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Need for Speed? [ Top ]
Riding a bike requires a minimum speed. When speed is too low the task becomes difficult and risky. The same applies to reading. Poor reading is like a steep and uncomfortable excursion. As a consequence slow readers rarely read for leisure, entering a vicious circle of slow and seldom reading. This leads to regression that in turn further slows reading and decreases anticipation.
Reading from Screens? [ Top ]
Font aliasing and screen flicker are the two important factors that lower efficiency when reading from screens. Font aliasing is because the edges of characters are not smooth but step-like. Flicker is due to the fact that the screen is refreshed about one hundred times per second. Though not perceived consciously, the added noise generally penalizes reading. Tiny and fast eye movements occur during fixation. This so called tremor has a magnitude of less than the thickness of a character line and a frequency of 100 cycles per second. Tremor is used to analyze the outline of objects and to refresh the output of the eye detector cells. Current screen and antialiasing technologies have still to improve as the eyes notice flickering up to 400 Hz.
Reading Poetry or the Bible? [ Top ]
One outstanding skill of efficient readers is the speed flexibility they show with different kinds of texts. Even if they are able to read at 1000 wpm, they can instantaneously slow down to 300 wpm, a perfect speed for tasting and savoring every word. A slow reader does not have this option.
Reading and Animated Graphics? [ Top ]
Small colored moving patterns irresistibly attract our visual system. This is enough to explain the hypnotic power of TV. Animated banners or icons produce chaotic eye movements by capturing attention. Results from an experiment called the antisaccade task, show that young and slow readers are particularly sensitive to such kinds of visual distraction. An option to freeze this invading visual harassment is a must for a readable Web browser.
Reducing Fixation Time? [ Top ]
Training with a tachistoscope drastically reduces the visual exposure time needed to recognize a given pattern. However, recording eye movements of prodigy readers demonstrates that their fixation times are longer than those of an average reader. Seeing more words per fixation is the key to improve speed and comprehension. The reading pace of 3 to 4 fixations per second is also the natural pace of thinking. Increasing artificially this pace is not the right solution to speed read because the key to think faster is using wider thoughts. This is in accordance with the fact that tachistoscopic reading improvements rarely provide lasting results.
Regression? [ Top ]
Eye fixations consume a large part of reading time. Saccades, fast eye movements, on the other hand, only amount to 10% of reading time. For an average reader about 15% of saccades are directed backwards. These reverse readings are called regressions and are due to poor comprehension. Good readers show a reduced number of back-saccades and use regressions efficiently to remove ambiguities. Fewer regressions explain in part that speed and comprehension go together.
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Last modified Dec.2012