Speed-Reading: Hoax or Real?

Numbers and letters blurring and looking like they are going by fast.

Be it a student or a working adult, we read one thing or another everyday both consciously as well as subconsciously. Certain professionals have to read as a part of their jobs such as authors, proofreaders, publishers, and patent attorneys, etc. For regular readers, reading is not a difficult task, whereas others might struggle with how much time it takes and opt to learn how to read faster.

By definition, speed reading is a technique where content is rapidly read by reviewing or skimming several sentences in one go. While many have high regards for this reading technique, there are others who question its credibility and effectiveness. This article sheds light on the highly controversial and debated topic of speed-reading.

What is Speed-Reading?

First introduced in 1959, speed reading was claimed to be a quick method of reading by reducing the constant effort that readers had to put in while reading. The technique quickly developed an industry of its own, with many people rushing to benefit from accelerated learning courses. These speed-reading courses pledge to help people assimilate text faster than normal readers but without affecting or losing the content’s comprehension.

Is it Even Possible to Speed-Read?

Let’s discuss the possibility of speed-reading and retaining the information that you’ve read. Many people question the effectiveness of speed-reading and rightly so. Some people claim to have the ability of reading over 10,000 words per minute using this technique. Now, there are two reasons why such claims are immediately dismissed and rebuffed, and why speed-reading is considered to be a hoax.

First, there are anatomical and neurological facts that force us to dismiss such claims. When reading, our eyes have to stop at certain parts of the text. These points are known as fixation points. It must also be noted that our eyes have to make rapid movements to the next fixation points. These movements are called saccade. Once the eyes have gone through all the text and fixation points using saccade, our brains are required to assemble all the information in order to comprehend it. Speed-reading at 10,000 words per minute does not give the eyes or the brain the chance to follow any of these necessary steps, making comprehending the text an impossible task.

Secondly, speed-reading cannot be real or effective because of the constraints in our working memory. The human brain only retains 3-5 bits of information at any given time. This is why dissecting numerous sentences and phrases simultaneously makes it harder for the information to be comprehended, retained, and stored. Hence, speed-reading is a hoax because of both anatomical as well as memory limitations.

However, we are not negating the reading technique of rapid scanning. Readers can most definitely skim and scan quickly through the text to find particular words, sentences, and phrases but this is not the same as speed-reading.

Therefore, if you are someone who has to read long texts on a daily basis like authors, publishers, and legal attorneys or just a student preparing to sit for the patent bar exam, we suggest you to read thoroughly instead of opting for speed-reading.