CBS News reports. You decide.
The time-consuming task of reading literary tomes like Moby Dick is about to change. Boston-based software developer Spritz has been working on a program that will be launched side-by-side with Samsung’s new S5 smartphone and Gear 2.
The reading technology could easily outpace traditional reading methods — such as skimming, scanning and detailed reading — allowing readers to read at speeds that would enable them to finish a novel in an hour and a half.
This is the young person’s version of Lumosity. With this new App ‘n iGizmo combination you can read faster and faster until you are approaching the speed of . . . persuasion.
If you define “reading” as moving your eyes across a field, then something like this does increase your speed. Your eyes will travel faster. But, if you define “reading” as not only moving your eyes but also comprehending then something like this is impossible.
Look up Keith Rayner and read, not eye scan, his work. There is no such thing as “speed reading.” You cannot train reading speed to increase. Reading is a function of general intelligence and information processing; it is not a muscle that can be exercised for greater strength, endurance, or speed. Rayner’s research (along with others) demonstrates that speed reading cannot be attained because of the limitations of human information processing. Here’s how he put it in his 1998 Psych Bulletin review paper.
In general, the results of research on the characteristics of speedreaders’ eye movements are consistent with the idea that they are skimming the text and not really reading every word.
Of course, Rayner’s review was done without fMRI or molecular genetics or climate change or SM2.0 and while sitting and drinking soda pop, so it’s probably not true! And, good grief, note the date of that publication: 1998. That was a lifetime ago and technology has like totally changed our brains, rewiring them into iBrains 2.0, man!
And, if you believe that, have I got a toy for you.
Hit the SpritzInc website for the details. And, note. They’ve even got a link you can tap that explains their science.
Spritz has been working for nearly 3 years in “Stealth Mode” to perfect our reading methodology. We’ve learned a lot in that time and developed our findings into the core technologies that you see here today. As an introduction to how and why Spritz works let’s start off with a few basics about reading.
Yeah, science in the Stealth Mode. That’s how it works. You do your science in private, sharing it with no one, not publishing it in the peer review literature, then you make it available to all those public scientists in the Local we call, Other Guys.
There are lots of other reading techniques out there such as skimming (not reading every word), avoiding sub-vocalization (talking to yourself while reading) and enlarging the peripheral span (reading an entire page at a time by mental “snapshot”) that attempt to increase reading speeds. While these methods can be effective, achieving significant improvement requires intensive, continuous training and dedication. By contrast, spritzing can be learned in less than 5 minutes and, if you don’t spritz for a month, no practice is needed to return quickly to your previous speed or skill-level.
Spritz tries to argue that by controlling how text is presented to you, you can read faster as the control program speeds up.
This won’t work.
You will not be able to read any faster with Spritz than you could without it. Please read Rayner’s review. The human mind cannot be made to process information any faster (with comprehension, not the Brooks Effect).
Spritz would probably help Other Guys process text on their iGizmos, but not because Spritz is causing you to read faster or with better comprehension. Rather, Spritz is a dimmer switch that you can turn to activate your WATTage while reading. Most people do not carefully read and think about information they get from the screens of their various iGizmos. When you activate Spritz, it will require you to go higher WATT and actually read the words presented to you. In other words, Spritz is a behavioral task that makes you do what you could have been doing with your iGizmo: Read with comprehension.
Spritz provides no peer review publications and instead offers many playful metaphors, stories, and examples. Like this section on their animal testing studies.
Let’s do our analysis through Falling and Fallen Apples. Fall through space.
First, the human brain, whether from Your Father’s Oldsmobile or your iBrain2.0 cannot exceed the built-in information processing limits. You will never be able to read faster with Spritz than you could without it.
Second, Spritz can increase both your willingness and ability to think as you read. It cuts your visual field, forces you to focus, and limits any other tasks you can perform on an iGizmo. Spritz takes the attractive and distracting features of an iGizmo and turns it into a teletype machine from the 1930s. If you use your iGizmo like a teletype machine without Spritz, you will obtain the same effect.
Third, because you will read with greater comprehension with Spritz, you will think that Spritz makes you a speed reader. You will not notice that you are reading about as fast as you normally can when you focus only on reading and remove other distractions. You will misattribute your “better” reading to Spritz and not to your focus and concentration.
Now. Fall with persuasion.
First, baby, this is great iScience. Since people doing real science put up their work in much the same fashion as does Spritz, the look and feel of the Spritz app looks as scientific as real science. They call themselves scientists and nowadays if your website look scientific, that’s enough, aided in part by PR hungry scientists peddling their work online. Spritz has and will fool a lot of people with this. Just like Lumosity.
Second, please re-observe the persuasion impact of the Falling Apple third point. People will read “better” with Spritz than without it, but the effect is purely from the science of persuasion. Other Guys will notice that they are doing a better job of understanding text through Spritz. They will not, however, notice they are still only reading as effectively as they would while sitting alone with a book in a quiet room. Finally, they will incorrectly attribute their “better” performance to Spritz, not their increased focus and attention.
Third, Other Guys with Spritz will have a positive direct experience with the app. They will have proven the pudding by eating it and liking it. Except, we know from Falling Apples, that they are not eating the pudding, but pudding spread around their own willingness and ability to think. When you get Other Guys to try it and like it, you’ve run a killer persuasion play, one of the strongest observed. Sure, you can listen to word of mouth or watch a Kate Upton endorsement or read a long and detailed list of Arguments. But, nothing beats the impact of your own direct experience.
Predicting the future of Spritz is trickier than it appears. You’ve got to determine the TACT here.
If you target TACTs related to improved comprehension of iGizmo text you will find no change to count.
If you target TACTs related to demand for and usage of Spritz, you will find a good count. This is scientific science that proves itself. People will fool themselves with Spritz. However, this will be a very short-lived change. After using Spritz for a second or third time, Other Guys will begin to realize, hey, this requires a lot of WATTage and kills all the other fun, useful, and iPostModern features of an iGizmo. They will stop using Spritz within weeks, if not days.
If you target TACTs related to more VC money for the vampires at Spritz Inc., then you will probably find a nice piece of change to count. They’ve already got Samsung running this app in new devices. Spritz needs to keep busy on the persuasion side of this, as with that phenomenally stupid CBS story. It reads like a slightly rewritten Spritz press release. I’ve looked hard at the story to find signs of Native Advertising, but it appears that this is presented as straight news and that Spritz did not pay for play. (I can report that on March 7, 2014 when I visited the site for the story one of the ads on the page was from . . . Lumosity!)
Let’s get out of here.
Science explains what’s going on here, but the science is all from the peer review lit of persuasion science and not scientific science. You cannot increase your reading speed. This app changes your WATTage which allows you to hit your normal best speed which you rarely achieve on an iGizmo because of all the distractions and multiple functions. It’s a relative increase that you will mistake for an absolute increase.
But, when you employ persuasion science, you can sell Spritz and make some money if only by fooling some of the people some of the time . . . just long enough to cash the check. I admire the guys at Spritz Inc and give them a Peitho Award on the spot. They are hiding persuasion with science to sell something Other Guys already possess.
Rayner, Keith. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 124(3), Nov 1998, 372-422.
You might be able to access a pdf of this paper through Google Scholar. It should pop to the top of the page. Look to the right side. Then load it in your Spritzer for a real treat!
P.S. I love that Spritz tagline, Reading Re-imagined. The persuasion irony leaps as they literally tell you that this is all an act of imagination even as they sell it as science.
P.P.S. In the interests of full disclosure . . . I met Keith Rayner when we invited him to participate in our See The Light persuasion series when I was running the Health Communication Research Branch in NIOSH. We were building a eye tracker lab and Keith’s work with eye trackers was state of the art. Keith advised and also did public presentations and various greet and gripes along the way. He killed everyone in the room over the speed reading research, most of them Real Scientists in math, physics, chemistry, biology, heck, even the epidemiologists were impressed!