Late last week Inc reported a story which makes the same point that many speed reading detractors have been saying for years: speed reading doesn’t work.
Or to be more exact, as one’s reading speed increases, one’s comprehension and retention decreases:
But don’t let the sensible wish that you could squeeze more reading into your busy life lead you to be seduced by the idea of speed reading. It sounds pretty close to a real-world superpower, but sadly, according to new science, it just isn’t possible.
“The available scientific evidence demonstrates that there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy–as readers spend less time on the material, they necessarily will have a poorer understanding of it,” Elizabeth Schotter, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and study author, commented. The bottom line: sure you can read faster but you won’t really understand what you’re reading, so what’s the point?
When I first reported on Spritz, I cited Wikipedia and mentioned that comprehension tended to decrease as speed increase. Similarly, Lifehacker and The Atlantic both cited experts and raised this point in 2014, and they are just a few of the many news sites to do so.
I would not say that this supports the conclusion that speed reading doesn’t work. Instead, I would say no more or less that there’s a trade off of speed for accuracy, one which everyone has known about for years and years. That trade off is probably why speed reading fell out of favor for so many years before gaining attention again with the launch of Spritz a few years ago.
Many have already pointed to the trade off and proclaimed that speed reading doesn’t work, but don’t let that stop you from using the various techniques. Not everyone reads the same way, or at the same speed, so if you can make speed reading work then by all means keep at it.