Stretch Your Memory as You Stretch your Speed Reading Skill!
Stretch, when used at higher levels of performance can be very demanding of your memory. This is why we have included continuous flash exercises. The idea is to break the monotony of hitting the memory barrier with a tool to help push this barrier back. What we do to achieve this is to multiply the information you are absorbing at your flash rate over a longer period of time without taking away the flash reading framework. With Stretch you can flash up to 19 word groups consecutively in scrolling flash mode or twenty word groups in standard flash mode. The idea is to Stretch the amount of material you can memorise verbatim at maximum reading speed. Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln could memorise an entire page in a single glance and then recite it back to the audience without having to double check. How far can your skills be Stretched?
Cognitive Processes in Reading: Theory & Practice in the New Millennium.
Beta testers found Stretch enjoyable and even "addictive". Reading speed improvements for Stretch test subjects were generally between 50-150% with most subjects doubling their reading speed within three weeks and showing marked improvements in comprehension. This is not surprising in view of the very favourable findings for the methods used by Stretch. This article is an informal review of test results and tester experiences while using the product, and may warrant further academic investigation.
An interesting concept to come out of the testing of Stretch at FieldCraft is the distinction between reading and comprehension speeds. Past researchers initially discovered an upper limit of a three word Basic Information Unit corresponding to a maximum three word flash (See the research behind Stretch for more detail and a complete list of references). More recently 800wpm in reading speed has been found to be the upper limit to human reading speed and it is currently assumed that this limit cannot be surpassed, just as it was assumed by previous researchers that the three word BIP (~300wpm) could not be surpassed. However, researchers have not delved into the mechanics of reading and comprehension - and this only serves to prove that proponents of the 800wpm limit assert that it cannot be surpassed only because they do not know how.
Using single group flashes, research at FieldCraft has confirmed an upper limit of 600-800wpm averaging 95% recall with a maximum BIP of 4 to 5 words. At this speed, subjects experience the separation of reading and comprehension as cognitive processes. The word group flashes, and having a clear mental picture of the word group, the subject then begins the process of comprehension, in which the acquired words take on their meaning. Some describe this as;
- Acquiring an image of the words, (called, "Acquisition", and requiring a measurable period of time) and...
- Then "reading" the words off that image in their mind (called, "Assimilation", and requiring a separate, distinct and measurable period of time).
The process of acquiring large chunks of text and then having to stop and assimilate is called "photo reading" or "photoreading" and it is not true speed reading because it relies too heavily on short term memory and the availability of time to "digest" what has been photoread before the image of the words fades. When the time taken to "digest" photoread material is taken into consideration, photoreading is found to be no faster (and in some cases slower) than conventional reading methods, and has substantial disadvantages in mid-long term comprehension of the subject matter.
New Solutions to Old Problems
The key to exceeding the 800wpm "limit" may lie buried in the separation of processes highlighted by the photoreading phenomenon. Initially, the words are read, but not understood. There is a clear, short term memory of exactly what those words are, but no indication of what they mean. We refer to this part of the process as acquisition. The second part of the process we call assimilation, and is the interpretation of those acquired words to supplement them with a clear meaning. Assimilation may take many times as long as the minimum acquisition time where the acquisition and assimilation rates are dysfunctional with respect to each other; and accounts for delays in moving from one word group or phrase to the next on a page of printed text. In severe cases this has been referred to as the "Gaze" problem, because the eyes stop moving over the text to gaze at particular portions of the text for measurable periods of time.
If assimilation times exceed acquisition times by so much that part of the mental image of the words is lost before they are understood, the reader has to either reread the word group or go on with a gap in the comprehension of the text. Skip-back is not a bad habit, but rather is the result of poor teaching as it reflects an acquisition rate that is excessive with respect to assimilation speed. Subvocalisation is also a symptom of insufficient assimilation speed with respect to acquisition speed, as it occurs in circumstances where it is necessary to slow down the reading process to allow the mind to catch up. While subvocalisation is most often caused by environmental distractions, it also occurs when faster readers encounter material that is either poorly written or very difficult to understand.
Stretching the Speed Reading "Ceiling"
Single word group flashes clearly extend reading speed by expanding the Basic Information Processing Unit. However, this does nothing for comprehension speed as the reader may spend as much time as necessary after the flash to determine the meaning of the words. The period occupied by this process is represented by the delay imposed by the reader, when moving from one word group to the next. To address comprehension speed as well as the memory issues associated with higher reading speeds, Scrolling and Consecutive Flash methods were added to Stretch. Here, the user sets the number of word groups to flash consecutively - and instead of flashing a single group of words, Stretch flashes several groups of words consecutively. The delay between word group flashes is set in optimum proportion to the flash duration for smooth reading and comprehension interchange with minimal skip-back. This ratio, discovered through FieldCraft research is, alas, a trade secret - but is incorporated into Stretch to optimise the progress of improvement of both comprehension and reading speed.
Further test results using both consecutive and scrolling flash methods record subjects above 1000wpm with 91-95% recall and maximum BIP of 6 or more words. It is not surprising that only Stretch users can achieve these results given that Stretch is the only product on the market that deals with comprehension speed as well as reading speed.