Full Thread: Speed reading
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Old February 25th, 2014 #3
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 9,703

[–]chupagatos 32 points 4 hours ago (33|1)

Late to the party but this is a topic I know a lot about, so I'll give it a stab.

This way of presenting words is commonly called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) and it has some significant disadvantages due to the fact that reading text horizontally with the possibility of regressing (looking back a few words) is how we maximize our comprehension. Here are some facts about reading:

the amount of time you spend fixating on each word is a function of the frequency of that word. Words you encounter often are easier for you to recognize and integrate into the sentence than words that you encounter rarely. Word frequency depends on your exposure to words and you become a faster reader the more you read (the more exposure you have to low frequency words). This software presents words at a fixed speed, limiting your ability to spend little time (or skip) words that are easy for you and spend a little longer on words that are more challenging to ensure that you have appropriately accessed that word in your mental lexicon

regressing - or going back a few words- is the best strategy to get "unstuck" when reading. Ambiguous sentences or sentences that are more complex require more work on your part to understand because you have to tie together all of the syntactic relations between the words in order to take home the meaning of the sentence. You can't do this with RSVP and you end up going forwards without actually understanding the sentence completely.

comprehension is not linear. Sometimes we pause to understand a sentence or a paragraph and sometimes we just power through. This is because we are not processing the meaning of a sentence at a constant speed throughout our "reading session".

These are three reasons why comprehension is not the same when speed reading and partially explain the uncomfortably sensation that occurs when the speed is too fast but we still seem to be understanding some of what we're reading: language is a redundant phenomenon and if you miss a word or two, or even a sentence, you will still get the gist. But unfortunately that's not what reading is about for many people.

source: I am a psycholinguist who researches sentence processing during reading in a big US university.
[–]ForecastPandaRain 61 points 7 hours ago (72|13)

I think that speed reading has a time and a place. It is a tool that is useful to digest a lot of information. For example, my law school readings are terribly written and I have over 100 pages of dense crap a night. So I speed read this stuff and can finish my readings within 30 minutes.

Novels and reading for pleasure are a different story. I like to take my time with those. It allows me to appreciate the author's diction. It also lets me dig the prosody -- the rhythm of each sentence. Kerouac has a nice rhythm. Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood has amazing prosody. All of those would be missed if you speed read.

So again, there's a time and place for everything.