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Computer reading affects speed

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Tags: PhotoReadingcomputerSpeedreading
Someone asked me a terrific question.

"There is a theory that we do not absorb as well when we read from a screen as we do when reading from a book. Do you have some input on this?"

My reply.

It is true we don’t understand what we are reading as well when we read from a computer screen. It's not ony theory either Jacob Nielsen has been testing it since the mid 1990. He originally found that we read 25% slower and in 2005 readability improved by 5% with a slight modification of the on-screen fonts.

Further it was found that most readers only skim and there are certain hot spots marketers can take advantage of, where people look to read. If you want to know more about this I suggest you check out the useit website.
I’ve noticed that  computer screen reading habit has a significant impact on print reading too. Yes, we slow down when reading printed text as a result of computer screen reading. I first began looking at reading statistics in the late 1990 and noted that statistics recorded the average reading speed around  230 words a minute. Since then the average as declined and is 190 word per minute average. These statistics have been reported for England, USA, Canada and similar results show up in my seminars, average 190 words a minute.

I believe this drop in reading speed is caused by the fact that we spend so much time computer reading. The poor comprehension of what we read from a monitor carries over to paper reading.

The reason why comprehension is so poor is skimming is not reading and most do not even know what they are looking for. This is where most people find speed reading systems let them down. As speed reading is an attempt to push the eyeballs faster across a page it still works with the primary working memory as one would with elementary reading.

So one is handicapped by the conscious minds limited ability to handle more than 7 plus or minus 2 bits of information a second. You need to be able to cluster ideas to use that limited capacity.

The second problem with skimming and speed reading because you are working with the primary working memory, is you don’t have enough time to put the information into long term memory.

In my view at best it lands in mid term memory. Some believe it is only in the short term memory I believe it does last a bit longer than that. Not long enough. A mid term memory has recently been identified and it is about 24 hours after that the mind dumps the information as unimportant. Oops, dumps the information. It means unless you're doing something to add it to long term memory it will be forgotten in a day.

If you've ever heard. "Everything I got from speed reading I already forgot." Now you know why. The speed readers I have spoken with have told me that they often have to re-read what they had previously speed read because they forgot the information.

We did hope that the faster computers would eliminate the eye fatigue that come from looking at a computer screen. With the amount of information out there we cannot invest more time in reading those pages. So I don't think it matters how fast the computer screen refreshes, how slow the flicker rate, how much more relaxing it has become to the eye, actual reading at the computer screen will suffer.

Many people prefer to print out what they read. For focus and because on the printed page the text stays at the same place. The scrolling of a computer screen is another factor why on screen reading is slower. We lose our pace and have to search for it when we scroll. This doesn't happen on the printed page last place that text was is were you last saw it on a page. Not so with a computer screen.

E-book offer a significant reduction in paper waste and a reading experience that is closer to print format. Though the glare from some screens do create eye fatigue it is a preferable option than desktop computer screen reading.

Remember any 'reading' speed faster than 800 wpm is skimming, not reading. And reading at 190 words a minute is too slow. You bore yourself to unconsciousness. Read faster by PhotoReading the text first.

The PhotoReading step is not reading, either.  Want to know more? Contact me.

© Alex Viefhaus 2016

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