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Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the slashdot-ruined-your-brain dept.

Books 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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Its called evolution.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691559)

look it up :p

Re:Its called evolution.. (4, Informative)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 6 months ago | (#46691569)

No it's called neuroplasticity, here's a wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Its called evolution.. (4, Funny)

master5o1 (1068594) | about 6 months ago | (#46691987)

Dammit man, you made me break from reading the comments and into the Wikipedia article. Throwing my brain around like that gets confusing.

Re:Its called evolution.. (4, Informative)

Cryacin (657549) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Its called evolution.. (3, Funny)

einyen (2035998) | about 6 months ago | (#46692037)

I caught myself skimming the wikipedia article, and suddenly realized the irony.

It's called Intelligent Design (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691947)

God wanted us to read faster so we don't remember as much so we don't question his authority as much.

Re:Its called evolution.. (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about 6 months ago | (#46692075)

Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Feline Brain

Better title.

Meh (5, Funny)

Mateorabi (108522) | about 6 months ago | (#46691561)

tl;dr

Re:Meh (5, Funny)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 6 months ago | (#46691691)

Can someone summarize the summary, it's too long to bother skimming.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691769)

"people are a problem"

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691925)

brain broke

Re:Meh (3, Interesting)

geekmux (1040042) | about 6 months ago | (#46692199)

Can someone summarize the summary, it's too long to bother skimming.

I find this comical, and yet it was flagged as Insightful.

I guess we know how the masses feel. Goodbye bookstores and movies theaters, hello Twitter and Vine.

Seriously, think about that. What happens when this mentality involuntarily leads society to continue to shrink their ability to be attentive to anything?

Will Hollywood react and install POS scanners on every theater door so patrons can "swipe" to see the next 3-minute micro-movie? Will they even bother selling popcorn and soda?

Will Stephen King give up on novels and start writing really scary comic books 12 times a year?

When everything in life warrants no more than 30 seconds of peoples precious time, good luck finding value or reward in anything you do. Even something fun.

Re:Meh (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 6 months ago | (#46692429)

Comic books? Too long! Three panel comic strips!

Re:Meh (3, Insightful)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 6 months ago | (#46692655)

Will Hollywood react and install POS scanners on every theater door so patrons can "swipe" to see the next 3-minute micro-movie?

Hollywood has been reacting for years. Just look at a movie from 50 years ago compared to today. Lawrence of Arabia was considered the greatest action movie made. Today it would be a drama at best. Most movie goers want an hour and a half to two hours of explosions, choreographed kung-fu dance fights, and physics defying car/plane/spaceship chases. There's a reason Michael Bay movies do so well. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoy the occasional explosion-fest too. Just look at the original Matrix movie. They spoon fed what the Matrix was to the audience, and there are still people today who don't know what it was supposed to be about.

Will they even bother selling popcorn and soda?

As long as movie theaters are in business, yes. That's where they make their money after the studios get done shaking them down.

Will Stephen King give up on novels and start writing really scary comic books 12 times a year?

We can only hope.

When everything in life warrants no more than 30 seconds of peoples precious time, good luck finding value or reward in anything you do. Even something fun.

Congratulations, you are starting to get the same type of mindset your grandparents have/had. Now get in front of a mirror and start working on your "get off my lawn" face. ;-)

Re:Meh (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | about 6 months ago | (#46692269)

another moron posted another moronic theory of how the brain works based on their own personal experiences of stupidity, laziness, and lack of focus. These used to be published by quick magazines called tabloids. Now they look legitimate.

I personally felt stupider just reading the summary. I am online at work all day. now I can't watch tv without doing something else but I have gone through a dozen books(usually ebooks but not always) since christmas without any kind of issue.

Re:Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691757)

Welcome to the era of the [extremely] temporary...

Re:Meh (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 6 months ago | (#46691919)

tl;ds

Re:Meh (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about 6 months ago | (#46692077)

You didn't even skim it?

Re:Meh (1)

bug1 (96678) | about 6 months ago | (#46692089)

If you RTFA you would realise that tl;dr is for inter...nubs.

Re:Meh (1)

LookIntoTheFuture (3480731) | about 6 months ago | (#46692191)

tl;dr

I was a bit disappointed that this wasn't the first post. :)

Too long.. (0)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 6 months ago | (#46691565)

Didn't read

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691567)

Doesn't apply to me. Perhaps because I don't skim articles and read the entire thing.

Re:Hmm... (2)

gmhowell (26755) | about 6 months ago | (#46692039)

Doesn't apply to me. Perhaps because I don't skim articles and read the entire thing.

You're on the wrong site.

Efficiency (1, Insightful)

Jenerick (717200) | about 6 months ago | (#46691571)

As a culture have improved our speed-reading skills? I don't see how this is a problem, especially as a student who can apply these concepts and skills to textbooks. Disclaimer: I skimmed this summary and TFA may address this.

Re:Efficiency (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 6 months ago | (#46691647)

As a culture have improved our speed-reading skills? I don't see how this is a problem, especially as a student who can apply these concepts and skills to textbooks. Disclaimer: I skimmed this summary and TFA may address this.

The summary makes it clear that the 'problem' is that the improved skim reading may come at the expense of in-depth reading.

Re:Efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691913)

The summary makes it clear that the 'problem' is that the improved skim reading may come at the expense of in-depth reading.

It is also the other way around.
Since neither is natural it is also not necessarily the case that you can only be good at one. It just happens that it is easier for the brain to adapt the part of the brain that already does the reading into a skimming or an in-depth part. If you are brought up with both alternatives and learn to read in-depth at the same time as you learn to skim you might not get this problem at all.

Re:Efficiency (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46691815)

As a culture have improved our speed-reading skills? ... Disclaimer: I skimmed this summary and TFA may address this.

Judging from your question and disclaimer: no.

Ltetres odrer (5, Informative)

x0ra (1249540) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Ltetres odrer (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691665)

This age old internet legend is not exactly true [balancedreading.com] .

SYNTAX ERROR (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691777)

SYNTAX ERROR

Re:Ltetres odrer (5, Funny)

tommten (212387) | about 6 months ago | (#46691867)

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.

Accordian to an elkish un-visitry, subtle the oreo of lettuce in a wood doesn't mate, the owl-thing hates iops-rant, is that the fist and salt litter of every word in concrete poison. the rest can be a jumbojet and one is slit able to dear the extew king tut in a flurry. Sure thing!

Re:Ltetres odrer (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about 6 months ago | (#46692293)

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.

In other words, Spelling Nazis have no more a justified job these days than real Nazis.

Re:Ltetres odrer (3, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 6 months ago | (#46692495)

I wrote a script to do that:
http://dexsoft.com/wordscrambl... [dexsoft.com]

Thing is, once you start throwing lots of more robust text in there (excerpt from a book, etc), it becomes very apparent that it really only works with simple, common words. Once you start using proper nouns and more diverse vocabulary, it becomes very difficult to read the scrambled text. Also, the way the words are scrambled makes a big difference too. I ran your text through my scrambler a few times, and some of the results were harder to read than others.

Here's the summary scrambled, and there are parts that can be read pretty easily, but then there are words that simply can't be read "automatically" and you have to sit and think about them.

Meiahcl S. Rlwosnead rtoreps in the Wnasitgohn Psot taht, adrnioccg to covniitge ntesenucoiirtss, haumns seem to be dopnvileeg daigtil binras wtih new crtiuics for simnkimg torhguh the trneort of irfianoomtn oinlne at the eespnxe of taadinrtiol deep ridneag ctucirriy... Mraaynne Wlof, one of the wlrod's fsmoroet exptres on the stduy of rnadieg, was stretlad last yaer to divseocr her bairn was aertpnalpy antiadpg, too. After a day of srincollg tghoruh the Web and hdedruns of e-malis, she sat dwon one enenvig to raed Hearmnn Hsese's ciannlhgleg nvoel The Galss Baed Gmae. 'I'm not kniddig: I cdluon't do it,' syas Wlof. 'It was troture getitng touhgrh the fisrt page. I cdouln't fcroe msyelf to solw down so taht I wsan't siknmmig, pciinkg out key wdors, ognranizig my eye moetvnems to geantere the most ifianotromn at the hsiehgt seped. I was so digsutsed wtih mylesf.'

The bairn was not dseengid for riaendg and trhee are no geens for radenig lkie three are for lauaggne or vioisn. ... Bfeore the Irntneet, the barin raed mtlosy in leianr wyas — one pgae led to the nxet pgae, and so on. The Inntreet is deneiffrt. With so mcuh iorfainomtn, hpyernilked txet, vedois asldgonie wdors and ireittntavciy eewvhrerye, our branis form suothcrts to dael wtih it all — snnicang, sinhcaerg for key wdros, srlclnoig up and down qilkcuy. Tihs is naneoilnr rnieadg, and it has been dmteucnoed in amcadiec sduetis. ... Some rseahrcrees bilveee taht for mnay polepe, tihs sytle of rneaidg is bnngiieng to idnave our abiltiy to dael wtih otehr mdeuims. 'We're seinpndg so mcuh tmie tincohug, psuinhg, liinnkg, sinlolcrg and junipmg toughrh txet taht wehn we sit dwon wtih a nveol, yuor daliy hbatis of jpmuing, ccilnikg, lniikng is jsut iareingnd in you,' syas Anerdw Dloiln."

Moving from Ebooks to Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691591)

I've found that as I read older, non-digitized books, I want to touch the page to click on an obscure word to find its definition. I teach, and it's interesting/surprising/disappointing to see how many of my students never learned how to use a paper dictionary because they could always put a word into a search field.

I've been doing it the other way (2)

Leuf (918654) | about 6 months ago | (#46691613)

All that moving and whatnot gets adapted real quick with NoScript. I can still read books just fine but looking at cnn.com without NoScript I can't do.

Skimming is part of the Graduate's life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691615)

How many of you actually read each and every word of the tens, if not the hundreds of books and journals that are in the "must read list" hand to students by the professors in our graduate studies ?

Learning how to skim through the thick tomes while picking up useful info was the first thing I learned.

That was before Al Gore announced his "Information Superhiway".

newspaper (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691625)

Is this really something that's only been occurring with the advent of the internet? It might have exacerbated things, but we've already been doing this for ages with newspapers.

The world is changing. (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#46691629)

get over it.

I am a fast reader (>400words per minute), and when i skim a screenful of information or code I exceed this significantly.

There are some things which you need to understand:

* Reading may be fast, but comprehending may be tricky. If a page of code contains a tricky algorithm, it can take a week

* Classic literature (for which my speed drops below 200 word per minute) is not structured for being read quickly. If may be structured to model a thought process, or even a pattern of spoken language. Take your time to read it, and accept it.

* Literature often has dialogues, or reflections of dialogues. keepign two viepoints necessarily disrupts your reading speed. Books which have a lot of decription of though processes or viewpoints of characters contain more information. The more brilliant of these books manage to refer indirectly to the processes and let you infer a large part of what is going on (e.g. "Midnights Chrildren"). Obviously the limiting factor is not reading, but understanding.

Re:The world is changing. (2)

axlash (960838) | about 6 months ago | (#46691679)

"Reading may be fast, but comprehending may be tricky."

But what really is reading without comprehension? That's just like moving my eyeballs across a page and having my brain register black glyphs on a white background.

Re:The world is changing. (1)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#46691713)

Well. In very structured matter (e.g. scientific articles) you can actually skip the introduction if you are from the field. In code you can skip organizational code which dont need to understand. And in newspaper articles you can often turn of the brain for 80% of the article if you already know the context,

Re:The world is changing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691939)

you're not reading fast then -- but skipping, liberally.

Re:The world is changing. (2)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#46692007)

Yes. Thats the distinction i make. Some written material is for "really skipping" some material is for "skimming for infromation" and some material is for reading. Not confusing one with the other is important and will save you frustration.

Re:The world is changing. (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 6 months ago | (#46691747)

I am a fast reader (>400words per minute), and when i skim a screenful of information or code I exceed this significantly.

I'm always skeptical of people clamining superhigh reading speeds. I mean, yeah I can skim easy text to and just "float" above it, but what about when comprehension and understanding are required; like when you read a biology or math text and other such material you haven't encountered before? What good does reading speed help there if it goes in one eye and out the other, so to speak??

Re:The world is changing. (4, Funny)

RDW (41497) | about 6 months ago | (#46691827)

"I took a speed reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It's about Russia."

Re:The world is changing. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 6 months ago | (#46691831)

Merely reading at 400 words per minute is trivial. Reading *some kinds* of materials at 400 words per minute is a problem. I guess Amdahl's law is sort of universal.

Do both (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692013)

Skim first to get the gist and then deep read to really grok it and then I'll skim again sections I really want to retain. Trying to deep read the same material again within a few months just doesn't happen with me - my mind wanders.

That's why it helps me to read different authors on the same topic and deep skim and deep read each if I REALLY want to master a topic.

Re:The world is changing. (4, Informative)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#46692041)

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

From http://www.forbes.com/sites/br... [forbes.com]

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).

Re:The world is changing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692103)

We could, but I don't think anyone gives a shit.

Re:The world is changing. (1)

clickety6 (141178) | about 6 months ago | (#46692117)

Average Ãoe high level exec à = 575

From my education i am roughly at "Average College Professor".

regularly correcting semantic and syntactic mistakes in pages of code which i never saw before

did that when i did a group-internal rss

Doesn't seem to work for spelling mistakes and typos though ;)

Re:The world is changing. (1)

LinuxIsGarbage (1658307) | about 6 months ago | (#46692215)

Average Ãoe high level exec à = 575

Doesn't seem to work for spelling mistakes and typos though ;)

To be fair the high level exec thing looks more like Slashdot barfing at Unicode, it was copied and pasted from the linked website.

Re:The world is changing. (1)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#46692267)

Wow. I presume another English native speaker picking on spelling mistakes in a quickly typed comment in a foreign language?

Re:The world is changing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692585)

You could ask my coworkers about me reading abstracts of scientific papers in less than 5seconds

You need 5 seconds to read an abstract? Pfff, I do it in 1 second.

Re:The world is changing. (1)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 6 months ago | (#46692159)

I remember reading Rudin's little analysis book and reading it on the principle that it was appropriate to stay on each page for about 30 minutes, or until all proofs were remembered and could be reproduced at will, following a recommendation of some famous mathematician whose name I can't recall (but for some reason I think that it was Hardy or Littlewood).

There's also apparently such a recommendation in Axler's linear algebra book, but there the recommendation is that one should take no less than an hour per page. I think that this recommendation may be excessive though and I don't think that either of these should be followed strictly for all pages, but they're a good warning for seeing that one is trying to read too fast.

Re:The world is changing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692623)

Had a teacher which tested our class repeatedly in 11th grade. I read at 735 wpm with 90% comprehension. Two other people in the class read at 715 wpm with the same or higher comprehension. Of course that was with the fluff texts provided. Yes the speed slows down with complex material but even reading complex material I still read very fast.

Having a fast reading speed even if it goes in one eye and out the other allows you to skim material for the relevant section you need then slow down and comprehend it. There was an incident in English class where we were taking a test on Heart of Darkness. The test question was: What is the significance of the pit outside X (cant remember the name, thats the kind of thing lost in reading fast, the actual name doesnt matter to the meaning) town? I had read the book but completely missed the pit. Started at the beginning and skimmed the first hundred pages or so in about 15 minutes till I found the 2 line paragraph that mentioned the pit. Read it and the text around it and wrote the essay. Without being able to read the preceding text in one eye and out the other I would have had nothing to write about.

I have this "problem" (2, Insightful)

linuxguy (98493) | about 6 months ago | (#46691643)

I have been doing this since usenet days. I got hooked to newsgroups early. I was about 18 years old and this was 1990. I have not been able to read ordinary books since then. I can read technical books just fine. The kind that pack a lot of information. I have tried several times, but have utterly failed to read fiction. Something inside me tells me that I am wasting my time. Not that I don't waste time. I do that a lot. I watch plenty of movies, TV, hang out with friends and family etc. etc. and I "skim the Internet" a tonne. I have a good job, wife and two kids. It is not entirely clear to me how this "problem" is hurting me.

Re:I have this "problem" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691849)

I have a very similar thing. I can read a technical book all day long and not get bored or annoyed. With a fiction books it is different, I just feel I'm wasting my time and I can't understand people who go through many books a week. I've been using the Internet since I was very young and have always read a lot online. I remember in school I could never get into fiction and would always do my book reports on factual books and loan factual books from the library. I don't feel like I'm being hurt either, my life is satisfying and I have everything I need.

Re:I have this "problem" (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 6 months ago | (#46692543)

I have the exact same "history" as you do (18 years old in 1990), and starting when I was 16 I got into dialing up BBSs and reading lots of messages in that kind of format. Then of course on to usenet and email in college and prolific reading of thousands of messages a week. My ability to read "books" hasn't been affected at all. I don't know if it was because I was already a prolific reader (I read the Hardy Boys books as fast as I could get my mom to buy them for me when I was younger - she made the mistake of saying she would keep buying them as long as I kept reading them, but eventually had to limit me to 2 a week). I still read a fair amount (just finished the Dark Tower series), and again, I've not had any ill affects from my daily large consumption of online fragments of information.

So this must affect different people in different ways.

Not me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691655)

I always pore through anything I read. I remember learning speed reading around middle or early high school and hating it. If something is worth reading, it's generally worth fully processing and thinking about while you read it. It's no wonder I frequently find myself having better recall of things I read and more fully grasping what the writer was trying to convey than those around me if everyone else is just skimming and speed reading.

PARSE ERROR (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 6 months ago | (#46691681)

PARSE ERROR:
"Michael S. Rosenwald was so disgusted with myself.'
The brain was not designed for reading Andrew Dillon."

Wait, what??? Could you please write shorter paragraphs?

look ahead (1)

shamim063 (2977681) | about 6 months ago | (#46691695)

well, look ahead.

Boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691701)

She could have just picked a book that is not boring.

Evelyn Woodhead speed reading (2)

bigtreeman (565428) | about 6 months ago | (#46691703)

Are you old enough to remember this

http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Ev... [grooveshark.com]

I did the speed reading course when I was 14, still couldn't read Shakespeare, ah well.

synopsis (1)

s1d3track3D (1504503) | about 6 months ago | (#46691721)

skim, reading, brain, wolf, circuit

Designed? (4, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46691733)

The brain was not designed for reading

It wasn't designed for anything.

And who's to say the invention of writing hasn't already had some impact on human evolution? I know it hasn't been long in the grand scheme of things, but moths didn't take long to adapt to the industrial revolution.

there are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision

Well, there are genes which have an impact on language development if faulty or missing, but are they necessarily "genes for language"?

Re:Designed? (4, Insightful)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 6 months ago | (#46691837)

Moths also had a much harsher selection pressure. Maybe we would see similar results if we killed anyone over the age of 10 who couldn't read at a 12th grade level.

Re:Designed? (5, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46692181)

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Designed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692547)

News flash: we already hashed out the early, crude, violent versions of the eugenics debate, and the public has spoken. Hitler lost.

Re:Designed? (1, Troll)

gargleblast (683147) | about 6 months ago | (#46691963)

The brain was not designed for reading

It wasn't designed for anything.

Beg pardon but the brain was designed for survival of the genotype, just like the rest of the organism. It just wasn't designed by who-you-think-it-wasn't.

There are genes which have an impact on language development if faulty or missing, but are they necessarily "genes for language"?

You betcha. A rather well-established survival strategy among humans is spoken language. A newer and less-well-established strategy is written language. It's those new things that undergo the most rapid natural selection. So yeah, "genes for language".

Re:Designed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692261)

Beg pardon but the brain was designed for survival of the genotype, just like the rest of the organism. It just wasn't designed by who-you-think-it-wasn't.

Saying that it was "designed" is ridiculous in and of itself.

Re:Designed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692423)

Yes, i much rather enjoy the euphoria of being so lucky as to have been born in the one 10^32 parallel universe where i actually enjoy reading slashdot.
Well, posting i mean.

No its not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691737)

It's the fact most people have not read a book since school and then they only read books because they were forced to.

Speed reading (1)

schreiend (1092383) | about 6 months ago | (#46691753)

I had been learning it about 20 years ago; developing ability to cherry-pick key words and to absorb the _rough_ meaning of the whole page in a couple of seconds was one of the keystones of the technique. They promised it won't hurt when reading fiction, but it actually turned into inability to enjoy the reading itself. On the other hand, it did help to digest tons of technical books, so I'm not complaining.

"Digital" (1)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about 6 months ago | (#46691761)

That word doesn't mean what you seem to think it means.

Re:"Digital" (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | about 6 months ago | (#46691793)

That word doesn't mean what you seem to think it means.

He's developing brains in his fingers

Purposefully slowing down (3, Interesting)

Ozoner (1406169) | about 6 months ago | (#46691773)

I notice this as well.

I enjoy recreational reading very much, but notice that I must make a definite effort to slow down so that I better appreciate the book.

TL;DR (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691795)

TL;DR

sum it up newfag

Not a significant test ... (4, Funny)

Rudisaurus (675580) | about 6 months ago | (#46691813)

I read Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game" long before the Internet even existed, and it was completely fucking opaque even back then.

Re:Not a significant test ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692421)

Shit. I just tried to Favourite this twee...uhm, post.

I couldn't agree less (5, Insightful)

go-nix.ca (581096) | about 6 months ago | (#46691829)

It depends on the book. I for one started reading Arthur C Clarke's Rama series, and I couldn't put it down.

Re:I couldn't agree less (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692571)

I never could for the life of me understand why the Rama books got a relatively bad rap. They're at least as good as his Odyssey books. Maybe not a patch on Foundation for theme and plot or Heinlein's sparkling dialogue, but still. Clarke was the happy medium of the future.

glass bead game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691853)

They played marbles, then made a necklace with those beads.

It's not taking over "the human brain" (4, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 6 months ago | (#46691915)

It's taking over the brains of those who participate 24/7 in, for lack of a better word, might be called the Twittersphere. I'm not condemning Twitter in general, but the entire weltanschauung of the situation that people like Maryanne Wolfe live in. Anyone who doesn't exist in this false world (i.e. most of humanity) doesn't have this experience at all. They're able to read deep texts, and you bet your ass they'll be ready to supplant these feeble minds in the future.

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. After all, all the people I know are in the Twittersphere, and that's the whole world...or at least the world worth knowing. Because if Maryanne Wolfe can't do it, that means the human brain is changing. Sad...but then again I find myself understanding why civilizations that have everything fall. It comes from taking it all for granted and neglecting the first principles that got us here...like realizing the world has an independent existence outside of you and your little buddies.

Re:It's not taking over "the human brain" (4, Informative)

ReeceTarbert (893612) | about 6 months ago | (#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? ;-)

RT

Re:It's not taking over "the human brain" (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 6 months ago | (#46692637)

Then again, everything is relative.

Let's remember that the OP is a person who would willingly pick up and read The Glass Bead Game in the first place; this isn't light, popular reading - not like it was a choice "Do I read Twilight or something from Hermann Hesse?"

For the twitterverse that you comment on, this may sound patronizing but: these morons wouldn't ever have been readers ANYWAY. Ever. It's not like the twitter-morph has prevented them from being deep-thinkers.

This is not special to the internet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46691961)

Even before the internet, there were books and magazines you typically skimmed through. You read a pulp romance and Ulysses at different speeds..

Does it matter? (1)

kevingolding2001 (590321) | about 6 months ago | (#46691991)

Maybe we are adapting to skimming, filtering, and jumping from source to source of information.

Given that this is the way the (modern?) real world works, I don't see it as a problem.

The only drawback is the sentimental loss of no longer being able to sit down and be completely focused on a single thing for any length of time. Whilst this may be a shame, the fact is that such an activity these days is purely recreational and probably impractical for most people anyway. Time has moved on and so should we.

File this under "buggy whips".

Why, yes it does. (1)

Camael (1048726) | about 6 months ago | (#46692141)

Maybe we are adapting to skimming, filtering, and jumping from source to source of information.
Given that this is the way the (modern?) real world works, I don't see it as a problem.
The only drawback is the sentimental loss of no longer being able to sit down and be completely focused on a single thing for any length of time. Whilst this may be a shame, the fact is that such an activity these days is purely recreational and probably impractical for most people anyway. Time has moved on and so should we.

Amassing more data from diverse sources is in no way superior to gaining deep insight/understanding by focusing on, and thinking through a particular topic. Have you ever had an argument over the internet with someone who doesn't even understand the fundamentals of what he's arguing about, whose response is to blindly regurgitate what others have correctly or wrongly posted elsewhere, whose stock reply is "But this website says..."? That is a product of this skimming culture.

When you skim sources, do you remember the details of what you read a day later, a week later? I know I don't, and I'll wager many others don't either hence the popularity of keeping bookmarks, saving files, apps like Pocket etc.

If we don't even remember the details, how can we ever formulate anything beyond a superficial understanding of what we skimmed? It's a safe bet that Newton would not have been able to write the Mathematica Principia if he skimmed mathematics texts. I'm certain you would not like it if your doctor skimmed his medical texts in med school. I don't think you will be happy if your lawyer skimmed through law journals while preparing for your case.

Skimming has its uses, but loss of focus is not the 'sentimental loss' you claim it to be. There will be times when you want yourself, and the people you deal with, to be focused like a laser.

Re:Why, yes it does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692279)

That is a product of this skimming culture.

It's a product of stupidity, and similar things have been happening for a very long time.

Kids these days...

When you skim sources, do you remember the details of what you read a day later, a week later?

Understanding and memorization are often different things. I remember only crucial details (such as my understanding of why some math equation works), but don't spend my time memorizing details like a memorization monkey; that's a complete waste of time, but the public schools system wants you to do exactly that. Plenty of information simply does not need to be memorized, and you're wasting your time if you do it.

It's a safe bet that Newton would not have been able to write the Mathematica Principia if he skimmed mathematics texts.

Maybe if it was skimmed improperly, but if you know how to look for important information, that's just not going to happen.

I'm certain you would not like it if your doctor skimmed his medical texts in med school. I don't think you will be happy if your lawyer skimmed through law journals while preparing for your case.

If done properly, I wouldn't really care. All I care about is whether or not they can do the job, and do it well.

Skimming is nothing new (3, Insightful)

Misagon (1135) | about 6 months ago | (#46692021)

I was surprised when I was a kid back 25 years ago, that my dad could skim through text very fast.
He worked as a journalist, and as such he was used to skimming through a lot of text to find the good bits that he could use as leads and sources for his articles.

The difference to the Internet today, is just that more people are exposed to larger amounts of many different types of text, just like "text-workers" like my dad was back then.

Re:Skimming is nothing new (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about 6 months ago | (#46692325)

I was surprised when I was a kid back 25 years ago, that my dad could skim through text very fast. He worked as a journalist, and as such he was used to skimming through a lot of text to find the good bits that he could use as leads and sources for his articles.

The difference to the Internet today, is just that more people are exposed to larger amounts of many different types of text, just like "text-workers" like my dad was back then.

No the real difference between "back then" and today was the fact that your Dad's requirement to skim through text was limited to his job.

Now you come home and you're inundated with 400 cable channels, of which there are a dozen of each for sports, news, music, and movies.

You open up your email, and you're bombarded with targeted ads and spam, along with two dozen emails to go through. And that's before you even start digging into your social media and its entire skimming culture.

It is this very hyperexcited environment around us 24/7 that is the real difference today. You're right, speed reading or skimming is hardly new. Where we are being forced to use it, is.

Hmm... Guess my brain is weird. (2)

John Pfeiffer (454131) | about 6 months ago | (#46692045)

I've always been able to switch it on and off just fine, even after spending the vast majority of the past 15 years sitting at a computer, on the internet.

I skim through things at great speed when they don't really interest me, or I'm mostly looking for specific pieces of information, but it's never prevented me from being able to change gears and linearly read something...

And I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a patient person (or particularly disciplined, for that matter) so it's certainly not because I'm making a conscious effort *not* to skim when I read linearly.

Re:Hmm... Guess my brain is weird. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692225)

In the case when I do read something I'm interested in too hastily and don't fully comprehend what's it's trying to tell me I just read it again.

And again, and I'll grind my gears until I can't process it.

Movies as well (1)

Catmeat (20653) | about 6 months ago | (#46692069)

It's not just reading.


I think I only ever sit through a movie from beginning to end at the cinema. I can't remember the last time I watched something on a computer without dragging the progress-bar cursor past a bit I found less engaging.

Yep, already noticed it. (1)

Bruinwar (1034968) | about 6 months ago | (#46692221)

I was skimming through some blogs the other day & realized I hadn't actually read any of them. No great loss, they were just blog posts. Another thing I've noticed is my book consumption appears to be lower than it was once. No I did not rtfa but I did carefully read the summary, carefully. It took direct effort to do it. All said & done, I am still reading complete books & now I am planning to make more of on effort to take more time to read.

Neural flaw called "disinterest" (2)

IriArendt (3608567) | about 6 months ago | (#46692229)

Yeah, me too I would have chosen to read a second time The Glass Bead Game if I wanted to make that point, or maybe Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. Don’t misunderstand me, I love Hesse and I read it all, ten years ago. Here is the flaw: anyone here used to read a lot and still reading a lot of novels or essays would have suffer attention troubles trying to get through that book, as “challenging” it may be, if his or her actual interests and questionings don’t merge with theses of the book. Yes the brain is rewiring itself when we’re browsing fresh news on the internet, jumping from “Nature” to “Io9”, checking “IEET page” on Facebook while writing a comment on some Singularity blog, yes we are constantly creating new neural pathways, adapting to our (virtual and “high frequency trading” environment), but maybe she would have better tried to measure her remaining attention skills upon some essay or novel she’d never have read before and which’d have presented some direct interest. For instance, I never read Bilbo the hobbit, I admit it, don’t kill me. I tried once I had eleven yo and I didn’t like it, and it’s still just not my thing, even if I “know” it’s a huge cultural piece blabla. I still would not get through it if I had to try now. And it’s not because of my new adapted skimming neural circuits wired for the internet. It’s just because I don’t care, as challenging it may be. I recently devoured Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion and made a second reading of Cioran’s All Gall Is Divided, without trouble focusing, even if I’m a huge and daily “internet resident.” I suggest she repeats the experiment reading an actual challenging novel/essay which could catch her interest and only If she did not read it once yet.

Choose Your Own Adventure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692235)

The internet "reads" like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books you find in childrens' libraries. You dont read those like you do novels. If you're having problems reading a novel after some exposure to the internet, the problem is most likely with the material being shitty, rather than "the intarwebz chanjed mah branes!"

Funny (1)

Adam Jorgensen (1302989) | about 6 months ago | (#46692243)

All these people who can't read fiction because they can't skim it...Hilarious.

And yet sad as well. Makes me think of Mockingbird by Walter Tevis...

Skim researching (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46692399)

Seems a bit ironical, the "research" on how people don't slow down to comprehend what they are reading is based on annecdotal evidence of someone's experience

TLDR (1)

Dave Whiteside (2055370) | about 6 months ago | (#46692551)

NC

Confirmation bias. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 6 months ago | (#46692627)

Cognition ordinarily normalizes fragmented images, resolves meaning, and transfers information of nature between intelligences and surroundings. All reading is "skimming". We recoginze words as collections of letters not individual letters, considering the beginning and ends of the words more strongly, and this leads to our inability to see spelling mistakes easily, as in the second and last words of this sentance. The slower you "skim" the deeper the information you may be able to extract. There are patterns in words which skimming misses. Wordplay, alliteration, meter, even subtle repetition of concepts or phrases in different contexts, esp. for ironic or humorous effect; These do not lend themselves to skimming quickly. In fact, did you not skim the first sentence of this comment as one ordinarily does in reading, and miss the message the first letter of each word spelled out? One who frequently "skims" for such hidden messages would have recognized them. Point being: You are always "skimming" the information pool of reality, and humans can do so in many ways.

The brain structures and visual systems of humans were not expressly designed for reading, but they do lend themselves to it otherwise we wouldn't write thus. The development of written (physically encoded) language is an emergent process. Were our vision very blurry up close perhaps we would all be reading and writing in braille. There are no genes for language. As a cyberneticist the problem I have with such genetic reductionist statements is that they ignore that life is full of emergent processes at every level. Consider that the brain was not designed for verbal language either. There are structures of the brain at various scales which are described ultimately by genes (and their emergent process of tissue shape forming) which happen to be suited for verbal language. As was with verbal language, given time and evolutionary pressure (eg: selection favoring the more literate and wealthy) the human genome will express complex emergent structures favorable for written language too. Evolution itself is an emergent process.

While it is true the brain is good at quickly pattern matching among a field, the brain along with resolution of the eye and its near field focus are also very good at slowly picking out differences and concentrating on details. We are good at seeing movement of contrasting colors or brightness, and then zeroing in on the area of movement and picking out increasingly more detail to determine if said motion be wind among the trees, a prey, predator, or friend. If you skim a dense technical manual you will miss much of the pertinent information, just as ancestral hunters who only "skimmed" the plains, may find themselves on wild goose chases, or being hunted themselves instead. One could skim a manual or web page to discover the area one needs to focus, but in that subsection of data skimming isn't going to be useful so the other slower mode of detail comprehension will be employed. Furthermore, in "skimming" you may miss a critical detail and fall victim to a gotcha, like your ancestors may have missed the crouching camouflaged lion among the grass.

Graphic designers know much about your cognitive vision systems, and they exploit them. Drawing in the eye first with contrasting brightness of shapes, adding subtle curves, color, and increasing detail to draw the eye deeper or in the desired directions. You find the gaudy jittering "You've Won!" ad to be annoying because you can't help but "skim" for movement between high contrasts in your visual field and have your attention drawn to it... Yet there is no singular gene for this essential evolutionarily advantageous behavior. See?

Unlike when I "skim" a technical manual, fact heavy news feed or ramble heavy social statuses to zero in on information worth digesting, When I read novels when I read novels rich in artistic expression I do so for leisure and thus read at "slow" pace AKA normal verbal rate, or slower. I don't "skim" quickly then. Instead I imagine the characters speaking to each other in the worlds they author describes them being. I imagine the grins, smirks, frowns, and other facial expressions. I animate the world around them, slow to appreciate the significance of the mental scenery -- I stop and read the roses. Instead of focusing all my mental might upon the mere act of reading itself and stress to go as fast as possible, I relax, use only a portion of my mind for reading, and unfocus the rest of my mind in a myriad of ways to absorb the greatest range of nuance in the written tales and characters conveyed. Often times I'll halt, re-playing the scene and pickup on the subtle clues the author leaves more quickly than my friends who may have to read things a second time through to catch the hidden meaning. This does not mean that the brains of older sci-fi club members are being taken over by slow reading -- I can still "skim" just fine, thank you.

Haven't you ever rolled to a stop after a long drive and yet gotten the sense that the scenery is moving away from you? The effect is caused by the brain adapting and compensating to whatever you expose it to. The brain is not digital, it doesn't instantly change "modes". TFA's writer exposed their brain to long "skimming" sessions and thus found it difficult to re-adjust to a slower mode of skimming, just as one who has been stressfully programming all night may find it hard to stop thinking of solutions while they try to get some rest, or just as the Tetris obsessed player will close their eyes later and still see the shapes of the game playing in their heads.

"Online Skim Reading Taking Over"? Uhm, did Plainsman Skim Hunting "take over"? It seems to me that we are not developing anything particularly new at all, but merely experiencing an example of adapting our existing "skimming" hardware and firmware to the tasks at hand, as wetware/software is oft wont to do. The brain changes; It forms new pathways and amplifies or atrophies others, and that is how you learn. A group of people becoming very good at any specific task, will typically express similar cognitive patterns and you'll find the source of these in their brains. It does not mean that "Driving" has taken over the civilized human brain. It means that humans can adapt readily to driving (or cars wouldn't be successful), and we may learn to operate a stick shift as easily as a typist types without concentrating on letters, or as a bicyclist balances, or as a frequent skimmer skims...

Brains of humans and other creatures were not designed to be such great imaginers, yet we are. Playing out the result of an action on a mental stage is a great tool for decision. The fact is: We are abstract thinkers, but we are also dreamers. As the humans sleep will their brains be "taken over" by dreaming or will they later be "taken over" by waking in the morning? Perhaps open your window of observation and realize we are emergent processes at work: A sleeping dream is very much like the predictive imagining of a decision making mind, and reading these words slowly is pretty much the same action as reading them quickly.

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