Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Science of Speed Reading

By Nikhil Swaminathan
Source: Scientific American

In work that may one day narrow the gap between speedy, voracious readers and slower, disinterested ones, researchers at New York University (N.Y.U.) have determined that three different mechanisms are used to decode the words in a particular sentence.

The three processes: phonics (a letter by letter sounding out of words); contextual clues (earlier parts of sentences that help readers anticipate upcoming words); and holistic word recognition, or the physical shape of words.

"It's obvious that people must use all three kinds of information to read," says Denis Pelli, an N.Y.U. professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study published this week in PLoS ONE. "It was far from obvious…that you can turn on and off each of the three kinds of information and that you can attribute a percentage of the reading rate to each."


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