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Science

Skilled Readers Recognize Words By Shape 420

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-looks-the-way-it-sounds dept.
hessian writes "Skilled readers can recognize words at lightning fast speed when they read because the word has been placed in a visual dictionary of sorts, say Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) neuroscientists. The visual dictionary idea rebuts the theory that our brain 'sounds out' words each time we see them."
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Skilled Readers Recognize Words By Shape

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  • Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:53PM (#38065088)

    Interesting- I read about two or three times as fast as my wife and we've talked abou this before.
    (frustrating when trying to read an e-mail together on the same PC at the same time).

    She does sound out words in her head- I don't- I just tend to zip over them. There again- speed has its consequences- she tends to remember what she read better than I do.

    I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

  • Seklild Rderaes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erilane (787755) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:54PM (#38065116)
    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?
  • We do both (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlienSexist (686923) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @04:56PM (#38065158)
    Yes it is a visual dictionary and if it is a cache-miss, then the fallback behavior is to re-parse the word slowly and sound it out. After a few encounters with a strange word it becomes visually cached as well. Parsing a word is far slower, of course, and is not the default behavior.
  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pairo (519657) <gcbirzan@g m a i l .com> on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:00PM (#38065256) Homepage

    I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

    That happens to me too, but what makes it especially annoying is that when I re-read, I recognize it and slowly start remembering what I read.

  • Re:Seklild Rderaes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:09PM (#38065412) Homepage

    Except that the human mind can read it faster and more reliably when the letters are in the correct order. (And simply correct.)

    Lazy and barely-literate types will mewl "o u new wut i ment", and it's true that a reasonably intelligent person can figure it out, but communication is easier and less stressful when everyone uses standard spelling. The fact that an experienced reader can go beyond deciphering individual phonemes and recognize the patterns is one part of that.

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:09PM (#38065430)

    I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

    That happens to me too, but what makes it especially annoying is that when I re-read, I recognize it and slowly start remembering what I read.

    This happens all the time when my wife is talking at me, the buffer space fills up and lag starts hitting, especially if what I'm hearing is boring or repetitive or uninteresting "Why are you wasting all that time on /. blah blah and the garbage needs to be taken out and blah blah blah" and two minutes later I notice she mentioned taking the trash out so I stand up to do it, and she knows why there was a two minute tape delay and she gets more annoyed. Oh well.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:13PM (#38065526) Homepage

    And another thing: English is not my native language and I know a lot of English words I have never heard. Yet I can read them no problem. Another fact in favor of the theory in the article.

  • Re:We do both (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Broolucks (1978922) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:23PM (#38065672)

    I actually often skip even the fallback behavior. This happens especially often when I read novels that take place in foreign locations and the characters have names that I am not accustomed to reading. I read the book from cover to cover and then realize I have not the slightest clue what the main character is named. I recognize the overall shape of the name and the letter it starts with, but the rest is a jumbled mental mess, because I never took the time to read it and sound it out. For instance, while reading Crime and Punishment, to me, the main character's name was always R***********kov, and it would have been R********** if not for the character named R***********khin I had to tell him apart from.

    Visual caching does not require re-parsing and sounding the word. You can just cache an unparsed blob. In general, I only bother parsing and sounding out a word if I expect to hear it, say it or write it later on. For this reason, when I read a name, a neologism or an unknown word that I can guess from the context, I rarely ever bother parsing it. Maybe it's just me, though.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idontgno (624372) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @05:44PM (#38066074) Journal

    that was "Ford Prefect" from HHGTTG.

    Well, to be fair, if you knew what a Ford Prefect [wikipedia.org] actually was, you'd never confuse it with "perfect." XD

    As to the use (misuse?) of "stock phrases" like "beg the question", I assume that some people use those phrases idiomatically (i.e., no literal meaning intended) because they heard someone else they thought worthy of emulating doing so. Because of this, they don't consider if the literal phrase makes sense ("How do I do... what?").

    In the specific (and hilariously controversial*) case of "beg the question", it's possible to torture a nearly-sensible literal meaning out of the phrase ("This begs the question" == "This begs someone to ask the question"), so the correct use derived from the original Latin phrase [lander.edu] (and only sensible in light of Latin's vocabulary and grammar) will die out within a couple of generations, except in philosophical specialist material.

    *Case in point [begthequestion.info]

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Myria (562655) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @06:23PM (#38066708)

    And another thing: English is not my native language and I know a lot of English words I have never heard. Yet I can read them no problem. Another fact in favor of the theory in the article.

    I am a native speaker and I've learned many words in writing before I learned them in speech. As a result, some of my pronunciations are nonstandard. I pronounce "comparable" as if it were "compare" + "able", even though the standard way is irregular, "comp" + "arable". I tried to pronounce these words from how they were written before I'd heard them.

  • Re:Interesting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 6Yankee (597075) on Tuesday November 15, 2011 @06:48PM (#38067032)

    Colleague came into my office the other day, just as I was disappearing up the arses of two databases at once (one Postgres, one SQL Server). She asked me if I wanted to go for coffee. Apparently, it took well over a minute to get anything approaching a coherent answer, and the answer was "You'd better go. If you wait until I can answer that question your break will be over." I barely even remember it, other than the unpleasant sensation of trying to drag myself out of there one layer of mess at a time. First time that's ever happened, hope it's the last.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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