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Reading to yourself

  1. Jun 10, 2010 #1
    When you read to yourself, say for leisure (not reading physics or mathematics for example) or in 'ordinary circumstances', do you hear each word in your head?

    I think I might just be a retard, but it turns out that I'm skim-reading if and only if I don't 'hear the words in my head'.

    People weren't always able to do this easily. In fact, there was one priest in the ancient world who was renown for the ability to absorb information from literature without making any sound or even moving his lips.

    How weird is that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2010 #2
    That last part sounds made up frankly, but people generally either think in language or through image - the two most dominant of our senses.
  4. Jun 10, 2010 #3
    Yeah I just saw it on TV, on QI a second ago. Not the gospel truth necessarily, but it's meant to be a programme that looks for counter-intuitive truths (somewhat in the sense of mythbusters). It's quite high profile in the UK, but granted, doesn't have any bearing on its validity.

    Anyway, I wish I could find out how I thought about things (surpress the urge to clarify definitions for now) before language was known. :\
  5. Jun 10, 2010 #4
    This last part doesn't make sense. People weren't always able to do what easily?
    And who can't read without moving their lips? That's not a talent.
  6. Jun 10, 2010 #5


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    Reading fiction, I always hear the words. Even different voices for different characters, haha.
  7. Jun 10, 2010 #6


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    I think the idea is that it used to be hard for humans to read. I find it pretty incredulous though.

    When I'm reading math especially I need to repeat everything again in my head or I find myself skipping through all the equations with no idea what really happened. When just reading fiction or something I tend to skip a lot of details anyway because I'm lazy
  8. Jun 10, 2010 #7
    I can hear the words, but I mostly concentrate on the mental picture that is evolving, and then forget about hearing the internal voice. Sometimes it's very difficult to read books that are very linear. In most nonfiction books I read, I like to skip around to the middle, or the ending to get an idea of what's going on, and then skip back to the beginning, and repeat this many times.
  9. Jun 10, 2010 #8

    George Jones

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  10. Jun 10, 2010 #9


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    When reading literature, I find that I don't pay much attention to the words at all, probably just enough attention to maintain accuracy. Instead, a great deal of my concentration is focused on the images that are created by whatever I happen to be reading: facial expressions, body language, voice intonations, emotions, scenery, general mood, lighting, etc.
  11. Jun 10, 2010 #10
    Many people sound the words out in their throat without realizing it. This is referred to as subvocalization. This seems to be the result of the way we learn to read. We first read out loud exclusively, but eventually are told to read to ourselves. At first we probably move our lips, but then we are chastised to the point that we stop even that. However, due to the training, most people continue to sound out the words in their throat. Since no one is able to observe this effect by watching, this habit is not typically broken.

    This is what limits reading speed in many people. Speed readers do not do this, but are able to take in groups of words without the need to sound out any individual words.

    I broke this subvocalization habit when I learned how to speed read in high school. It turns out the mind can absorb words much faster than we typically speak. I'm able to read a novel at about 3 times faster than normal, but it requires total concentration, is mentally tiring and is not always fun. Because of this I tend not to read this fast unless I'm in a rush. I assume that I revert back to subvocalization when I do read normally, but I really have no way to know for sure. However, sometimes, I get into a book and automatically accelerate to high speed reading without effort and without even realizing it. It's really cool when it happens.

    Based on this experience, I conclude that Jerbearrrrrr is not a retard at all.
  12. Jun 10, 2010 #11
    I only hear the words when I think about whether or not I hear the words.
  13. Jun 10, 2010 #12


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    Think about this: can you hear me? What you heard right then, that was actually me :smile:.
  14. Jun 10, 2010 #13
    I usually only read for leisure so I tend to take my time and "hear" what I am reading. When I am not really enjoying a book much I may start speeding through though I find I have trouble remembering much of what I read when I speed read.

    You have a cute typing voice. ;-)
  15. Jun 10, 2010 #14


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    I don't usually hear what I'm reading, I just read through it.
  16. Jun 10, 2010 #15
    Can you count while you are reading?
    What you do in your mind when you counting?
  17. Jun 11, 2010 #16
    Surely you're joking, Mr. Estro.
  18. Jun 11, 2010 #17
    Yes, this is why the monk story is completely plausible. In a society of people who are not chastised for reading aloud exclusively, every one would continue to do this their whole lives. Someone who started reading silently would seem like a freak.
  19. Jun 11, 2010 #18
    I hear a vague "echo" of the sound in my head, like a radio far away in the distance.

    When I type, the sound from hitting the keys also makes for a "voice" of sorts.
  20. Jun 11, 2010 #19
    I'm not=)
  21. Jun 11, 2010 #20
    My bad. I referenced the wrong book. I should have asked "What do you care if people can count while reading?"

    Feynman conducted experiments of this nature with a buddy of his. It's in "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"
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