|Speed reading is for real
||[Aug. 22nd, 2008|05:32 pm]
Some people are apparently under the impression that speed reading is a scam, fake, or impossible, because of the overblown claims surrounding it. Let me throw you an analogy: just because the world is full of fat loss scammers doesn't mean that fat loss is impossible.
Here's an example to show you how speed reading works. Consider this paragraph from The Omnivore's Dilemma:
A case can be made that the corn plant's population explosion in places like Iowa is responsible for pushing out not only other plants but the animals and finally the people, too. Whyen Naylor's grandfather arrived in America the population of Greene County was near its peak: 16,467 people. In the most recent census it had fallen to 10,366. There are many reasons for the depopulation of the American Farm Belt, but the triumph of corn deserves a large share of the blame—or credit, depending on your point of view.This entire paragraph represents one concept. It is likely stored as a single, atomic thought in your head. Further, it is a concept that should require very little effort to grasp if you've read the book up until that point; if you are perceptive enough, you may already have grasped it.
What you ultimately remember after you've read a book are ideas, not words or numbers; there is no reason you should have to pay attention to individual words in order to derive the benefit of reading. Most people learn to read without focusing on individual letters; speed reading simply extends this to the level of taking in a whole sentence or paragraph at one glance.
Speed reading guides or classes might teach you techniques such as eliminating subvocalization, but while such techniques are necessary for speed reading, they are not sufficient. Ultimately, what matters is your ability to draw from your store of knowledge and concepts in order to perceive the author's meaning in the least possible time. Naturally, it requires significantly more mental effort than normal reading.
If you can master it, however, the benefits are obvious and enormous, especially to heavy readers. Most people should be able to cut their reading time to a fifth without hindering comprehension.