Modern Speed-Reading Apps Do Not Foster Reading Comprehension

Am J Psychol. 2017 Summer;130(2):183-199. doi: 10.5406/amerjpsyc.130.2.0183.


New computer apps are gaining popularity by suggesting that reading speeds can be drastically increased when eye movements that normally occur during reading are eliminated. This is done using rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), where words are presented 1 at a time, thus preventing natural eye movements such as saccades, fixations, and regressions from occurring. Al- though the companies producing these apps suggest that RSVP reading does not yield comprehension deficits, research investigating the role of eye movements in reading documents shows the necessity of natural eye movements for accurate comprehension. The current study explored variables that may affect reading comprehension during RSVP reading, including text difficulty (6th grade and 12th grade), text presentation speed (static, 700 wpm, and 1,000 wpm), and working memory capacity (WMC). Consistent with recent work showing a tenuous relationship between comprehension and WMC, participants' WMC did not predict comprehension scores. Instead, comprehension was most affected by reading speed: Static text was associated with superior performance, relative to either RSVP reading condition. Furthermore, slower RSVP speeds yielded better verbatim comprehension, and faster speeds benefited inferential comprehension.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Comprehension*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Reading*
  • Saccades*
  • Software*
  • Young Adult