Rapid Transit

‘Aoccdrnig to a rsearch sduty at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcauseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.’ (from PositScience website.)

The brain is an interesting body part–the extent of its capabilities still mysterious and largely unexplored. Thinking about this mastermind reminds me of a speed reading course I took a very long time ago. My intent in taking the course was to lessen the time for reading requirements in college, allowing more time for other studies–or at least that’s what I maintained. While I did not learn to devour War and Peace in 5 minutes, I did manage to come away with a much greater respect for brain function.

What I did learn was that the brain is extremely capable of processing an entire page of words in a couple of seconds–that we really don’t have to annoy our mental processes by actually reading word to word, phrase to phrase or even paragraph to paragraph. Doing this is “dumbing down” the transfer of words on a page into what are phenomenally rapid brain circuits. The course instructor viewed the eye as a very efficient office scanner–or a copy machine. It is not necessary to comprehend the content of the page being scanned, not until the information is presented to the recipient. Let the brain do the work, in other words. It will then send this processed message to your mind–many times faster than you “personally” delivering the message to your brain in increments within your limits.

As I said, I didn’t learn to be a head-of-the-class speed reader, but I did learn to look at the whole page, which is, for my purposes, an overview of the content. What information I miss is easy to pick up on the second look. Speed reading became a course in trusting my brain instead of trying to control the entire process myself.

Of course, sometimes, you might just want to take the afternoon off, pick up a good book, and linger in that created world for more than a few minutes–and, to me, that’s just fine, too.

For some fun “brain” activities, as well as information, I have found the Posit Science site especially interesting: