Reading Speed NOT Speed Reading

OK. Waiting for a ride so let us get this started.

He, Legge and Yu published a research paper entitled “Sensory and Cognitive Influences on the Training-Related Improvement of Reading Speed on Peripheral Vision”. They cited research indicating reading speed can be increased through training on a letter recognition task. They said that in addition to things like cognitive skills that help us to use context clues, reading speed is influenced by the size of the vision span. Vision span is defined as the number of text letters that can be recognized without eye movement. Perceptual training using groups of three horizontally arranged letters had been found in other studies to increase reading speed anywhere from 40 to 83% in normally sighted individuals. He and the other guys found increases in reading speed around 40%. Not too bad.

Since there was not a lot of explanation as to what the training actually involved, I went searching and found a paper by Yu (legge.psych.umn.edu) and several of the other folks. This study was completed with elderly people with normal vision. The training they described was “repeated measures of visual-spatial profiles” with no feedback given. Subjects were asked to name aloud each of the three letters they saw. The subjects could not alter their ocular fixation.

In other word it sounds like a pretty low tech intervention that you can do sitting at your kitchen table. Look at a short word and see how many letters you can see and name without altering your gaze. Spend a little time doing this every day.

Worth it? I have no good idea. The research with the older people discovered improvements in vision span but improvements in reading speed only with the size and type of font used in the training. There was also a loss of skill from one training session to the next. In addition, while the subjects were using their peripheral retinas, none of them had eye disease.

It sounds like this research is an ongoing concern and they will, or already have, published more. Yep. Another quick search turned up a 2016 master’s thesis from the University of Ohio. Thesis advisor? Dr. Yu.

Bottom line? There may be an easy, low tech way to regain some of your reading speed. Our friends in the Midwest and in Hong Kong are working on it. Don’t give up the fight.

And in the meantime, if anyone tries this, let us know how it worked, ‘K?

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