Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Speed Reading

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

There are many courses, books, and software programs which claim that they can significantly increase your reading speed. Is there any merit to any of them?

I admit that I was enamored with the notion of reading double, triple, or even ten times as fast, and for a while tried (unsuccessfully) some of the techniques the websites mention.

This skeptical website argues that 300 words per minute is the maximum the average person can accurately read because the limiting factor is comprehension and integration rather than the visual identification of the words on the page.

What do you think? I expect that there are some exceptionally intelligent individuals in the forum – have any of you been able to significantly increase your reading speed?

FYI: You can test your reading speed here: http://www.readingsoft.com/. Also, the list of Top Reviewers for Amazon is interesting. (They used to have a list of the largest number of reviews, but I can’t find it now.) The raw number of books that these people read seems to be proof that some people can read significantly faster than the average.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I played around with speed reading a little. From what I read, speed reading largely consists in eliminating or minimizing the loss of speed caused by your eyes moving around -- for instance, the motion from the end of one line back to the beginning of the next, rereading words, etc. I didn't get great results, but that was mostly because the methods required so much concentration that I had trouble retaining content at the same time. Maybe if you practice it enough to automatize it, that wouldn't be a problem...

By the way, the most interesting thing I found was a program that assists you in speed reading of text files. It puts a box in the middle of the screen and flashes each word in there at a speed you set, leaving longer words in for a little longer than shorter ones. I had better luck with this one; I don't remember what the highest rate I was able to get to while still being able to follow the text was, but it was well over 300 words per minute. (Since your eyes are literally not moving, this is even more efficient than normal speed reading methods.)

However, the program was for my old primitive Palm Pilot, and the screen started to wear on my eyes after a little while, so I gave up on it. If you're interested, I bet you could find something similar for desktops. It was pretty impressive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thought of being able to read faster is just too damn attractive. Even i tried some book sometime back for quicker reading, but it didn't help much. I think i can read a bit fast, but it's how long you can keep up the pace, thats more important. I wonder if it's something that can be changed significantly.

For eg. that link you sent to test your reading, i tried to see how fast i can go and ended up with 548 wpm and 82% comprehension, but the thing is i knew i had to do it fast and i doubt i'd be able to keep something like that up for long, without tiring myself too much.

Honestly it would be of great help to be able to read really fast and be able to even absorb at that rate, i hope there's a way, or i have no way of finishing all those computer books :) If you do find something, please let me know.

dinesh.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know the kind of software Matt is talking about - and I think I could reach almost 600 word per minute with it. But this is a very stressful experience. You can't stop to think about what you read, and you must be focuesd 100%.

However, I know with a little practice I moved from around 240 word per minute to around 350 by simply following some good tips.

One of the main things you learn in these fast reading courses is the art of browsing. The ability to get a progressively better impression of content without reading every word, or every sentence.

There are some great techniques I use in this regard, and I find them extremely helpful during seminars.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This skeptical website argues that 300 words per minute is the maximum the average person can accurately read because the limiting factor is comprehension and integration rather than the visual identification of the words on the page.

I agree. There is no point in reading fast (or reading at all) unless you understand what you read--or worse, if you misunderstand it.

The purpose of reading is to grasp the information the author is conveying, to evaluate it, and to integrate it with the rest of your knowledge. The final step--integration--is what consumes the greatest amount of time, especially for philosophical texts. Far from ripping through the paragraphs at a thousand words per minute, a good reader will frequently stop to think about what he just read, to memorize relevant information, to find ways of applying it to his life, and so on. Thus, the mere identification of the meaning of the text will hardly be a bottleneck for him.

So, I would say that one ought to worry about learning to think fast rather than learning to read fast, and that one ought to worry about thinking well before one ever worries about thinking fast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Speed reading may or may not be helpful in skimming quickly something to get the gist of what the author is saying. Reading for understanding, however, requires asking and answering certain questions as you read, and must be done much slower and in full focus.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is true. But the good Fast Reading systems don't suggest you must read your fastest all the time. They say you should adjust your speed to the level of complexity of the text, and the depth of understanding you seek.

However, I believe it is possible to read WAY MORE than 300 word per minute and still understand the text, assuming no questions arise from it. For example - a philosophical paper needs to be read very slowly and carefully, but a grocery list can be read in one glance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I took the test on the website and got 475 WPM with 91% comprehension.

According to the site:

400 wpm, auditory reader. FReader provides several speed reading modes to pace your reading beyond this sound barrier of 400 wpm.

I definitely agree with Erandor on this one.

The content of the document is what will adjust your speed.

I could whip through the test pretty easily because the questions were basic in nature as was the content of the material that was provided in the sample.

If they would have used something more intense...it would have been a LOT tougher.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

eran, you make a good point, how fast you read is inversely proportional to the complexity of that which you are reading. When i'm reading novels, i just skim through a lot of the sutff that seems unimportant. But on the other hand, you just can't skim through a technical book.

dinesh.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

W00t! That website says I read in (or near) the top 1%. Yay! (993wpm, 82%)

Prometheus,

I find just the opposite. When I read novels, I really take my time with each sentence, but when it's something technical, I usually breeze through it pretty fast.

Then again, I usually spend 9 hours a day reading technical logs and documentation, and since it's my job, and I have to find and deliver solutions to our customers fast, I think I've grown accustomed to skimming effectively. It's definitely something that can be learned and comes with practice. Also, missing details in that context could be disastrous.

The odd thing is that I didn't really try to learn to speed read. It's kinda like learning to speak French by moving to Paris. It just sort of happens.

My skimming habits actually get in the way of reading non-technical info. When I'm skimming, it feels to me that I take in a whole section sequentially, but if I slow down and analyze what I'm really doing, I usually jump to the end of the second paragraph, read the last sentence, read the rest of the second paragraph, skim the beginning, glance over the third paragraph, etc. It's like I'm all over the place, painting back and forth. It doesn't throw me off with technical stuff. Actually, it helps me understand it more quickly. (New concepts or really complicated stuff often requires that I slow down, of course.) But when I read a story, I find that I sometimes have to actively focus to not do that, or else the scenes make no sense, and I have to reread paragraphs frequently.

Part of it is probably that most technical info is kinda dry, and it's all about getting the facts and sorting them quickly, whereas I read fiction specifically for the smooth flow of the story, and the discovery of information as the author intended. Also, I'm often reading call logs, where the last line is always the most interesting and relevant part, since that's how the call ended. A lot of times, once I read that, I don't need the rest, or it's easier to internalize the rest because I see where it's headed.

As much reading as I do at work, I find that I'm significantly more tired out at 17:00 if I don't read a little fiction each day. It's odd that being tired from reading so much would be helped by more reading, but I figure it must straighten something out upstairs, like it balances the mental meal or something.

If you want to increase your reading ability, it's just like any other learned skill. Read a lot, and read the sort of material that you want to be able to get quickly, and try to push yourself to comprehend quickly. The skeptical website is right about that: it's all about comprehension.

I don't know about the intuitive point regarding always moving forward, since my own experience seems to back up the "jump around fast" method. But I think that a non-linear approach to the problem, if appropriate, will sort of just become natural if you're working on fast comprehension. I would doubt that a single method would work best for everyone.

The best advantage of speed reading is being able to watch subbed movies without missing the action :P

Isaac

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 months later...

I read a book about speed reading in high school which helped me reach about 600 words per minute. This is a decent speed, but i would like to get better. Are there any speed readers out there with tips or product suggestions that would help me reach 1000 (or more?) words per minute?

Thanks in advance

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You realize that that is 10 words a second @ 600 words a minute? What are you "reading" at that speed? I hope you are not trying to read philosophy at that speed (which max rate I'd put at 2-3 words a second), or economics, or law. Aren't you merely grazing over undigested black marks at that speed? There can't be much comprehension going on-not on anything technical or detailed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The basic idea of speed reading is to train one's subconscious to handle all the processes of absorbing the information on the page that typically the conscious mind would handle. The subconscious is much faster. The end result, of course, is presented to the conscious mind, but the intermediate steps are more and more delegated to the subconscious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What processes are we talking about? If one is reading in one's own well traversed territory, that is fine because their subconscious has the material already for context. There is no subconscious substitute for the process of reason on new material.

A simple example of this would be to have a speed reader to fly through Aristotle uninitiated.

This would be great (although not at 600 words a minute) for reading novels. I think I probably average 200-250 words a minute.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You realize that that is 10 words a second @ 600 words a minute? What are you "reading" at that speed? I hope you are not trying to read philosophy at that speed (which max rate I'd put at 2-3 words a second), or economics, or law. Aren't you merely grazing over undigested black marks at that speed? There can't be much comprehension going on-not on anything technical or detailed.

I realize thise, and no, i'm not "reading" in the traditional sense. Basically what i do i glance at a line of words much like one would glance at a single word. It sounds difficult, but it just takes some practice to get acclimated to these speeds (i'm not super-smart or anything, either)

As for comprehension, mine has gone up ever since i've started speed reading. The problem with reading slow is that the braing can think much faster than the eyes can read, so the end result is the reader getting bored or disinterested with the text (this is when his mind tends to wander, and he starts thinking about the foxy female in his econ class)

And no, I wouldn't read ITOE at this speed, but I am reading a Kerouac novel right now and this style of reading works perfectly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And no, I wouldn't read ITOE at this speed, but I am reading a Kerouac novel right now and this style of reading works perfectly.

Febod, I've always been curious about speed-reading but have never tried it.

One question: if you were to read the same "Kerouac novel" in a more slow and conventional way, how would it be different (other than the boredom you mentioned). Would you absorb more? less? or what?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Febod, I've always been curious about speed-reading but have never tried it.

One question: if you were to read the same "Kerouac novel" in a more slow and conventional way, how would it be different (other than the boredom you mentioned). Would you absorb more? less? or what?

If i were to read a Kerouac novel at a slower pace, i would retain less, because as i stated above my eyes would be reading words slower than my brain is used to thinking and I would become disinterested. Reading faster (but not too fast) really helps me understand and retain a text better. This sounds crazy, but just try it.

Don't get discouraged, speed reading takes practice. I've been doing it for a few years now and I am still finding aspects that need improving, and i'm sure this will continue for the rest of my life.

My suggestion: pick up a book that you have already read and that is relatively easy (the fountainhead, perhaps?) and start by reading two words at a time (don't read them aloud in your head!), then proceed to three, four and so on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As Febod said, consciously focusing on each individual word is much slower and much less efficient than letting the subconscious handle the individual words and having it report "processed" results to the conscious mind. By processing, I mean combining words in already-automatized ways according to already-automatized rules of syntax, etc. Instead of letting the conscious mind, the software in the following analogy, focus on every low-level task of reading at its plodding pace, it delegates the low-level work to the hardware of the mind, the subconscious, and integrates the higher-level information. The trick is to automatize the reading of each individual word.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I taught myself to speed-read while being taught to read in too many ways to count. I was started in phonics, then "look-say", then a weird process of memorizing the shape of a word and a picture beside it. I've found speed-reading useful for reading something with little substance. I comprehend less if speed-reading through something that has a lot of knowledge in a small word count or a piece where my total understanding of it is important.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I had a psychology teacher once teach me how to speed read. However she used it more as a way to locate the main sources where my thought process accomplished the task. Later on, I used it for quick and dirty reviews of history in college. I would not entrust it to readings that require your full undivided attention. In other words the making of the paper (full attention) v/s grading or reviewing content that you already have mastered (speed read)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In one of his lectures Dr. Locke dismisses the whole notion of speed reading.

The one thing I found useful was to teach myself to minimize the amount of movement I allow my eyes to make. By increasing my periphiral abilities, I'm now able to go through a page mcuh faster without any sacrifice in retention.

Johnrgt

Edited by Johnrgt
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Reading faster (but not too fast) really helps me understand and retain a text better.  This sounds crazy, but just try it.

That's my situation as well. I've actually been trying to be able to read at a slower pace and comprehend the text at the same level that I do when I speed-read. I've found that when I read slowly, it's a more comfortable experience and I end up reading for a longer period of time, but I don't comprehend the text as well. I end up stopping and re-reading often. Whereas with speed-reading, I maintain a constant forward motion and I never stop or re-read anything.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've found that when I read slowly, it's a more comfortable experience and I end up reading for a longer period of time, but I don't comprehend the text as well. I end up stopping and re-reading often. Whereas with speed-reading, I maintain a constant forward motion and I never stop or re-read anything.

I have a theory that since you're brain is more focused in order to accomplish the speed reading in the first place, it is more able to digest the ideas being presented as well.

I took a speed reading course in high school and found it very useful at the time, but it hasn't stuck with me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...