Reading as Visual Processing

I ran across this very interesting article explaining that data visualization works because it draws our brain’s attention to outstanding features within our field of vision. This helps us get on with the business of thinking about what we are seeing rather than simply looking for something to focus on. I got to thinking about the way that I read text sources and decided that something similar must be going on. If I ready a difficult passage several times, I always read the exact same words. This defeats the purpose of filling in the context of the phrases I did understand, but it suggests that our brains are actively searching for salient features in a text without us knowing about it.

I don’t know how these insights could help me read better, but it does help me trust that my version of speed-reading picks up whatever I am able to process in the moment. Has anyone else had an experience similar to the one I am describing? Do you find the presence of marginal notes or keywords helpful in drawing your eye to particular passages? Does font or paragraph length make a difference to how much you pick out?

By Lucas J

Lucas is a student researcher and professional analyst who is interested in the organizational culture of modern and historical civil bureaucracies.

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