Speed Reading Is Real


#1

I’ve seen a lot of skepticism and etc on this topic, so I wanted to comment. I have personally met two natural speed readers in my life(natural meaning have always done so, never had to be taught). Both of them are of unusually high intelligence, though I haven’t concluded that intelligence is the sole cause, or even has anything to do with it. I suppose it could be coincidence. Anyway, I have witnessed proof that their speed reading is real. One of them tested at 1149 WPM, and the other at 1369 WPM. In order to ensure it was real, I personally wrote out of body of text that was around 1100 words, so that I knew they had never read it before. I read with them side by side to compare reading speeds. Both of them finished in under a minute, while it took me around 5 minutes to finish. I made sure they put down the text as to not continue reading after claiming to have finished. They both had 100% comprehension, and both also comprehend far more efficiently than most people. In fact, one of them is a musician, and she can read a lyric sheet once and never have to read it again. She remembers the first time and never forgets.

Due to this personally witnessed information, I conclude that true speed readers read at 1000+ WPM. The only thing I cannot conclude is what gives the ability. It seems strange to think that someone naturally does this without instruction, does it not? Neither of them could conclusively explain how they do it, but were able to give me clues. Both of them said the same things though. I think the best explanation I got was when one of them told me that they see one or two sentences all in one shot, and take it all in at once, instead of one or a few words at a time. She said to think of it like seeing a prohibition sign, like a circle with a line through it. A sign like this has many different parts that make up the picture, but one doesn’t look at each part in order to interpret its meaning. They see the sign and just know what it means all at once. An example she gave was the sentence “I love you.” She said imagine not seeing three words, but instead seeing a heart. Seeing a heart would be much faster than seeing three words. Obviously that is an overly simplistic example that would roughly be incompatible with the concept of taking in entire sentences the same way, but it’s similar nonetheless. I have watched her read two and three sentences in one glance and tell me word for word what they said. One glance meaning one millisecond. Speed reading is real, even if you don’t understand how it is possible.


#2

As a mnemonist, I am interested. But as a psychologist, I am unconvinced.

Give me a novel and I can read it at 1500 WPM, give me a Stephen Hawkings book and I might read at 100 WPM. That is one problem with speedreading, just because you can do it with one text doesn’t mean you can with the other.

I happened to have met a girl who is an autistic savant, she could hear a sing she never heard before and play it on the piano, so I am not saying that it is impossible. Never forgetting however, is. Everyone forgets. Your friend might have a good memory, but she will forget, alter or mix up things regardless, unless she is a computer.

Everyone has 100% comprehension if you ask them, their comprehension might just be wrong. People often say “I know what I saw,” which is cool and all but while you know you saw X with a blue hat, someone else will swear that he wore a red one. But I am sure you have tested it under decent circumstances so lets say that they did remember what the text is about. You never mentioned how you tested that, which makes the statement invalid, contributing to me not being convinced.

That is how people say speedreading works. Too bad that the eye doesn’t work that way.

Lets go with the thought that our perception works with 30-60 frames per second, 50 to give it a nice number. That is one frame every 20 milliseconds. If your friend’s brain is capable of making sense of every single millisecond, watching television must be hell, with all the flickering and still images. Brains take time to make sense out of things, if a brain has to do that every millisecond, I imagine your friend would melt from all the consumed energy. Which is why the brain doesn’t do that. It takes chuncks of 50 to 100 milliseconds and merges all the information, which it then analyzes.

Speedreading is fun and a cool party trick, but when tested in controlled settings, I have yet to see someone pull off things like 3000+ WPM on an encyclopedia. 1000 WPM is not impressive, especially on easier texts. Tossing intelligence into the mix doesn’t solve that. Based on the things I have seen so far, I even believe that higher intelligences often lead to less focus, which doesn’t help when speedreading.


#3

First let me start off by saying I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. If I were in your position and never saw the proof for myself, I’d be just as skeptical. Probably more so, in fact, as I’m a very skeptical person in nature. That said, let me respond to what you’ve said(I don’t really know how quoting works on this forum as I’m new to it, so this may seem weird):

"As a mnemonist, I am interested. But as a psychologist, I am unconvinced.

Give me a novel and I can read it at 1500 WPM, give me a Stephen Hawkings book and I might read at 100 WPM. That is one problem with speedreading, just because you can do it with one text doesn’t mean you can with the other."

They both did tell me their speed is significantly lower if they’re not focused and/or aren’t interested in what they’re reading. I doubt it’d be as low as 100 WPM since even I never read that slowly, but yes your point there is otherwise valid.

“I happened to have met a girl who is an autistic savant, she could hear a sing she never heard before and play it on the piano, so I am not saying that it is impossible. Never forgetting however, is. Everyone forgets. Your friend might have a good memory, but she will forget, alter or mix up things regardless, unless she is a computer.”

I’m sure if she went long enough without singing a particular song, she’d forget. She is in constant practice, since she’s a career musician, so she never does. The significance of my point was mainly to point out that she only has to read it once. I am a fellow musician. Primarily a vocalist. So, I personally deal with learning lyrics. There has never been a time where I can read a set of lyrics only one time and remember them well enough to sing them without hitch. So, her ability to do that is extremely significant in that context. It implies extraordinary comprehension skills.

“Everyone has 100% comprehension if you ask them, their comprehension might just be wrong. People often say “I know what I saw,” which is cool and all but while you know you saw X with a blue hat, someone else will swear that he wore a red one. But I am sure you have tested it under decent circumstances so lets say that they did remember what the text is about. You never mentioned how you tested that, which makes the statement invalid, contributing to me not being convinced.”

I asked them several questions about the text I had personally written for them. They remembered it even better than I did, and I was the one who wrote it. Both of them have extraordinarily accurate comprehension, which is all the more shocking due to how fast they read it.

“That is how people say speedreading works. Too bad that the eye doesn’t work that way.”

Apparently it does. As I said, I witnessed it. Being the hardcore skeptic that I am, I wouldn’t be convinced had I not seen proof.

“Lets go with the thought that our perception works with 30-60 frames per second, 50 to give it a nice number. That is one frame every 20 milliseconds. If your friend’s brain is capable of making sense of every single millisecond, watching television must be hell, with all the flickering and still images. Brains take time to make sense out of things, if a brain has to do that every millisecond, I imagine your friend would melt from all the consumed energy. Which is why the brain doesn’t do that. It takes chuncks of 50 to 100 milliseconds and merges all the information, which it then analyzes.”

She looked at it for one millisecond. I’m sure it took longer for her brain to actually process and interpret what she saw. She literally glanced at it and looked away, and was able to tell me what it said word for word.

“Speedreading is fun and a cool party trick, but when tested in controlled settings, I have yet to see someone pull off things like 3000+ WPM on an encyclopedia. 1000 WPM is not impressive, especially on easier texts. Tossing intelligence into the mix doesn’t solve that. Based on the things I have seen so far, I even believe that higher intelligences often lead to less focus, which doesn’t help when speedreading.”

I’ve never seen them read 3000+ WPM so I can’t speak to that speed. But how is 1000+ WPM not impressive? I couldn’t even dream of reading that fast. As far as intelligence goes, I did admit it could just be coincidence. I pointed it out because it seemed worth mentioning that they both have unusually high levels of intelligence. However, my IQ is 172, and I don’t speed read, so that suggests that being of high intelligence does not mean you will be a natural speed reader.


#4

If you are watching a film and there is a three or four second shot of scenery, this is something a writer could write three or four pages about. The human eye will have taken in as much data from watching the three or four second shot as it would by reading about it over those four pages. Even emotively -

  • except, in the movie those emotions would be catching up a lot faster with the pace of the shot. I therefore think that you need no long amount of time to catch a subjective emotional simulation of what you are reading. I am quite a soul-less individual and that’s because of my relationship with sin but I have trained my eyes to understand text at near the speed of movies by correctly photographing the paragraph optically. See like with the autistic people, the less access you have to your emotions the better with this type of thing…

Tony Buzan (The Speed Reading Book) talks of an experiment where they showed people a word on a screen that lasted 1 4000th of a second in duration and every test subject saw what the word was and was able to repeat it.

Numbers is slightly more difficult but I did some practice with lisence plates.

To sum this all up, eye speed is not a question. The question then becomes of how to look.

Try ‘metronome reading’. Read five or six words in groups as a rhythm like, tick. tock. tick. tock, throughout the page. You will be surprised at how much your eyes are able to take in and it still be all legible.

I’m no expert on the matter, I just did Buzan’s book and have made significant developments in the way my eyes read and understand text. It’s not like having powers either it all just feels very standard. So yeah, try the metronome style of reading sentences or clauses, and enjoy yourself a more optimised normality!


#5

It isn’t about how interested they are in something. If you have a text that is both written in a confusing way and also contains concepts that are difficult to understand, it becomes impossible to speedread effectively. I highly doubt you can read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason at 100 WPM if you have never read it before. It is impossible to read something like that and understand it without frequent and lengthy pauses to think about what the philosopher is actually saying. My argument is that speed reading isn’t all that useful in day-to-day life because whenever you care about what you are reading, what matters is if you can understand the content inside and not the words.


#6

The way I see it, speed reading doesn’t solve the problems you actually need to solve. You can read and even comprehend words faster, yes. But can you understand the concepts you are trying to get from a text? That has nothing to do with comprehending words. Words are a pre-requisite to understanding the content of a book but you won’t get significantly faster at reading a deep scientific, philosophical, mathematical, or anything like that by reading words faster.


#7

Likewise, if I am reading a novel, some might argue that it is possible to go faster. However, I don’t want to! I enjoy taking my time and savoring the words the author so carefully constructed. When I read a novel, it’s not just about finding out what happens in the plot, it’s about enjoying the experience of the journey. I have a friend who even reads slowly and won’t finish books right away for the same reason. She does not want it to end too quickly when she really likes the book.

I’m not consuming novels. I’m experiencing them.