Monday, October 29, 2012

Speed Reading

(This one is by William.)

I noticed several people who know Rebecca commenting that she reads much faster than most people, and that reminded me of something.

We had only been married for a short time when I realized that Rebecca read much faster than I did. I remember several times showing her some article on the computer -- we would both be reading to ourselves and Rebecca would get impatient because I was taking too long to scroll the page.

I never thought anything of it. I always assumed that everyone read at a different speed, and that I was at the slower end of the spectrum and Rebecca was at the faster end. But then one day I learned a new word and my eyes were opened. There is actually a reason that Rebecca reads faster than I do. That word, that reason, is subvocalization.

Subvocalization is when you hear words in your head while you are reading to yourself. When I read something, I actually imagine a voice (usually my own voice) speaking the words. Sometimes I even move my mouth slightly or speak the words under my breath. As a result, I usually cannot read any faster than I can speak.

I asked Rebecca about this, and she told me that she hears no such voice in her head when she reads. She doesn't subvocalize (at least not nearly as much as most people do), and therefore her reading speed is not constrained by the time it takes to speak words aloud.

That is why I think Rebecca reads so quickly.


  1. If I notice my students moving their lips at all while reading, I work on getting them to stop because it is a bad habit that definitely slows the reading speed. I've never heard myself vocalize in my head unless I'm trying to work out the pronunciation of something. Interesting that you notice you do that William.

  2. Ya know, Stephen has said the same thing. We have had similar experiences while reading the same article, book, page, whatever - I'm always done first. Maybe it's a left-handed, computer-sciency guy thing. ;-)

  3. I'm the slow reader in our family, and I do sub vocalize. Characters can even emerge!