Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016
So Much to Read, So Little Time;
How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help


This journal article uses a qualitative approach to understanding the key connections between eye functions and its application to speed-reading. It also assessed whether comprehension and accuracy is retained when speed-reading, or if comprehension and accuracy decreased due to speed-reading. The article notes that the average adult human and collegiate student reads between 200 to 400 words per minute.

  1. The methodological framework used in this study is a mixture of informative, qualitative, and historical case studies presenting that speed-reading does not aid in comprehension or accuracy. However, it found that skim reading in some cases could be useful. The first third of the paper goes over the mechanics of the eye and how it allows humans to successfully read from the foveal viewing area; to the rods and cones and there importance when it comes to light and brightness; to finally the retina transferring information to the brain.

  1. The researchers then went into the fact that no two humans are the same when it comes to reading, and that fast readers tend to have shorter fixations, longer saccades, and fewer regressions when compared to slow readers. Shorter fixations refer to time spent on the foveal viewing area. Saccades are the movement of the foveal viewing area to the next word the reader wishes to identify and process. These combined with reduced regressions, which are return sweeps to areas already read for validating comprehension, increases a reader’s speed. Yet, the most important factor researchers found that separates slow readers from fast readers when it comes to reading speed is the ability to identify words, which progresses into comprehension and furthering everything stated above.

  1.  In the last third of the qualitative study, the researchers covered RSVP and speed-reading programs and their popularity and growth since Evelyn Wood’s Reading Dynamics program in 1959. Regarding the speed reading programs, they advocated toward using peripheral vision to increase the number of words read in one fixation; zigzagging down and up pages when reading; and suppressing the inner voice when reading silently. The RSVP or “rapid serial visual presentation” is a technology that rapidly goes through words to test a users means of recall and can be done at sentence levels and paragraph levels as well. The downfall is that the evaluated reader only has one go at the word, sentence, or paragraph and must recall all that was presented without being able to regress back into the text. The ultimate evaluation found was that words were easier to recall as long as ambiguity was not present between words, like “meat” and “meet.” All of which the case studies in the journal, showed to prove deficiencies when the RSVP was used when it came to accuracy and comprehension. In regards to trying, to cancel out the silent voice when reading, it disrupts the reader’s eye movement and capabilities to comprehend and recall accurately as well.

Concluding it all the researchers in their Skim Reading section and Conclusion proved that some people could read faster than others, due to previous knowledge of the subject matter, and being able to make inferences before hand that would lead to accurate answers. Yet, if a slow reader and skimmer/speed reader were given a topic that was unknown to either party the speed-reader was found to be less accurate. Thus, the researchers concluded that there is no way to increase reading speed without sacrificing comprehension and accuracy. However, in some cases where time is limited and one already has a depth of knowledge in the subject the sacrifice of comprehension through skimming is useful. Since most readers at their normal rate read between 200 to 400 words per minute, it is identified that this speed is good enough for most objectives humans seek to complete.

The usage of speed-reading is a good modifier only if one has an understanding of the topic matter he is reading, and the topic is situated in the objectified goal. If the topic is brand knew and the reader knows nothing about the topic then speed-reading or skimming will not work if comprehension and accuracy is the goal to a successful evaluation or hypothesis. Though the study was qualitative and informative, it put forth a plethora of case studies done in the past that evaluated speed-reading, and its correlation to comprehension and accuracy. Out of briefness, the examples are excluded due to the vast number of them used throughout the journals study. The importance here to forecasting is that specialization is the key to successful speed reading and comprehension, but it will limit the extent one, or a group, can make on a decision if none have known knowledge of the area being asked to evaluate. The personal evaluation is that if one is pressed for time they can risk speed-reading while risking comprehension and accuracy, for the same outcome will arrive if one does not have the time to read normally through everything properly.


Rayner, K., Schotter, E. R., Masson, M. E., Potter, M. C., & Treiman, R. (2016). So Much           to Read, So Little Time How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help?. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 17(1), 4-34.                                                    <>.


  1. Since you did the most research here (you reviewed 3 articles), what is the difference between speed reading and just skimming? Are they synonyms, or is skimming passive versus active speed reading?

  2. Very good question Ruark. Skimming is not reading a text in its entirety. In skimming the focus is on extracting the general ideas and important information. Such as viewing titles, paragraph structure, and key words, and once finding relevant information, reading further in depth on it within the selected text. Speed reading on the other hand is more so trying to gain a general overview of the entire text with its minor pieces. Therefore skimming is actively searching for the main points and later trying to understand them. While speed reading is trying to grasp the text in its entirety, and comprehend it all at once, verses just the major points. At least that is what I got from the journal article "So Much to Read, So Little Time How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help?"

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    2. The two are similar in that they both increase speed but reduce accuracy and comprehension. They differ in that skimming is focused on major points for say summary reviews; while speed reading focuses on trying to comprehend the entire text, not just the main points.

  3. Overall I think the study makes some good points, although they do seem to be fairly common sense: the faster one tries to read, the less they are able to comprehend, ceteris paribus. It is an interesting point, however, that the researchers identified the role of prior subject knowledge in gauging an individual's effectiveness using the technique of speed reading.