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Comparison of eye movements before and after a speed reading course

29 June 1995


The techniques of speed reading are widely used and generally accepted, but few studies have investigated whether, and how, speed-reading actually improves reading ability in the typical reader. Using the Ober2, an infrared monitoring device that accurately tracks eye movements, we measured the eye movements of 59 students. The Ober2 calculates reading speed, number of fixations per 100 words, number of words seen in each fixation, number of regressions per 1 00 words, and duration of fixation. Comprehension was assessed with ten detailed true or false questions. Approximately half of the students (n=25) participated in a speed reading class (9 hours of standard speed-reading instruction, with no out-of-class practice required). The other half (n=34) did not. After completion of the course, all60 were re-measured on the Ober2. The speed reading group improved significantly in five of the six aspects tested: reading speed, number of fixations per 100 words, span of recognition (number of words seen in each fixation), number of regressions per 100 words, and duration of fixation. Comprehension for the speed reading group showed an insignificant decrease. The control group improved insignificantly in all areas. There was large individual variation in both groups, with some readers doubling their reading speed while retaining their original comprehension. While all readers in the speed-reading group increased their reading speed, no reader exceeded a total of 734 words per minute. The goal of this study was not to substantiate the fantastic reading speeds reported by a few speed-readers; but to determine if there are measurable changes in eye movements associated with speed reading training.


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