25 December 2012

Speed reading vs "normal" reading

In case you're uninitiated into the art of speed reading, this is actually a very good guide.

The science behind it says you lose comprehension.  First I would say those readers were incompetent.  Second I would say, even with a loss of comprehension speed reading is still the best way to study/learn anything.

To the first point: our brains are supercomputers.  We are all capable of "super hero"esque feats.  All it really takes is the right Paradigm, motivation and the right mindset.  However, when most of us read we don't focus all that well.  Think about driving a car.  Now think about driving that car at 20mph.  Or however fast you go in the city on your daily commute.  How engaged are you in that driving?  Minimally.  You're thinking about work, you're trying to eat, maybe do makeup, maybe check facebook or text.  You're not "in" the car at all.  Now take that same car and go 110mph.  How focused are you now?  Your mind is absolutely attuned to every detail and every piece of that driving experience because you know if it isn't, you're dead.

Now replace driving with reading and you start to get the picture.  Your brain can comprehend entire books at amazing speeds but no one focuses that well because we don't have the correct paradigm.  Your brain gets bored reading because you're not engaging fully.  The way we read is the same way we read 50 years ago.  How many things do we actually do that we did 50 years ago?  We don't even think the same.  Every discipline has changed from that time except for reading.  It's time to switch it the fuck up!

Onto the second point.  Even with a loss of comprehension (questionable), speed reading is the best option.
Why would I say this?

Because think about it.  Let's make a metaphor.  All of the knowledge in a particular class is represented by a line.  100% of the line means 100% of the knowledge taught in a class.  However it's not continuous, each piece of that line represents only one bit of knowledge.  So you can know a bit of the class anywhere along the line, but that doesn't exactly mean you know all the bits of knowledge proceeding that.  Let's further say that the line progresses through time so that things at the left of the line correspond to things taught at the start of the class or at the beginning of the text book.


So the goal of learning at all is to pick up enough of the bits of that line to be functional.  This is currently most quickly demonstrated and measured through a dreaded test.  So let's just say you're going to procrastinate and won't learn the way the teacher wants you to.  Now you come up to the final for the semester which is comprehensive and you have to choose two methods of study.  Speed read the entire book multiple times (at least twice) or read each chapter in depth from the beginning.

Now since you're cramming the night before we already know you won't learn it all.  So let's just say you get 10 bits of that line regardless of the approach you take.
sum total of the knowledge offered by the class
Speed reading method
[    -             -          -         -              -                -               -                -          -            -    ]
Normal reading method
[----------                                                                                                                           ]

Now the speed reading knowledge bits were randomly allocated because you'll likely only remember things in what could nearly be called a random fashion.  Using normal reading requires steady studying throughout the entire semester to win out in a comprehensive final.  But we already said you're procrastinating so in the allotted time you only covered those 10 dots at the start.  Let's just say the teacher was sick and now you have an extra day to study.  This is represented by adding a full 20 bits of knowledge.  The speed reader can get a full 4 more read throughs of the entire book and the normal reader gets the same amount of time.  Using both approaches again:

Speed reading method
[-   -    -  -   -      -   -     -     -  - --  -   - -      -     -       - -   -    -       -    -     -    - -  -- - -  ]
Normal reading method
[------------------------------                                                                                             ]

So now, just looking at the lines, who do you think will perform better on the test?  Clearly, the speed reader.  While the normal reader will easily win out in those first few chapters, he is quickly outflanked because the speed reader just knows more in general.

Possible model flaw: the comprehension for the speed reader is assumed to be the same as for the normal reader.  The research says different, even if I disagree with it, I didn't account for that loss of comprehension in the model.  Even still, assuming the speed reader comprehends a full 1/3 less than the normal reader, I think the advantage is still apparent.

Now imagine the speed reading method was to be used responsibly and the user studied throughout the semester as recommended by the teacher.  How many read throuhs of the book would that be?  And the user would be constantly ahead in the class.  Even at lessened comprehension, speed reading makes better sense.  Reading the entire book 10 times (easily possible with speed reading) is far better than reading the book once or twice using normal reading and may even circumvent the need for notes I suspect.

Anyway, not that you cared at all, but there's 2 reasons to speed read.  Which I practice now.  :)