Research on speed reading (a selection)
One study on skimming found that skimming a text before going on to reading it, improved comprehension in the majority of cases.
Word recognition is one of the major slowing aspects for most readers. Research suggests that subvocalisation that nemesis of speed readers is slower on unfamiliar words. If you want to speed up reading, build your vocabulary and learn to recognize words faster and naturally you will improve your reading speed. If English is not your first language or if you want to learn another language or anything else try an intelligent flashcards system called Anki which is useful for learning new words, new terms and anything else.
NASA has built subvocalisation detection systems to pick up subvocalisation (the faint nerve impulses that are sent to the muscles when we read), using them to browse the web or potentially even control a spacecraft.
Research on how speed readers conceptually organize the text and don’t rely on the mechanics of eye movements suggests that the speed readers, in effect, do more top-down processing (using previous knowledge to infer what is in the text) and less bottom-up processing (perceiving words and word sequences) than normal readers.
One study suggests that using the pointer functions as a pacing device, while actual eye fixations are uncorrelated with a pointer or hand movements.
Another research on speed reading suggests that speed reading trainees tended to read faster, with less comprehension, than non-speed readers.
It is suggested that reading is a three-step process: fixate, saccade and process. The processing step will slow down regular reading. Research on the conceptual processing of text during skimming and rapid sequential reading suggests that if there are no pauses in the stream of words, there isn’t enough time to process them and they fall out of working memory before they’re comprehended.
Keith Raynor, an eye-movement expert, suggests that going beyond 500 words per minute is improbable because the mechanical process of moving your eye, fixing it and processing the visual information can’t go much faster than that. With a bit of speed reading practice, you can learn to take more visual information in each saccade, that is instead of processing a couple words in one fixation, you can take in multiple lines at a time.
Duggan, G B., & Payne, S J. (2009). Text skimming: the process and effectiveness of foraging through text under time pressure. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(3), 228-242.
Macalister, J. (2010). Speed reading courses and their effect on reading authentic texts: a preliminary investigation. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1), 104-116.
Nation, P. (2009). Reading faster. International Journal of English Studies, 9(2), 131-144.
Students learn more from summaries than entire chapters
“In a series of experiments, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University compared five-thousand-word chapters from college textbooks with one-thousand-word summaries of those chapters. The textbooks varied in a subject: Russian history, African geography, macroeconomics. But the subject made no difference: in all cases, the summaries worked better. When students were given the same amount of the time with each – twenty to thirty minutes – they learned more from the summaries than they did from the chapters. This was true whether the students were tested twenty minutes after they read the material or one year later. In either case, those who read the summaries recalled more than those who read the chapters.” from Errornomics, Why we make mistakes and what we can do to avoid them by Joseph Hallinan
Anderson, R.C., Wilson, P.T., Fielding, L.G. (1988). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school.Reading Research Quarterly, 23(3) (pp 285-303).
Bell, T (2001). Extensive Reading: Speed and Comprehension. The Reading Matrix, Vol 1, No 1, April 2001.
Coady, J. (1979). A psycholinguistic model of the ESL reader.In R Mackay, B Barkman & R.R. Jordon (Eds), Reading in a second language (pp 5-12). Rowleg, MA: Newbury House.
Richard, W (1982). Improving Reading Speed in Readers of English as a Second Language. JALT Journal, 4, (pp 89-95)
Taylor Associates/Communications Inc. (2004) Reading Plus. Scientifically Based System of Reading Appraisal/Development. http://www.ta-comm.com/ research/pedagogy/ScientificBased.pdf
Grayum, H.S. (1953) An Analytical Description of Skimming: Its Purposes and Place as an Ability in Reading. Studies in Education, Thesis Abstract Series 44, Bloomington, Indiana School of Education.
Kirsch, I. (2001) The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS): Understanding What Was Measured. Research Publications Office, Princeton, NJ. http://www.ets.org/ all/Prose_and_Doc_framework.pdf
Research on vision span affecting speed reading
Slow Reading in Glaucoma: Is it due to the Shrinking Visual Span in Central Vision? by MiYoung Kwon; Rong Liu; Bhavika N. Patel; Christopher Girkin, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science November 2017, Vol.58, 5810-5818. doi:10.1167/iovs.17-22560 or read the pdf
Primativo S, Spinelli D, Zoccolotti P, De Luca M, Martelli M. Perceptual and cognitive factors imposing “speed limits” on reading rate: a study with the rapid serial visual presentation. PLoS One. 2016; 11: e0153786.
Research on eye movement and speed reading
Reading Speed, Comprehension and Eye Movements While Reading Japanese Novels: Evidence from Untrained Readers and Cases of Speed-Reading Trainees by Hiromitsu Miyata, Yasuyo Minagawa-Kawai, Shigeru Watanabe, Toyofumi Sasaki, and Kazuhiro Ueda, Kevin Paterson, Editor
‘Priming’ refers to the passive, subtle, and unobtrusive activation of relevant mental representations by external, environmental stimuli. Priming research has shown that the mere, passive perception of environmental events directly triggers higher mental processes in the absence of any involvement by conscious, intentional processes. In speed reading, downloading (or photoreading) technique as well as direct/implicit utilise priming as the underlying psychological tool.
“Over 200+ studies have shown such priming effects on impression formation as well as on social behaviour. An extraordinarily wide range of behaviours can be affected by subtle environmental stimuli, such as walking speed, speech volume, academic performance, economic decisions.” John Bargh, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Yale University
Watch John Bargh, who is the world leading expert on priming (or get his book Before You Know It: The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do)