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Books Science

Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work 92

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-brain-isn't-as-quick-as-your-eyes dept.
sciencehabit writes: "Does reading faster mean reading better? That's what speed-reading apps claim, promising to boost not just the number of words you read per minute, but also how well you understand a text. There's just one problem: The same thing that speeds up reading actually gets in the way of comprehension, according to a new study (abstract). Apps like Spritz or the aptly-named Speed Read are built around the idea that these eye movements, called saccades, are a redundant waste of time. It's more efficient, their designers claim, to present words one at a time in a fixed spot on a screen, discouraging saccades and helping you get through a text more quickly. But that's not what researchers have found."
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

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  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday April 25, 2014 @07:10PM (#46845255)

    When I read a page, I can actually see multiple words in a sentence, context from the line(s) above, and generally can access a context of about 10-15 words at a time. While speed reading (as in, actual speed reading a page), you read by going down the center of the page, which preserves a good chunk of the context, and assumes that missing a few words here and there is only going to minorly impair your understanding of the text.

    This, on the other hand, provides a minor speed-up at the cost of context, the ability to back-track and no ability to skip words that don't help much with understanding like various particles or flowery prose.

    Yep, this approach is idiotic.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Friday April 25, 2014 @07:18PM (#46845313)

    Though the article does note that this is the case for a lot of people, but the big advantage of reading over other media (e.g. audio or video) is that reading is self-pacing. When reading information rich texts, it allows me to gloss over details that I already know while focusing upon details that I don't. When I'm in a lousy state of mind (e.g. having difficulty concentrating due to lack of sleep or external concerns) it allows me to slow down. When I'm in a good state of mind (e.g. I'm motivated to read the text or am well rested) it allows me to speed up.

    Simply put: I read rather than watch or listen because my mind is in control of the flow of information.

  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Friday April 25, 2014 @07:19PM (#46845321)

    The reason speed reading apps don't work is because you either know how to read fast or you don't. The average human should be able to read well over 200 - 1000 words a minute, any less and you have much bigger problems, more then an app can solve. This should be the chart for reading speed:

    1. Fast: 1000+ words / minute
    2. Normal 200 - 1000 words / minute
    3. Slow 100 - 200 words / minutes
    4. Unacceptably slow less then 100 words / minute.

    People who read at less then 100 words per minute have a completely different problem that can't be solved from a simple app on a phone.

    1000 words per minute? Next time you pull numbers out of your ass make sure they're not a joke. No one reads anything of value at that speed. You can scan text quickly but you won't actually be reading it. Anyone claiming otherwise is likely trying to sell you a speed reading course, or stroking their ePeen on Slashdot (see half of the replies I'm going to get from alleged super speed readers).

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.

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