Tag Archives: reading

Reading About Reading

Dante Alighieri

Not to be a nerd, but one of my favorite hobbies is reading. I can thank my father for my love of reading; he thought it was one of the most important necessities of life (besides breathing). I was never without books in my room, and surprisingly I never remember hating it. Reading, in my opinion, is a fundamental access knowledge; besides, none of us know much of anything unless we are able to read and garner information about what we are eager to understand. We read everyday, whether it be a menu or the name of an academic building here on the UMW campus. I can assume that most of you are actively reading this right now to further explore what I have to say on a particular cognitive phenomenon. Reading is almost automatic, and you can do it without doing much thinking. How do our minds process words, which are composed of an array of different letters, and form sentences that we are then able to comprehend and understand? 

As I have come to find out, there is great cognitive debate as to whether reading is a serial or parallel process. While reading this post, are you able to process more than one word at a time? If not, do you think you could even be capable of this task? One interesting study I found says that reading two words at one time is impossible. While it is entirely possible for our eyes to visually place all the words on a page, we are not able to process more than one word at a time. In a study conducted by Alex L. White, he and his research team found that the research participants were able to acknowledge that two words were displayed on a screen in front of them, but the participants were unable to actually read and garner information from the words at the same time (this was measured with high-tech eye movement stuff). This would point to our minds as serial processors when it comes to reading, but this is not entirely the truth! While the way we process individual words might be in favor of the serial process theory, White also acknowledged that “parallel processing may be more likely when pairs of words are related to each other and form phrases” (Alex L White, John Palmer & Geoffrey M. Boynton). 

After this explanation, it might seem to be a sort of “no-brainer,” but why is it important to cognitively explore how humans read? The foundations of cognitive psychology are rooted in how we perceive, understand, and process information. Reading contains all of these things functions. It is truly interesting that we are able to read out loud or in our heads (something else I would really like to explore), but it is even more interesting that all of these words are formed in such a manner that makes them comprehensible. Reading is something we hardly think about, but something we do constantly. So, the next time you’re reading for class or for leisure, try to pinpoint how you cognitively process words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Kaitlyn OwnbeyFreud

file:///Users/shatteringteacups/Downloads/WhitePalmerBoynton17_Preprint.pdf (This is a weird link. The study is a PDF, so if you Google “You can’t read two words at once,” the first link to pop up is this study in particular). 

Speed Reading: Does it Work?


If you’ve ever had to read for work, a class, or even chosen to read for pleasure, you’ve probably pondered the idea of reading more quickly. Some of you have probably even attempted to speed read; however, maybe you hesitated because you were scared that you would skim over some key information or miss out on the author’s tone and the emotion behind the piece. Or if you’re anything like me, you are intrigued by this talent but have no idea how to do it or where to begin. These are all valid worries and, luckily, speed reading has been a large topic of interest to researchers around the globe for decades.

What is speed reading anyway?

According to Bernice Leary’s article on speed reading, the goal of this technique is not simply to read the material quickly or how many words and pages you can read in an hour. Leary argues that speed reading is all about, “Aiming for the ‘speed of comprehension’, ‘speed of organization’, ‘speed in using the index’, etc..” It is important to remember that while the goal is to read more material in a smaller amount of time, we must focus on the comprehension, organization, and understanding of the material as Leary speaks about. Without comprehension, there is no point in reading the material in the first place.

When should you use this technique?

Before diving into learning the “how to’s” of speed reading, it’s also extremely important to understand why you should speed read and when it is appropriate to use this technique. In many cases, speed reading can actually do more harm than good. In Milena Tsvetkova’s article, The Speed Reading is in Disrepute, Tsvetkova discusses that the use of this technique may be the thief of knowledge and how the advantages of reading more slowly often outweigh those of speed reading. For instance, in a study discussed in Tsvetkova’s article, people who used speed reading remembered: “too little of the perceived information, because the messages [were] generally submitted chaotically, fragmentary, [and] out of any logical order or structure.” According to Tsvetkova, this is because, “The physiological truth is that the visual analyzer perceives the letter, the word only when it stops, and when the eye is fixed.” These gaps in cohesive sentences cause the reader to comprehend less information and read blindly, but, despite these negative outcomes, there are still instances in which speed reading is beneficial. For example, it is still a helpful technique to use when you have a general idea of the topic at hand and you do not need to comprehend too much of the information, like when reading for a review. Mostly, the question of when speed reading is appropriate is a complete judgment call.

So how do you do it?

According to Daniel Reisberg in “Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind”, it is possible to teach people to speed read, and it is actually quite easy. Reisberg claims that speed reading is not about reading faster, but instead about skipping more words in the material. In turn, you are not reading faster but reading less, and there are four steps to this process:

  1. Girl, Books, School, Reading, Learning, HappyFlip through the text quickly, look at the figures and figure captions, read the summary if one is provided, and gather a broad sense of what the material is about.
  2. Rely on inferences, not word-for-word ideas.
  3. Use your finger or an index card to guide you down the page. Make sure to use it to lead you instead of following it exactly.
  4. Don’t move too quickly. If you realize you don’t know what is going on, slow down.

Even though there are advantages to reading quickly, I believe that I will stick to reading more slowly in order to make sure that I understand the material I am reading on a deeper level. I will probably only try this technique if I have an enormous amount of reading to do in a short period of time and keep Leary’s tip in mind too, “only read materials that can be read speedily” like topics I am familiar with or things that are not of much importance.



Reisberg, D. (2016). Cognition: Exploring the science of the mind. New York: W.W. Norton &.

Learning Disabilities and IQ

There seems to be a certain stigma we may encounter in school. People seem to associate poor grades and/or learning disabilities with having a low IQ. In reality, there are so many people who have accomplished such incredible things, even geniuses, who struggled in school and even dropped out because of it. Albert Einstein, for example, had learning disabilities and is still one of the most influential geniuses there is. In actuality, people with learning disabilities have average or above average IQ’s.

A learning disability is not a problem with intelligence or motivation. The brain is simply wired differently in a way that can make receiving and processing information more difficult. This can lead to problems with reading, writing, speaking, mathematics, listening, and concentrating. There are several examples of learning disabilities. Dyslexia involves trouble understanding written words while Dyscalculia is difficulty with math. Also there is dysgraphia, a writing disability in which a person finds it hard to form letter or write within a defined space. These are only a few of the many types of learning disabilities there are. Many people with learning disabilities may do poorly in school as a result to these difficulties and may suffer with lower self-esteem or depression as a result.

little boy tired of reading

MRI studies have shown that there are brain differences in students with learning disabilities. These studies have found that the brain area involving matching sounds and letters is compromised in children with learning disorders. Also, FMRI studies show that frontal brain regions are important for high fluency levels in reading. More fluent readers have more active frontal regions of the brain than children with learning problems. Children with learning problems often show more activity in other parts of the brain while reading than others, like the parietal and occipital lobes.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that people with learning disabilities actually have average or above average intelligence. In a study done on 415 adolescents that were learning disabled, results showed that 43 of theses adolescents had an IQ score of 120 or higher. There is usually a large discrepancy between their ability and their achievement. Studies indicate that as many as 33% of individual with learning disabilities are gifted. A study done at Yale University found that in individuals with dyslexia, IQ and reading ability did not correlate. Dyslexic individuals with high IQ often had a slow reading pace. So, as you can see, these studies support the idea that learning disabilities and IQ are separate in nature and one does not tell you something about the other.


The most important information to take away form this is to debunk the myth that learning disabilities of any kind or attentional problems such as ADHD mean you are stupid or lazy by any means. Teachers and students need to be understanding of students who may not process and learn information the way that everyone else does. They also should understand that just because someone is struggling with school doesn’t mean they are stupid or are not trying. Having a learning disability shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving their goals. People with these disabilities have a high capacity for knowledge and should not let certain learning problems interfere. In reality, with hard work, any student with these disabilities can succeed.

smile book