Study suggests that speed reading apps are bad for comprehension

Speed reading apps like Spritz are a nifty way to plow through text at a breakneck pace, but they’re not perfect. Such apps might rob you of your comprehension, according to new research. In a study by University of California-San Diego’s Rayner Eyetracking Lab, psychologists replicated what they saw as Spritz’s biggest flaw. The app flashes words one by one, centered on the same point. This, the app’s creators say, allows you to read at maximum speeds: You don’t even have to waste time moving your eyeballs.

A few months back, there was a lot of buzz about a new display technology that promised to greatly increase people’s reading speeds. The approach, typified by Spritz, displays words one at a time in a single location. As the speed cranks up and words fly by, the service seems to live up to its promise: each word registers as it briefly flits across the screen. But a new paper suggests that the approach has some severe limitations. Quite literally, there’s no going back once you shoot past a word, and the result is a noticeable decrease in reading comprehension. The point of contention for everyone involved are small, rapid eye movements called saccades. Saccades occur naturally in vertebrates from us to fish, as they allow the eye to rapidly focus its attention. 

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