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Think twice about speed reading

by savannah
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Speed reading has grown in popularity in recent times. Many people now make a point of how many books they can read in a year as if it is an incredible achievement and many get to their target using speed reading techniques. However, if you take a critical view of speed reading you will see it is not that desirable in any use case. While at first, it does seem impressive, it doesn’t offer much to the majority of readers.

The main technique used for speed reading is called Rapid Serial Visual Representation or RSVP. The idea is very simple. When we read our eyes go from word to word and we waste a little time in moving over the spaces. RSVP basically brings each word to you at whatever pace you like. The eye is incredibly fast at catching these words so after a little while you could speed up your reading time to double or triple what you were reading at previously.

However, while the eye is fast there is more to reading than just seeing the words. Our brains need to understand what we are reading or it will just cause confusion. If you speed read you will still get the gist of many lines but not catch everything. 

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Think about when you read, words you are less familiar with you spend a little more time trying to cognitively grasp. You may have expected me to write the word ‘understand’ instead of cognitively grasp there. Hopefully, the fact that I didn’t, made you pause on these words a moment longer. With RSVP there is no pausing. There is no going back either and going backward is often so important to understand confusing sentences with multiple subjects and objects.

The real question is why would you want to speed read. If books have been written with you in mind, every word should matter. Whether that is in your studies or pleasure you should really try and consume the whole book, not just the gist. Take your time and enjoy the journey.

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