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Books Science

Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain 224

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Michael S. Rosenwald reports in the Washington Post that, according to cognitive neuroscientists, humans seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online at the expense of traditional deep reading circuitry... Maryanne Wolf, one of the world's foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse's challenging novel The Glass Bead Game. 'I'm not kidding: I couldn't do it,' says Wolf. 'It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn't force myself to slow down so that I wasn't skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.'

The brain was not designed for reading and there are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. ... Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. ... Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade our ability to deal with other mediums. 'We're spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,' says Andrew Dillon."
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Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

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  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:06AM (#46691569)

    No it's called neuroplasticity, here's a wikipedia link []

  • Ltetres odrer (Score:5, Informative)

    by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:09AM (#46691585)
    Acocdrnig to an elgnsih unviesitry sutdy the oredr of letetrs in a wrod dosen’t mttaer, the olny thnig thta’s iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil able to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.
  • by ReeceTarbert ( 893612 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @05:10AM (#46692029)

    The really scary part is that these Twitter minds lack the ability to see outside themselves. If it happens to me, then it happens to all of humanity.

    Worse yet, the article uses the plural "researchers" but quotes none except Mrs Wolf who, in turn, is just relating her own experience rather than any factual research. Examples:

    Researchers are working to get a clearer sense of the differences [...]

    Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways [...] researchers said.

    Some researchers believe that for many people [...]

    Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly [...]

    But, hey, who needs to refer to any research when you can fill an article with anecdotal evidence from Claire Handscombe, Brandon Ambrose, and Ramesh Kurup? I mean, that should plenty to convince anyone, no? ;-)


  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @05:14AM (#46692041) Journal

    400 Words per minute is by no way "super-high".

    From []

    Third-grade students = 150 words per minute (wpm)
    Eight grade students = 250
    Average college student = 450
    Average âoehigh level execâ = 575
    Average college professor = 675
    Speed readers = 1,500
    World speed reading champion = 4,700
    Average adult: 300 wpm

    From my education i am roughly at "Average College Professor". And 400 wpm was a conservative estimation of mine.

    You could ask my colleagues about me regularly correcting semantic and syntactic mistakes in pages of code which i never saw before in minutes without running the program.

    You could ask my boss about me analyzing typical presentations in about 5-10seconds per slide and yet remembering more of the specific content than people who sit for half an hour in front of it and never even penetrate the surface.

    You could ask my coworkers about me reading abstracts of scientific papers in less than 5seconds and classifying them as interesting or not (did that when i did a group-internal rss feed on our topic).

  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @07:06AM (#46692373)
    You may laugh, but I won't read novels by authors like Cormack McCarthy on anything but my kindle. Why? Because if there's a word I don't know, I push on it for a bit, and get the dictionary definition. Nothing has aggrandised my lexical ability as this humble feature.

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