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Books Science

Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work 92

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).

Did you hear that two rabbits escaped from the zoo and so far they have only recaptured 116 of them?