Speed read might look like an obvious strategy for making quick work of all the emails, reports and other pieces of text a person encounters every day, but a study has showed that the claims put forth by many speed reading programs and tools are probably too good to be true.
Examining decade’s worth of research on the science of reading, a team of psychological scientists from the Association for Psychological Science found out little evidence to support speed reading as a shortcut to understanding and remembering large volumes of written content in a short period of time.
Research Elizabeth Schotter said that speed reading training courses have been around for decades and there has been a recent surge in the number of speed reading technologies that have been introduced to the consumer market.
Schotter added that she and her team wanted to take a close look at the science behind reading to help people make informed decisions about whether to believe the claims put forth by companies promoting speed reading technologies and training courses.
The reports showed that there are no magic shortcuts when it comes to reading quickly.
Reading is a complex dance among various visual and mental processes and research showed that skilled readers already read quickly, averaging 200 to 400 words per minute.
The problem, Schotter and colleagues found, is that eye movements account for no more than 10 per cent of the overall time we spend reading and eliminating the ability to go back and reread previous words and sentences tends to make overall comprehension worse, not better.
Their data suggested that the most effective speed readers are actually effective skimmers who already have considerable familiarity with the topic at hand and are thus able to pick out key points quickly.
The research is published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.