I have always wanted to believe in the promise of speed reading. Stacks of unread books are a constant reminder of the brevity of life and how little I really know. But, I am well aware of the research on speed reading, much of it is negative.
The Association for Psychological Science has just released its report on speed reading. You can read it here. While it doesn’t offer much in the way of hope, I did notice these observations:
“skimming is an important skill and may be a reasonable way to cope with the overwhelming amount of text we have to read, as long as we are willing to accept the trade-off between speed and accuracy that skimming requires. Strategies such as attending to headings and spending more time on the beginning and ending of paragraphs may improve comprehension during skimming or may allow people who are skimming to access the information they seek more effectively.”
“For example, world speed-reading champion Anne Jones reportedly has been clocked at 4,251 words per minute —the normal reading rate is about 250 to 300 words per minute. Such mind-training competitions have become quite popular and have produced remarkable and well-verified feats in training specific skills (e.g., Simon Reinhard memorized a deck of cards in 21.9 seconds, and Kevin Hayes solved eight Rubik’s cubes in a single breath underwater; Carey, 2014; Held, 2015). Not surprisingly, a common characteristic across mind-training competitions is the intense practice demanded to reach these extraordinary levels of performance. Carefully examining the performance of individuals who have become very efficient in speed-reading programs in both immediate and delayed comprehension tests may provide important insights into the limits on the speed of transferring print to meaning.”