Speedy History of Speed Reading
Gathering information is something all humans do naturally. So it’s only natural that once we learn to read, we want to start doing it faster so we can gather and absorb more information.
One of the first insights into speed reading was developed through the United States Air Force using the methodology behind the tachistoscope, a device that displays an image for a certain amount of time, then quickly removes it. The tachistoscope was being used to train pilots to quickly identify enemy planes while in the cockpit. After a little experimentation, they discovered that flashing four words on a screen at 1/500th of a second was understood completely by the reader.
It was originally believed that people read by looking at each and every letter in order to understand their meaning. The U.S. Air Force experiments changed this idea of, “reading by letters” and helped create the understanding that humans are capable of reading not just a word at a time, but groups of words.
Speed reading became popularized in the U.S. during the late 1950s by a woman named Evelyn Wood. She actually coined the term “speed reading” before it became a conventional phrase. After studying the habits of naturally fast readers, she developed a methodology that was taught in many seminars throughout the country. She is famous for having her methods taught to President John F. Kennedy, who was a strong proponent of speed reading. Until the late 1990s, her classes were frequently taught at college campuses throughout the U.S. She passed away in 1995 at the age of 86.
Although speed reading techniques have been refined through the years, the foundations remain the same. Speed reading involves reading multiple words at a time in phrases without subvocalizing every word. Subvocalization being something that cannot be completely eliminated, but only minimized in order to achieve the ability to speed read.
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