WHY SPEED READING DOESN’T REALLY WORK: A BRAIN COGNITIVE EXPLANATION

Speed reading is defined as “reading rapidly by assimilating several phrases or sentences at once.” The concept burst on the scene in 1959 when Evelyn Wood coined the phrase and created a system to increase a person’s reading speed by a factor of two to five times. The average reading speed is between 250 to 300 words per minute. Woods founded “Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics” and boasted a reading speed of 2,700 words per minute. Speed reading is often associated with skimming where the reader glances at what she perceives to be the relevant text. Some readers seeking to increase your word count use the “meta” technique where you use an object or your finger to point at specific words. Others attempt to read multiple lines from a text at once using peripheral vision or use apps that start with a single word and then increase the speed at which the words appear. None of the systems help you to retain (or remember) what you read. In short, speed reading is a waste of time unless you are looking to brag about the number of books and articles you have “read.”

A recent report written by psychologists and brain and science experts concluded that if “thorough understanding of the text is not the reader’s goal, then speed reading or skimming the text will allow the reader to get through it faster with moderate comprehension.” (Psychological Science, So Much to Read, So Little Time– referenced in a New York Times editorial).

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