In January 2000 Danielle S. McNamara submitted a preliminary report to the NASA Ames Research Center on photoreading. McNamara enrolled in a PhotoReading workshop under the tutelage of a photoreading expert trained by Paul Scheele. In three years this expert had trained over 150 individuals in PhotoReading. The trainee spent two months learning the PhotoReading technique. The two participants were “(a) the PhotoReading trainee who participated in a two-day photoreading workshop, and (b) the expert who provided the PhotoReading workshop.” (McNamara 4).
McNamara first conducted five baseline tests to measure ordinary reading speeds and comprehension. Then, she administered five similar tests after using the PhotoReading technique. These tests included the Nelson Reading Comprehension Test and the Verbal Reasoning section of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The study investigated fact-based tests since “PhotoReading has been claimed to be particularly effective for this type of text” (McNamara 5). Subject matter included physiology, perception, and biology. A single idea or sentence within each text formed the basis for each question. According to McNamara “The information in the text that is targeted by the question generally requires little prior knowledge and little active processing of the text to understand” (McNamara 6). In other words, these were relatively straightforward, factual questions.
The results of the study generally indicate that PhotoReading and normal reading require a similar amount of time to complete. In one test, the expert answered 37 of 38 questions correctly after normal reading, and took 19.43 minutes to complete the task. Then the expert took a similar test after PhotoReading the passage, and answered 38 out of 38 questions correctly in a time of 18.13 minutes. McNamara took the same test and scored a 92% both times; photoreading took 21.30 minutes whereas regular reading took 15.80 minutes. These results do not support Scheele’s 25,000 words per minute claims.
In a text about perception, the expert read normally and finished the text in 8.82 minutes and answered three questions of eight correctly. Then, the expert “photoread” the text in 0.87 minutes and proceeded to read the text for another 8.12 minutes before finishing. After photoreading, the expert scored one out of eight questions correctly. These results do not support Scheele’s assertions that Photoreading helps one study faster and with greater comprehension than with ordinary reading techniques.
In conclusion, McNamara noted that “In terms of words per minute (wpm) spent reading, there was no difference between normal reading (M = 114 wpm) and PhotoReading (M=112 wpm)” (10). In an attempt to explain the appeal of PhotoReading for some individuals, McNamara stated “One aspect of the PhotoReading technique is that it leaves the reader with a false sense of confidence.”