What's the deal with PhotoReading?
June 23, 2007 4:24 PM   Subscribe

What's the deal with Photoreading?

After Steve Pavlina's endorsement some time ago, I was entrigued by the idea of Photoreading. Instead of buying the package, I ordered the book through my public library. I just got it now (high demand, apparently), and I've read through it and after trying it, I'm having a hard time even attempting to believe it.

So, Mefites, you tell me... what's the deal?
posted by zenja72 to Education (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Apologies
posted by zenja72 at 5:40 PM on June 23, 2007

Well, personally, it sounds bogus to me. However, you actually might want to check out the Wikipedia link that odinsdream supplied. There are sections on skeptical responses, and the responses to that. However, it's interesting to note that the response to the skepticism says that "according to the University of Minnesota, Pete Bissonete of the Learning Strategies Corporation..." blah blah blah, but no citation is actually given that points to anything from the University of Minnesota. But, then again, this is Wikipedia, so...

This quote from the article might be pertinent for you:

Several beginning photoreaders, most quitting after perceiving minimal practical benefits, noted flashes of insight, such as in the form of dreams, without previewing or skimming.

BTW, I should note that I'm inherently biased against this system if Steve Pavlina endorsed it. Some of his stuff is interesting, but some of it is just bizarre (or just downright stupid).
posted by JoshTeeters at 5:48 PM on June 23, 2007

Oddly enough, I was just reading a bit in Jay Ingram's book Theatre of the Mind (2005) that might be pertinent. I have no idea of any of the flaws in this experiment, however.

Pages 69-70, all roughly summarized:

Anthony Marcel, of Cambridge University, used the 'masking' technique: first, he flashes a stimulus -- in Marcel's experiment, a word -- then, a fraction of a second later, he flashes a second image -- again, in Marcel's case, randomly arranged letters.

Words were chosen to be look similar (acquaintance/acquiescence) or to have similar meanings (acquaintance/friend).

People would complete not remember even seeing a word, and would not be able to recognize the word, but managed to remember its meaning. This went entirely against what was considered a 'given' about the interpretation of meaning: that 'lesser' processing about the shapes etc. would come first.

So from the brief Wiki article I read about PhotoReading, I'd say that it's taking the same concept, but stretching it a bit far -- to the point that it breaks and becomes a load of hokum.

I mean, I'd say that Marcel's experiment explains why you can skim a text and still have a good idea of its content -- a lot of the processing is subconscious. A lot of the book deals with how minor bits of information just float up to our conscious mind when they're needed (the 'aha' moments, etc).

But 2 pages of 12-point type in the time it takes the flip a page? There's too much in too little time, and your focus is split -- unlike in Marcel's experiment, you're trying to move your eyes around a page to try to gather as much information as possible. You're active, rather than passive, and you're also diluting your attentions, and trying to flip the pages as quickly as possible without ripping them.

So, yeah, I'd say probably hokum. But in teeny-tiny levels, it's sound.

Just... teeny-tiny levels.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:44 PM on June 23, 2007

Oh, and I'm about as expert in this as a trained monkey.

I just read something interesting.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2007

I don't get it... So they're basically flash cards? Are there words or pictures? And what exactly could I expect to know two days later? The idea that all people are going to get the same jist of something from skimming/speed reading is one I'm somewhat dubious of.

I skim/speed read in a swift effective manner, show me some flash cards and it's likely I'll pick it up. But that's got sweet fuck all to do with cards or what-have-you.

SO mentioned to me one day that while I was helping him learn how to do it himself, the biggest help was just casually observing me while I did it naturally in everyday situations. It had completely escaped my notice but my eyes flick in crosses up-down and side to side.

In my expert opinion we have people that have an ability and some guy with a flash cards *that he may or may not have stolen* trying to take all the credit.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:40 PM on June 23, 2007

"...Go lightly from the ledge, babe,
Go lightly on the ground.
Im not the one you want, babe,
I will only let you down.
You say youre lookin for someone
Who will promise never to part,
Someone to close his eyes for you,
Someone to close his heart,
Someone who will die for you an more,
But it aint me, babe,
No, no, no, it aint me, babe,
It aint me youre lookin for, babe. ..."

I am not connected with Photoreading in any way.

I don't know Paul R. Scheele from Adam's left ox, but I occasionally get email intended for him.

I've taken an Evelyn Wood course, but I don't know Dr. Jay Polmar, either. I also learned Gregg short hand at one time, believing that speed reading skills should be balanced by speed writing proficiency, but in the long run, myopia and arthritis are greater levelers of capability than I could ever have imagined.

John Miedema is a proponent of slow reading, and although I don't know him at all, either, he may have a point.
posted by paulsc at 6:26 AM on June 24, 2007

Without having heard of this term before today, this is basically how I used to read, and sometimes still do, depending on the difficulty of the subject matter. I think that for this to really work, you need a naturally photographic memory. I've been blessed with that, but as I get older I find it fading.
posted by desjardins at 7:17 AM on June 24, 2007

Practical and sane info about photoreading at The Brain Resource.
posted by nickyskye at 10:38 AM on June 24, 2007

Going back to the subliminal priming research that flibbertigibbet was describing -- there's plenty of good evidence for that kind of thing for individual words, but there's evidence that people can't be primed for the structure, or the relationships between the parts, which is pretty damn important for getting the actual meaning of a text. That is, if people are subliminally exposed to just the word 'doctor', they're faster to recognize related words, like 'nurse', meaning that something about the meaning of doctor got into their heads. On the other hand, if they had subliminally seen 'The doctor loves the nurse, but the nurse hates the doctor', they would have some activation for all of those individual concepts (doctors, nurses, love, hate), but would have no inkling of the relationships between the -- who loved who, and who hated who. Scale that confusion up to an entire, lengthy text, and you're going to have no fucking clue what's going on. You'd get just as much out of it if all the words were put in a random order.
posted by svenx at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2007

Response by poster: Just an FYI, nickyskye's resource is a spam blog. I've seen that text somewhere else on the internet, plagiarism of marketing spam.

posted by zenja72 at 3:19 PM on June 24, 2007

nickyskye's resource is a spam blog


How do you figure saying it's a spam blog zenja72? Please offer some back-up to validate what you are saying.

The blog entry by Lee Say Keng on photoreading starts, "I attended the four-day PhotoReading workshop in Singapore during the early nineties under the instruction of the co-developer of the technology, Patricia Danielson. In fact, I was the organiser of that first PhotoReading workshop in Singapore & simultaneously, I was also one of the thirty like-minded workshop participants."

Where do you see spam? This is Lee Say Keng's personal opinion and he sounds both sane and rational.

If you put the text into Google, it is always, in the 3 times it is cited, written by Lee Say Keng and not spam but his personal experience.
posted by nickyskye at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2007

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