How to enhance peripheral vision for speed reading

By Sergey | April 06, 2014

Peripheral vision for speed reading

Quickly and efficiently reading information in the Digital Age is a vital skill to have. Everyday, we are bombarded with thousands of lines of text. Whether it be by email, text message, social networks or online articles, text is all around us. Developing skills to effectively skim information for important content can save one valuable time that may be better spent with family, resting or hobbies.

According to experts, the average human being is capable of reaching reading speeds of 1000 words per minute (or more) given the proper training. Meanwhile, the average adult is limited by habit to only reading roughly the same speed as when they initially learnt to read... a meager 200 words per minute. This article will outline the importance of expanding peripheral vision which is a necessary step towards increasing reading speed.

How do eyes move when we read?

When reading, our eyes do not follow a smooth line across the text. Instead, they make quick small 'jumps' from one point of fixation to another which are known as "saccades". The brain processes the information we read in the pauses between the jumps. These brief pauses take up the majority of our time reading and last around 0.2-0.5 seconds.

Eyes movement of a usual reader

The figure about shows this process.

How to improve our reading?

Now the answer must be clear: instead of making pause over every single word, we can group words that we absorb with one fixation. This reduces number of pauses, thus it proportionally reduces time of reading.

Eyes movement of a speed reader

That approach is used by good(speed) readers.

Does it effect comprehension?

You might be thinking that it will not work. Probably you hold an opinion that for a good comprehension you must read carefully and slowly, so increasing you speed will decrease your comprehension.

According to “The Speed Reading Book” by Tony Buzan, this assumption sounds logical, but research shows that it is wrong. The truth is that the faster you read, the better your comprehension.

For example try to read the following text, split by syllables:


    A smi le is hap pin ess you will find right un der your no se.


I bet is it was even more difficult than usual text. Now try read the following sentence with grouped words:


    I am not    in this world   to live up to   your expectations
    and you're not   in this world    to live up to mine.


It was easier, wasn't it? Your brain feel comfortable when it reads 400 wpm and faster.

How to train peripheral vision?

At the beginning it may be difficult to absorb few words in once. For this Tony Buzan suggests an exercise to enhance peripheral vision.

Exercise to extend peripheral vision

You may print random numbers like on the photo. Use a card to cover up the numbers. Expose each number as quickly as possible, giving yourself about 0.2-0.3 seconds to see it. Then write down the digits in the space next to the number. After that uncover the number and check yourself. It really works and it trains your ability absorb wider pieces of text.

Anyway, in order to save wood and time, we've come up with funny interactive game called Catch Numbers. It allows you to do the same exercise on your computer or tablet, avoiding the paper technologies!