New York Magazine:
In 2007, shortly after the final volume in the Harry Potter series was released, a woman named Anne Jones read all 784 pages in exactly 47 minutes. To prove that she’d actually read it, Jones — who has won the World Championship Speed Reading Competition six times — summarized the major plot points to a group of reporters. They were satisfied with her impromptu book report, which suggests Jones had successfully read the book at 4,200 words per minute.
Treiman is a co-author on a paper in the May edition of the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest that reviews the evidence for speed-reading, and mostly finds it lacking. “The research shows that there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy,” she and her colleagues write. “It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds (e.g., from around 250 to 500–750 words per minute) while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed.”
Put another way, the problem with speed-reading claims is that speed-reading is really just another way of saying “skimming.” You can flash as many words as you like in front of your eyes, and though you may be able to understand each word on its own, they won’t mean much as a collective whole. Language processing just doesn’t work that way.
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