Speed reading

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jeff_Krueger, Dec 4, 2001.

  1. Jeff_Krueger

    Jeff_Krueger Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm sure some of you have seen those infomercials for some guy's speed reading program that claims you will be able to triple your current speed within an hour. There are two that I've seen "Mega reading" and "Photo reading". Do these things actually work? anyone ever try it? Some of the claims they make seems a little out there but who knows maybe it works?
     
  2. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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    How does that line go? .... Oh yes:

    If it sounds too good to be true, ...
     
  3. Jeff_Krueger

    Jeff_Krueger Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, I know if it sounds to good to be true than it probably is. But it's still intriguing none the less, has anyone tried one of those?

    Perhaps a better question would be, can anyone here speed read and if so was it a learned skill or just natural? At my school there is an academic services type office where students can go to work on study skills, speed reading, etc... and it is free, but I have never tried any of the programs they have. Basically has anyone here found speed reading to be a learnable skill. I'm not talking about just skimming and picking out key words/ideas, I'm talking about reading through an entire selection with the same amount of comprhension as regular speed.
     
  4. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    There are ways to easily up your reading speed, but at a certain point your "comprehension" starts dropping dramatically. And of course, the density of the material has a lot to do with it. You would have to read a text book on advanced physics a little slower than a Hardy Boys book.
    The principles of speed reading, as I understand them, involve not saying the words in your mind as you read, just looking at the top half of the words, using your peripheral vision, so you don't look at the beginning and end of each line, you start reading a few words into the line, and pick up the beginning words in your periphary, and stop reading the line a few words before it ends as well.
    And yes, it takes practice. Another thing they don't tell you is that it takes energy and work. It would be like someone selling a system that allows you travel much faster than you usually walk (by teaching you how to run). Yes, it's faster, but it's a lot more work. If you enjoy to lazily read a good book, speed reading isn't for you. But if you have the urgent need to digest lots of information, and the writing isn't too dense (like newspapers), than you should look into it.
    Before investing money into a program, try your local library. Among the scam books on speed reading, you're likely to find a few gems that offer practiceable advice. You can try it, and see if it's for you.
     
  5. Janna S

    Janna S Second Unit

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    In my experience speed reading is a learnable skill. I don't know much about any of the commercial speed reading courses out there now, but I took one designed for high school and college when I was in high school, and although I didn't follow the lessons faithfully (heck, I still look at the keyboard occasionally when I type) I became a very, very, very fast reader. I don't remember the exact speeds (it was long ago) but I am still fast, and in fact I seem to get faster (so many men . . . er . . . books, so little time) the older I get.

    Speed reading is to some extent the ability to pick out key phrases and words, but it's also more than that. Let me try an analogy - it's like a master mechanic getting into a car and starting it up; he or she will see and instantly screen out all the visual and audio stuff that doesn't matter, and his or her ear will go right to the critical sound. Or, as a professional seamstress, I "see" an article of clothing and take in all the details (fabric, cut, color, line, accessories, type of sleeve, hem finish, etc.) without really focusing on any of them.

    I picked up some tricks that took minutes to learn but have served me incredibly well, particulary in pressure situations, such as when I have been handed documents in the courtroom (on either side of the bench). You can tell a lot about a document, book, etc. without even reading the text by looking quickly for (then at) the table of contents, title page, copyright page, index, dedication, bibliography, etc.

    Doing a lot of writing and editing also trains your eye to see what's wrong and what's missing. It's like a parlor trick - I frequently open a four page menu and in less than a second I spot a typo, sometimes the only one on the page. That kind of one-ness with the printed word is learnable up to a point. And for me it seems to be connected to getting to the heart of the written material as well.

    There is at least one down side - it is extremely hard for me to "slow down" when the reading is light. When I fly I read lightweight stuff (like murder mysteries), but it often takes several books per flight, and I find myself buying and discarding them at airports all over.

    Of course I still can't spot my own typos on the computer screen until they are printed out in front of me . . . .
     
  6. Joe_C

    Joe_C Supporting Actor

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    Janna and others pretty much laid out the facts. It isn't something you can effectively learn in an hour, but rather it takes plenty of time and effort to even make it worth your while. Basically what you are doing is learning to read with your peripheral vision, and absorbing the words into your brain without actual reading them "inside your head" - if that makes sense. Since it will comprehend the information much faster than you can if you try and figure out each word on its own, which is what you learn to do in elementary school, you will be able to get through a significantly greater amount of material in a much shorter amount of time. All the while still maintaining a relatively high level of comprehension.
     
  7. Howard Williams

    Howard Williams Supporting Actor

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    Is there any correalation between being able to speed read and over all intelligence? I just don't think my brian can comprehend much faster than I can visually que the words.
     
  8. Kendal Kirk

    Kendal Kirk Stunt Coordinator

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    Howard:

    Your brain can work much faster than you think. Your same notion was expressed long ago when cars were invented. Skeptics and scientists said that the human mind couldn't absorb or withstand the visual stimuli presented when traveling at a rate of speed higher than 32 mph, causing insanity!!!

    Today I go insane if I have to drive slower than 32 mph!!!!
     
  9. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Sometimes, I'll read extra slow to "savor" the words that the author put on the page, but this happens to a handful of authors. I skim posts on the HTF. [​IMG] But if I want to "grok" a book, I will slow down to my normal 50 pages/hour reading speed. If I go faster, I get the plot, but not as much descriptive "scenery".
     
  10. Max Knight

    Max Knight Supporting Actor

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    Speed reading can be learned, or come naturally. I found that about halfway through highschool I could read at significantly faster pace than pretty much everyone else including the teachers.

    I think there are a number of different methods for speed reading, but the way it developed in me was the ability to read almost a whole paragraph (depending on length) at a glance (some people can do it with a whole page).

    With this method I was good at retaining facts, but sometimes finer points in the text (in fiction, things like subtle emotions of characters that you might discern through a careful examination of phrasing, etc.) could be lost.

    At any rate, I don't doubt that many people could learn to speed read with the help of a course of book.

    -Max
     
  11. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    Now, let's get this back to movies in general:
    When I watch a subtitled movie in a theater, I find that I laugh "prematurely" or quicker than the audience in general if the dialog is funny. I guess that means I can absorb blocks of text faster than the others who read word by word. [​IMG]
     
  12. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    I learned to speed read as a teenager, and, along with learning to type, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done to improve my I/O capabilities.
    When I was researching the different speed reading courses, I discovered that they fell into two different philosophies: Eliminating the voice in your head that says each word you read, and basically skimming the page, getting the basic gist of what’s written, and letting your brain interpolate and fill in the rest with it’s magnificent “error correcting” protocol. The course I took actually taught both methods, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong.
    After a lot of hard work and exercises, I mastered the first part, eliminating the voice in my head, but I resisted the second part. Theoretically, eliminating the voice in your head is easy. You don’t hear a voice in your head identifying everything you see, yet you still comprehend visually. But for some reason, you hear a voice saying everything you read, and it’s difficult to comprehend what you read if you don’t listen to it. On day’s without caffeine, you may even begin to move your mouth when you read, slowing you down even more. [​IMG]
    I think it has something to do with the double-abstraction of our written language: The words represent sounds, which in turn represent meaning. We must go through the process of translating from written word, to sound, then to meaning in order to comprehend. Hearing a voice in our heads is the most natural way of doing this. I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that singly-abstracted symbolic languages, as were developed in the Far East thousands of years ago, don’t suffer nearly as much from this comprehension bottleneck. The symbols directly represent meaning, which is immediately dumped into the brain without the need for an audio translation step.
    It took a lot of practice, but after eliminating the voice in my head, I improved my speed to five to ten times my normal speed, depending on the subject. My peripheral vision allows me to take in a line of text in a typical paperback book in two glances, left-half, and right-half. When I speed read, I look like I’m having a seizure.
    Once that was accomplished, the instructor tried to promote me to skimming, taking in paragraphs, and eventually entire pages, at a time. I resisted. I didn’t absorb everything, and I knew it. I did well on comprehension exams, though, because I was able to intelligently guess the answers based on what I actually did comprehend. (BTW – the comprehension exams consisted entirely of essay questions, not multiple choice or T/F, so the possibility of “cooking the books” and making the student look like he was progressing – and getting his money’s worth – by including stupid choices with the correct answers was virtually eliminated. In this regard, this course actually had some integrity, but many don’t.)
    My instructor thought I was doing great. I argued that I was just guessing and actually comprehending very little. He countered that if I comprehended enough to correctly figure out (guess) the correct answers in essay form, then that’s as good as knowledge gained directly, and my brain can benefit from this interpolated knowledge even though it wasn’t absorbed directly from the pages.
    That made sense at first, and I had no argument. But then I realized that I didn’t have that knowledge until I was asked the questions on the comprehension exams, and my brain was put to work to fill in the gaps. That does me no good in the real world. If I speed read a book, and I don’t realize how profound it is until someone gives me a comprehension exam about it, then I’ve lost out. This leap of logic (plus the fact that reading this way just wasn’t fun anymore) was all it took for me to totally reject the “skimming” portion of the course.
    I was declared a failure and was flunked from the course.
    However, I considered it a wonderful success, since I can now read at several times my original speed with no drop in comprehension simply by eliminating the voice in my head. It was worth it for that alone.
    And I’m firmly convinced that it’s something anybody can do with persistence, patience, and lots and lots of practice. It’s a skill I can turn on and off (don’t try this with a math book), but it’s definitely off by default, and it takes concentrated effort to keep the reading voice in my head silent. I didn’t use this skill for years (I subsequently went to college and studied math and physics), but when I began to read for pleasure again after college, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to regain this skill. I thought I’d lose it if I didn’t use it, but with a little work, I was speed-reading just like before. I’m not super fast like many others, but I couldn’t be happier with the results. Much to my surprise, reading this way is still fun and can still be savored. That certainly would not be true in my case if I had embraced the second half of the course and progressed to the billion-word-per-minute league. YMMV.
     
  13. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Speedreading is definitely not one of thsoe get-rich-quick schemes made by some person... it works...

    though im too lazy to learn, and too broke to buy a kit, i REALLY want to learn it...

    A math teacher at school did a speed reading course a long time ago, and said that people dramatically improved their reading speed by a couple hundred words per minute!

    Man, I wish i could do that.. studying would be SO easy...

    Anybody know any websites/tips etc?
     
  14. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    reading out the library as a child definately helped

    I average about 120 pages an hour. It's a learned skill, but you have to have some innate talent for it too I reckon
     
  15. Richard Cooper

    Richard Cooper Stunt Coordinator

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    Jeff, u took the words right out of my mouth (ok, so the pun was kinda weak, but intended [​IMG]). When I was at primary school, I read the entire library in the first year, and by the time I reached Junior school, I'd read that library too. I have great difficulty rememebering what I did last week, but if I read the first page of a book I read 10 years ago, I can recite the plot straight away. Wierd [​IMG]
    I don't know how many words I read a minute, but I can usually read an entire Tom Clancy (ok, so it's hardly a challenging read) in about 4 hours. I did read teh first four books in the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy in a single sitting once. About 12 hours I think. Was kinda hungry after that [​IMG]
    Shame my speed-typing's pathetic tho [​IMG]
     
  16. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  17. Jeff_Krueger

    Jeff_Krueger Stunt Coordinator

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    The part about eliminating the voice in your head when reading makes sense. I didn't even really pay attention to the fact I was doing that until I heard the post I read here[​IMG]
    Does anyone know of any websites or books that have exercises/tips you can do to eliminate the voice?
     
  18. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    Don’t laugh, Jeff, but this works for me:
    Instead of eliminating the “reading voice” in your head, replace it with something slow and obnoxious, like a William Shatner parody – you know, the choppy, dramatic voice every comic in North America uses to make fun of Star Trek. Having everything read to you in this voice should be excruciatingly slow and painful. Do this for a week with absolutely everything you read, regardless of the pain. And don’t expect results reading menus and stop signs. Devour a book or two using the obnoxious Shatner voice, if you can stand it.
    By the end of the week, you’ll be more than ready to shut the voice off for good. At the end of the week, when you sit down to read, begin by using the Shatner voice, and try to shut it off after a few lines. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is! You’ll fly through the next line or two at blazing speed with no voice whatsoever and full comprehension!
    However, this will probably be as far as you'll get. After a line or two with the Shatner voice shut off, your old voice will return to haunt you again. Be diligent to recognize when this happens, because it’s not at all easy. When you do realize that the old voice has returned, don’t try to shut it off. You won’t be able to. Instead, replace it once again with the Shatner voice, and continue reading. When you’ve had enough of the Shatner voice once again, you’ll be able to shut it off for another burst of speed for a couple of lines before your old voice takes over again.
    Strangely, the hardest part of this exercise will not be shutting off the Shatner voice, but recognizing when your old voice returns and slows you down. It takes concentration and lots of practice. Keep this up for another month or so. With practice, you’ll be able to go a little farther each time with no “audio commentary” and recognize more quickly when your old voice returns. After two or three months (and did I mention lots of practice?), you should be able to shut off your normal voice without first replacing it with the Shatner voice.
    Beyond that, peripheral vision exercises will do wonders to dramatically increase your speed. Having your eyes stop on each word isn’t as slow as reading them aloud, but it’s not much faster. Also, keeping the voice turned off is much easier when your eyes don’t stop on each word. Please note that I’m not suggesting you skip words, but that you simply read more than one word at a time!
    Here’s an example:
    contraction
    in a box
    Chances are that when you read the word contraction, you didn’t actually stop your eyes on each letter of the word before you comprehended the word. You probably comprehended the entire word by stopping your eyes just once on the entire word.
    But when you read in a box, you probably stopped your eyes on each word (one of which is just one letter!) before you comprehended all three words. Amazingly, in a box takes three times longer to read (normally) than contraction, even though contraction has more letters, including spaces.
    Can you read in a box by focusing on the letter “a” and reading the words “in” and “box” using your peripheral vision? Of course you can. You did it for the word “contraction” which is even wider since it has more letters.
    Try to discover how wide your comprehensible field of view is, and divide everything you read into segments that fit within that field of view. Then try to read by focusing your eyes in the middle of each of these segments without letting your eyes center on each word. If possible, find a space, rather than a word, to focus your eyes on. This will force you to use your peripheral vision to read every word, and it will help break the habit of narrowing your comprehension to just the one word in front of your eyes. Don’t worry the voice thing when you do this – take your time with this and be sure you comprehend every word, even by reading aloud if you have to. Keep your eyes focused and unmoving on the center of each segment until you’ve comprehended each word, and push yourself to increase your comprehensible field of view. Remember, you're not working on speed, but vision. Take it slowly and measure your progress in how many words you can read in one segment, regardless of how long it takes. As I said earlier, my comprehensible field of view allows me to read just half a line in a typical paperback, so I have to stop my eyes twice on each line. That’s not much, but it’s enough for me. In order to increase my speed, I’d have to double my comprehensible field of view since anything less would still require two stops on each line, and I don’t think I can do that.
    Keep in mind that you shouldn't be moving your eyes smoothly across a line of text as you read. Your eyes must stop and focus on the middle of each segment that falls within your comprehensible field of view. Others will disagree with me on this, but the smooth “skimming” technique, while increasing speed, lowers comprehension since words are inevitably skipped. Do it the way I’ve described, and not a single word will escape your comprehension.
    Work on these skills separately, and don't try to combine them until after two months. If you’re really dedicated, I’d be willing to bet that in four month’s time, you’ll be reading at least quadruple your present speed.
    I hope this helps. It’s all up to you, now. Find a stack of books, and start practicing!
     

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