Screen Reading Environment 121
The Von Restorff Effect
Time
Memory
100%
50%
0
1 hour
20 min. 40 min.
Figure 3.2: The Von Restorff effect with multiple breaks.
The area highlighted in Figure 3.3 represents the increase in
memory during a 1-hour reading with two breaks compared to only
one break in the end.
Understanding
In Chapter 1, we briefly dealt with the versatile subject of under-
standing (comprehension). Some generally accepted ideas on what
happens to comprehension when the reading speed increases
were mentioned. Most people maintain the idea that in order to
understand a text very well, it must be read slowly and carefully.
Consequently, the faster we read, the less we would understand.
122 Effective Screen Reading
Time
Memory
100%
50%
0
1hour
20 min. 40 min.
Area of additional memory gain (2 breaks)
Figure 3.3: The Von Restorff effect with multiple breaks and the
memory benefit.
Imagine how many words there are in your head. Each one has
its own special associations, feelings, thoughts, sensory input, con-
nections, and memories. These associations are only yours. During
reading, your interpretation of an individual word may not be the
same as the author’s. With an increase in your reading speed, you
are less likely to stray from the author’s intent. As the brain has
very little time to make “unnecessary” associations, you don’t get
stuck anymore with individual words. You can visualize the overall
picture much easier and understand the key messages.
To summarize, reading speeds below 200 wpm actually make
your understanding worse. You need to maintain a speed high
enough for good comprehension—a range of 450 to 900 wpm (see
Figure 3.4). Of course, exceeding your current reading capacity too
much and too soon will result in a deterioration in your understand-
ing. For the majority of people, this deterioration occurs after 1,000
wpm, even though there are exceptions to this main rule. Your pre-
sent capacity can, of course, be increased with practice.
Screen Reading Environment 123
Speed
50%
250 500 1,000 wpm
Reading speed
Understanding
678
100%
750
Comprehension
Figure 3.4: Correlation of reading speed and understanding. To
maintain good understanding (60 to 80%), a speed high enough
(450–900 wpm) is needed.
There is no sense in reading a text if your understanding drops
to a very low level. There are various reasons why your compre-
hension level may be low: your vocabulary may be deficient and
consequently affects your understanding; the material may be
confusing; the techniques for screen reading may feel awkward to
you; using screen reading techniques distracts you from the text
itself; there are outside disturbances, interferences, etc. Your com-
prehension might also be affected if you do not have the overall
picture in mind. Here the technique of Applied Imagination (see
Chapter 2) will be useful.

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