis-understanding due to low comprehension, and the benefits associated with getting through the material quickly and gaining information at the actual rate it is obtained.

Howard Stephen Berg claims to be the fastest reader in the world reading at a rate of 25,000 words per minute. The figure was deduced from him reading different texts on over a dozen television shows, and being tested by over a dozen newspapers in various cities around the country. On Cleveland's Morning Exchange, Howard completed an 1100 page book and scored a perfect score on recall. He was retested three years later on the same book using his recall from the previous show again with perfect recall. Dick Cavett had Berg memorize his autobiography in 90 seconds and he demonstrated perfect recall. On Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Berg memorized a 200 page book, "Going to the Movies," by Quentin Crisp, and scored 100% on the extensive test given by the author.[citation needed]

U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a proponent of speed reading[3] and encouraged his staff to take lessons.

Jimmy Carter, also a U.S. president, and his wife Rosalynn, were both avid readers and enrolled in a speed-reading course (which their daughter Amy Carter attended briefly) at the White House,[4] along with several staff members.

A critical discussion about speed reading stories appeared in Slate. Among others, the article raises doubts about the origin of John F. Kennedy's allegedly amazing reading speed. Ronald Carver, a professor of education research and psychology, claims that the fastest college graduate readers can only read at most twice as fast as their slowest counterparts, namely about 600 words per minute.[5] Other critics have suggested that speed reading is actually skimming not reading.[6]

[edit] Commercial speed reading programs

Some businesses selling courses and manuals on speed reading claim that it is possible to increase the reading to beyond 10 words per second with full comprehension, provided the course is followed and that the exercises are constantly practiced. However, a good deal of these courses and manuals are conflicting as to why and how speed reading should be adopted as a method.

Some other businesses claim that a person can double or triple his/her current speed. They claim that a person reading at 2 words per second (the average rate for untrained adult readers), can take a speed reading course and learn how to read at 5 to 7 words per second while maintaining, or even improving comprehension. In many commercial courses, in fact, the comprehension is only increased because the difficulty of the texts used in the course is decreasingly difficult.

One point of contention between the various speed reading courses is the assertions concerning subvocalization. Some courses claim that the main obstacle to speed reading is any form of subvocalization. But there is no evidence that less subvocalisation can improve reading or even can willingly be changed at all.[7] Other courses claim that subvocalization can be used on keywords in order to speed up learning and reading. Some proponents of speed reading claim that subvocalization can be broken down into two levels, only one of which will reduce reading speed.[citation needed]

Speed reading courses and books take a variety of approaches to the concept of reading comprehension. Some courses and books claim that good comprehension is essential to speed reading, and that comprehension will improve with speed reading. Special non-standardized reading comprehension questionnaires are provided in order to convince the reader of the effects of the program. Some courses advise that while comprehension is important, it should not be measured or promoted. Speed reading courses variously claim that not all information in text needs to be covered while speed reading. [1] Some claim that speed reading involves skipping text (exactly as has been measured during studies on skimming), whereas other speed reading promoters claim that all of the text is processed, but with some or most becoming subconsciously processed. Similarly, some courses claim that text should be serially processed whereas others say that information should be processed in a more haphazard or ad hoc fashion.

[edit] Software

Computer programs are available to help instruct speed reading students. Vortex Speed Reading was one of the early applications, but it was strictly a productivity tool – a program that only presented text one word at a time. Readers needed to focus on the center of the screen, not moving their eyes as they would while reading normal text.

A number of speed reading programs use a different approach. These programs present the data as a serial stream, since the brain handles text more efficiently by breaking it into such a stream before parsing and interpreting it. The 2000 National Reading Panel (NRP) report (p. 3-1) seems to support such a mechanism.

To increase speed, some older programs required readers to view the center of the screen while the lines of text around it grew longer. They also presented several objects (instead of text) moving line by line or bouncing around the screen; users had to follow the object(s) with only their eyes. A number of researchers criticize using objects instead of words as an effective training method, claiming that the only way to read faster is to read actual text. Many of the newer speed reading programs use built-in text, and they primarily guide users through the lines of an on-screen book at defined speeds. Often the text is highlighted to indicate where users should focus their eyes; they are not expected to read by pronouncing the words, but instead to read by viewing the words as complete images. The exercises are also intended to train readers to eliminate subvocalization, even though it has not been proven that this will increase reading speed.

[edit] See also

[edit] External Links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Abela (2004) Black Art of Speed Reading lecture notes
  2. ^ Brief History of Speed Reading
  3. ^ John F. Kennedy on Leadership
  4. ^ American Experience | Jimmy Carter | Gallery
  5. ^ The 1,000-Word Dash - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine
  6. ^ The Skeptic's Dictionary Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  7. ^ #
    1. Carver, R.P-Prof (1990) Reading Rate: A Comprehensive Review of Research and Theory.

[edit] References

  • Allyn & Bacon, (1987) The Psychology of Reading and Language Comprehension. Boston
  • Buzan (2000) The Speed Reading Book. BBC Ltd
  • Carver, R.P-Prof (1990) Reading Rate: A Comprehensive Review of Research and Theory.
  • Carver, R. P. (1992). Reading rate: Theory, research and practical implications. Journal of Reading, 36, 84-95.
  • Cunningham, A. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Wilson, M. R. (1990). Cognitive variation in adult college students differing in reading ability. In T. H. Carr & B. A. Levy (Eds.), Reading and its development: Component skills approaches (pp. 129-159). New York: Academic Press.
  • Educational Research Institute of America (2006). A Review of the Research on the Instructional Effectivenessof AceReader. Report No. 258.
  • Harris and Sipay (1990) How to Increase Reading Ability. Longman
  • FTC Report (1998) [1] [2]
  • Homa, D (1983) An assessment of two “extraordinary” speed-readers. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 21(2), 123-126.
  • National Reading Panel (2000). p. 3-1.
  • Nell, V. (1988). The psychology of reading for pleasure. Needs and gratifications. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(1), 6-50
  • Perfetti (1995) Reading Ability New York:Oxford University Press
  • Scheele, Paul R (1996) The Photoreading Whole Mind System
  • "Speed Reading Made EZ" Usenet post [3], part of the alt.self-improve FAQ
  • Whitaker (2005) Speed Reading Wikibooks
  • Arvin Vohra Education (2005) Rapid Analytical Reading Announcement [4]
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