Chapter 4 Endnotes

Don’t-miss videos are highlighted

60  prime example: Writing allowed us to use what had been a latent capacity.

61  The Sorcerer’s Stone audiobook: A clip from the Jim Dale version can be heard here.

61  The audio version: Cranking the speed up to 1.5 times normal on your audiobook app will bring the total time down to about 5.5 hours, which is closer to the estimated reading time but hard to tolerate for that long. Getting the elapsed time down to 4.5 hours requires 1.8x playback, which is only intelligible in bursts.
   A study using time-compressed instructional materials, which distorts the speech far less, found that listeners tolerated speech at 275 words per minute but comprehension was poorer than with noncompressed materials. At even higher speeds, comprehension drops precipitously. Pastore (2012).
   Professional fast talker John Moschitta spoke about 360 words per minute in a famous commercial, a rare example of speech that is produced at a faster rate than most listeners can accurately comprehend. “FedEx Commercial with John Moschitta,” video uploaded to YouTube by ThreeOranges, September 2, 2006.

62  Perhaps you have seen: “‪Jeff Daniels—America Is Not the Greatest Country Anymore,” video uploaded to YouTube by thebundok, July 28, 2012,

62  on a baby’s head: Mona Lisa: “EyeTracking on Mona Lisa—Where Did the People Look at Da Vinci’s Famous Painting,” video uploaded to YouTube by DigitalAlchemistry, May 28, 2009,; on infants, see “NYU Infant Action Lab—Infant Walking Around Our Playroom with an Eye Tracker,” video uploaded to YouTube by NYU Action Lab, December 8, 2011,

62  a properly designed experiment: Most of the studies I’ll describe were conducted by the late Keith Rayner, a research psychologist who was the world authority on eye movements in reading, or by his students. The Scholarpedia article that he coedited is an excellent resource: Keith Rayner and Monica Castelhano, “Eye Movements.”

63  an eye-tracking experiment: I strongly recommend looking at an eye-movement recording. A good one is “Eye-Tracking Reading Example,” video uploaded to YouTube by BUPsychTech, June 7, 2013, One in which the size of the dots represents how long people looked at each fixation is “How We Read Shown Through Eyetracking,” video uploaded to YouTube by digitalpolicy, March 12, 2010, For eye movements of people looking at lots of things, see “TheDIEMProject’s Videos,” Vimeo, Fantastical claims about eye-movement observation and control, as dramatized in the 1931 movie Svengali, have been incorporated into new age therapies such as Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). YouTube’s indexing procedures treat the videos illustrating such claims as topically related to ones from serious eye-movement research and so they show up together in searches. This has been a consumer alert.

63  smooth pursuit: “Horizontal Smooth Pursuit Sitting,” video uploaded to YouTube by Rehab My Patient, March 27, 2014.

64  The numbers I’ll present: These classic examples are adapted from McConkie & Rayner (1975).

65  span is asymmetrical: This asymmetry demonstrates an important cognitive phenomenon. The information that registers on a fixation depends on the reader’s expectation about where to look next. Thus we covertly allocate attention (to the right or left) without moving our eyes. The phenomenon may be familiar from looking at a dinner companion while covertly attending to a person at the next table.

66  space our fixations: Short explanations and demonstrations are seen here: “What Eye Movements During Reading Reveal About Processing Speed,” video uploaded to YouTube by the Children of the Code Project, April 6, 2012,

Eye fixation patterns in reading and skimming.  Adapted from Rayner and Costelhano Scholarpedia article.

66  Some masters: Miellet, O’Donnell, & Sereno (2009).

71  a boost from President: Kennedy speed reading recounted in Paston (2013).

71  “Why have I dared”: Evelyn Wood quoted in a 1967 Harvard Crimson article that anticipated later controversies: Jeffrey C. Alexander, “Evelyn Wood: Most Just Waste the Money,” Harvard Crimson, May 3, 1967,

71  In its 1970s heyday: “Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics (Commercial #1, 1979),” video uploaded to YouTube by the Museum of Classic Chicago Television (www.FuzzyMemories.TV), March 6, 2008,

72  Although initially a convert: McLuhan scene from Annie Hall: “Woody Allen Meets Marshall McLuhan,” video uploaded to YouTube by Tralfaz666, December 1, 2011, McLuhan aperçu from Understanding Media (1964). His reading habits were unusual: he would read only the right-hand pages of books, reasoning that texts were so redundant he would not miss much (Marchand 1998).

72  In the modern era: “Cavuto Has World’s Fastest Speed Reader Take Crack at 1500-Page Health Care Bill,” video uploaded to YouTube by ReturnOfObamaSecrets, October 22, 2009,

73  Woody Allen: “Talk: Woody Allen,” Wikiquote.

73  1958 book: Wood & Barrows (1958).

74  Book of the Month Club: Reading pacers are listed periodically on eBay. On the Book of the Month Club’s reading-improvement efforts, see Wilkinson (1980).

74  couldn’t have been any evidence: The zigzag scan is briefly seen in the opening credits for The Newsroom’s second season, presumably to signify the fast-paced world of cable news. Unlike standard texts, many types of web pages are formatted so that specific types of content are placed in predictable locations. It works well for navigating the Wall Street Journal’s home page but not, say, a book like this one.

74  for skilled deaf readers: Bélanger et al. (2012).

75  Serious video game players: Green & Bavelier (2003).

75  Using the phonological code: The difference between subvocalization and mental phonology is easy to demonstrate. Decide if the following pairs of words rhyme. Some do (pear-dare), and some don’t (late-lake). Because it’s such an easy task, try doing it while holding a pencil between your teeth or while saying “colacolacolacolacolacolacolacolacola” at the same time.
     cloak joke, must mist, jack stack, stone blown, pint mint, paid fade, dear wear, brain lane
You can still judge the rhymes even if you can’t subvocalize (the pencil condition) or your mouth is otherwise engaged (the colacola condition), using the phonology in your head.

76  All of these what-ifs: For a technical but extensive review see Rayner et al. (2001). The Scientific American version is Rayner et al. (2002). Download PDF.

76  Thairs moar two reeding: Hat tip to Dennis, Besner, & Davelaar (1985).

78  To remind yourself: “Eye Tracking Reading Study,” video uploaded to YouTube by Tobii Pro, May 29, 2009,

78  He reached his apotheosis: “Berg, Howard S., in the Matter of,” Federal Trade Commission, last updated June 19, 1998,

79  His entry in the Guinness Book: “Reading fast: 80 pages (25,000 words) per min is the supersonic ‘reading’ speed claimed by Howard Stephen Berg (born 1949, in Brooklyn), who has convinced a number of TV hosts that he has comprehended and remembered what he has scanned, perhaps not the details, but the concepts, with the details left for later, slower reading. He teaches speed reading and gives lectures through North America on using the unused part of one’s brain” (444–445). From which we learn that Guinness’s criteria for entry into their “compendium of astonishing, authenticated facts” include the judgments of TV personalities and that Mr. Berg’s citation is for “reading” (their scare quotes) for gist not details (i.e., skimming). Similar controversies attend to Anne Jones, “six times winner of the World Speed Reading Championship” ( YouTube has videos of “world’s fastest readers” from around the world. The most recent review of the science is Rayner et al. (2016).

79  The ancient Greeks experimented: Yakubovich (2010).

79  “The Raven”: “The Raven (RSVP),” video uploaded to YouTube by Crutcher Dunnavant, February 19, 2008.

79  free websites: SpreederWordFlashReader for Windows and Linux.

80  In laboratory studies: Potter (1984).

81  a 2014 RSVP app: Spritz.