4. How is speed reading working?
Speed reading is part of the arsenal of modern psychology-adapted methods for self-regulation and personal development. Rapid reading is an eye-catching method to read through the text in an accelerated and complete manner, combined with brain training, to process the meaning of the information you read as a priority. The quick reading learning process is accessible to anyone. Learning fast reading also leads to the optimization of psychic processes of attention and will. The training improves the reading speed and the ability to memorize and understand the texts you read. Rapid reading is possible for the following reasons:
- The path for processing the meaning of written information is different to the path for processing visual features (e.g. shape, colour etc.). The path for processing the meaning of information is dominant, which means that we automatically allocate the most psychical resources to it when we read. We are basically more interested in understanding what we are reading, and less in the way the letters look. Our brain is designed to favour mainly the understanding of the text and only subsequently the graphic aspects.
- When we read, our eyes move in a jerky manner over the text. The movement is not a fluid one, but rather one in jumps. Between two jumps, the eyes fixate on the text and that is when we actually read the word or group of words upon which we stopped. Then we jump to the next word or group of words. The muscles of our eyes are the ones that produce these jumps and they are also the ones that focus on the information so that it can be read. They are the fastest muscles in the body and can focus on a word in 20-150 milliseconds. When we read at a rate of 250 words per minute, the focus is done in 250-300 milliseconds for each word, a much higher time interval which translates into a much slower movement of these muscles.
- We learnt how to read texts word by word. However, we can widen our visual field and read several adjoining words each time our eyes focus on the text. We can focus on between four and seven adjacent words by also training our peripheral vision during the act of reading.
- The speed reading training also involves the progressive deactivation of a practice acquired during the process of learning how to read and which gradually becomes useless but resource consuming. We are referring to the movement of our vocal chords. We learn to read out loud and the transition to silent reading is done bit by bit, as the act of reading becomes automated. Yet the movement of the vocal chords continues to occur, albeit to a less noticeable degree, even when we are reading silently. The acquired reflex causes the average reading speed to remain at about 250 words per minute. As the reading speed increases, the movement of the vocal chords will decrease and the newly available psychological resources can be directed towards understanding and memorising the text that is being read.
- The operation of our working memory is optimized by fast reading. The visual information is stored, for about 100 milliseconds, in a sensory, intermediate memory before it reaches the working memory. If the transfer of the information from the sensory memory to the working memory is done within the 100 milliseconds interval, the information is transferred completely. If the transfer is done in a longer time then it becomes more and more precarious because the information in the sensory memory gradually diminishes after the 100 milliseconds. In order to fully transfer the visual information from the sensory memory to the working memory, we need reading speeds of 900-1000 words per minute. From these speed levels we can transfer whole and unattended words into working memory combined with the total lack of vocal cords. From this reading speed, we are in the field of optimized fast reading.