Silent reading isn't so silent, at least, not to your brain

Jan 23 2013 Published by under Behavioral Neuro, Uncategorized

If you're reading this sentence, chances are you're reading it silently (if you're reading it out loud, hey, that's cool too). Your lips aren't moving, you're not making any sound that other people can hear. But are you making "sound" in your head? Many people who read silently do so by imagining a voice speaking the words they are reading (and often, it's your own voice, so there's even a specific "tone". I wonder if this is what makes people react so strongly to some blog posts). This could be because when we learn to read, we associate symbols with verbal sounds until the association is effortless (as for reading learning in the deaf, it may occur another way).*

This is particularly interesting because it means that reading silently is producing "cross-talk" between different sensory systems, with written words producing an auditory experience for the reader. But is it really an auditory experience?

Perrone-Bertolotti et al. "How Silent Is Silent Reading? Intracerebral Evidence for Top-Down Activation of Temporal Voice Areas during Reading" Journal of Neuroscience, 2012.

It's a relatively easy hypothesis to assume that if we are "reading aloud" when we read silently, we should see increases in activity in the auditory-related areas of our brains, particularly things like the temporal voice area (which is particularly sensitive to voices as opposed to sounds in general). There are some fMRI studies that have indeed shown activity in this area during silent reading. But when does this occur? Is it part of the processing of silent reading? Do we have to read "aloud" to ourselves to read silently? Or is it something that happens later on, where we insert the voice reading "aloud" in our heads to aid us in comprehension?

This isn't something that fMRI can answer. But it is something you can answer if you have electrodes implanted in the right places. While most people don't walk around with electrodes in their heads and are unlikely to volunteer to do it for science, there is a small population of people who DO. Some of these people have severe intractable temporal lobe epilepsy. One of the last-ditch treatments for this is often the resection (taking out) of the temporal lobes. But before this is done, you have to determine if the seizures really are the result of temporal lobe activity, and where the seizures start (you really don't want to have to take out more than you absolutely need to). So patients get implanted with electroencephalographic electrodes that are underneath the skull and over the temporal lobes to monitor their activity.

And of course, if you've got the electrodes anyway, you might as well participate in a reading study.

So the authors of this study had four people previously implanted with EEG electrodes near the temporal lobes read a story silently and listen to a voice giving them instructions. While they read and listened the authors were taking recordings.

You can see above recordings from the four auditory areas, one from each patient (sadly, there were only four patients, it's a rare condition, and those who need surgical treatment for it are even more rare). You can see that these areas in the temporal lobes respond significantly to speech (French, Suomi, and reversed French) as compared to other random sounds like coughs, music, or animal noises.

And this area also responds to the written word.

You can see the blue lines (when the patients were asked to pay attention) showed increases in electrical activity in this area when the patients were presented with written words. This is an auditory cortex that usually responds to speech, and apparently, to our brains, the written word counts as speech.

What's particularly new about this study is that it not only shows that silent reading causes high-frequency electrical activity in auditory areas, but it shows that these areas as specific to voices speaking a language. This activity was only present when the person was paying attention to the task. The authors believe that these results back up the hypothesis that we all produce an "inner voice" when reading silently. And it is enhanced by attention, suggesting that it's probably not an automatic process, but something that occurs when we attentively process what we are reading. And the next time you read silently, remember that it's not quite to silent to your brain.

Perrone-Bertolotti M, Kujala J, Vidal JR, Hamame CM, Ossandon T, Bertrand O, Minotti L, Kahane P, Jerbi K, & Lachaux JP (2012). How Silent Is Silent Reading? Intracerebral Evidence for Top-Down Activation of Temporal Voice Areas during Reading. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 32 (49), 17554-17562 PMID: 23223279

*Side note: the authors also comment that "few would contest that most of our waking time is spent talking to ourselves covertly". This amuses me greatly. Do we? I mean, no citation for that, but do we all spend a lot of time talking to ourselves in our heads? Is this one of those things that everyone is slightly too embarrassed to talk about?

83 responses so far

  • Mike from Ottawa says:

    I'm not too embarrassed to admit I'm always talking to myself. I reckon as long as I know it's me that's talking in there, I'm OK.

    And when I'm reading something where I've got a basis for the voices, for instance, Rumpole voiced by Leo McKern, as I'm reading, I hear Rumpole speaking as voiced by McKern. Not like I could improve on him.

  • becca says:

    I also always talk to myself. I reckon as long as I'm saying happy things, I'm OK.

  • JW Najarian says:

    OK, now all I can do is focus on the voice in my head... sure is noisier than I remember.

    Would be interesting to test speed readers!?

    • bret says:

      It would be interesting - when I'm reading at full speed its more like dreaming, I'm not really concious of "reading" as such, there is no single voice in my head as there would be when I'm reading say this blog, instead its more like a full sense experience (this is for fiction of course, speed reading non-fiction is pretty much impossible for me)

      Last time I was rated for speed reading fiction it was somewhere around 1500 wpm.. with recall

    • Joris says:

      I read pretty fast, way faster than I can speak and though I can recall the concepts, I can't recall the actual way in which those concepts were phrased. So, more research is needed?
      Though from what I gathered about debilitating temporal lobe epilepsy, it's not likely that there are very fast readers among them (the clue is in the 'debilitating' bit). Also, I'm not going to volunteer for electrodes in *my* brain

      • Brianna says:

        I think it's debilitating in the sense that it makes it hard for them to live normal lives, not in the sense that it affects their cognitive abilities .

      • Marina says:

        We now know that there are two, possibly more, parallel reading circuits. The one that you might use is the direct 'letters to lexicon' pathway; the other is 'letters to silent speech to lexicon.' Although they work together in many cases, as you can imagine the direct rout is slightly faster. Together they reinforce each other in context and content, making it easier to understand. I assume, and from what I've been told, speed readers train to silence their inner voice during active reading.

    • Ann says:

      I agree. I have often thought that I read as slowly as I do because much of the time I read at speaking pace. I have learned to accept it because reading can be so vivid and I usually have good comprehension.

      I wonder what the brain does with long Russian names that I have no Idea how to pronounce.

  • AK says:

    The authors believe that these results back up the hypothesis that we all produce an "inner voice" when reading silently.

    I'd say the authors are guilty of the "Typical Mind Fallacy: the human tendency to believe that one's own mental structure can be generalized to apply to everyone else's." Just because a few people (with a common ailment!) show this effect doesn't mean that everybody does. This problem seems to me to be common in neurology (and many other fields).

    That said, I find written material to be more "euphonius" when the sequence of syllables is easily pronounced, even when I'm reading silently.

    • Jackson says:

      Well, as far as I know everyone has an inner voice that they use when in silent reading. Even I use it and most 99 percent of everyone commenting here agrees. So, what was the problem again?

      • M says:

        Do you have any data for "as far as you know"? No, 99% of the people commenting here do not agree. The problem is that bad science is leading people to faulty conclusions.

      • Common says:

        Some people learned to read by just looking at words in books and didn't learn "phonetically." There are three accepted categories of learners: visual (29%), auditory (34%), and kinesthetic (36%). The study only included four participants, so it's not unlikely that the subjects were auditory learners.

        For someone who does not learn aurally, there is no subvocalization or inner voice involved in reading whatsoever.

        I was baffled when I first heard the concept of subvocalization. I guess this explains why the guy at the cubicle next to me always mutters to himself while reading. It just seems like such a distracting way to read.

    • scicurious says:

      A good point, AK! I'm not sure I agree with them, though I do think some people have the "inner voice" (I know I do, and now I notice it and it BOTHERS me).

  • tracie says:

    OMG! this article is awesome! u see, (excuse my spelling errors) for several years now i have had this idea that childeren shuld NOT be made to read silently in class but always read out loud in groups or all together taking turns. I have felt that in doing so, could possibly be what begins the development of " the voice(s)". Reading out loudvalso helps reading skills, is speech therapy as well as the opportunity for a teacher to correct a student if child reads/says a word wrong compared to the child not knowing and having to go off of their own guessed assumption. i strongly feel that reading silently is something that teachers should change about their own teaching skills as well as every classroom. i hope to see this issue as one that needs to be addressed so that it can be changed within the entire education system. reading silently should be banned in our schools!
    when i mention this thought and idea to friends they look at me like I'm dumb and laugh. I'm glad that i found this information because it supports my thoughts and theory as well as lets me know i am a smart person, am creative and think on the right path when it comes to my goals of being someone who makes a difference to better the world.

    • Rose says:

      Careful, there. Not everyone processes language in the same way. Back in the 1960's schools were teaching reading by requiring students to read aloud. Because he could not read aloud, his mother was told he was retarded, could not learn, and that she should institutionalize him. His mother knew better because he would tell her about the stories he had read, in his own words. Today he has a PhD in molecular biology. He still cannot read aloud.

    • Rebekka says:

      That would have made me hate school even more than I already did - I could read faster in my head than out loud even at the beginning of primary school, and I was bored and frustrated enough at school without someone's theory about "development of "the voice(s)" " meaning I had to slow down to the pace of the stupid kids in the one activity I really enjoyed.

  • [...] The post examines a study (subscription required) recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience involving epileptic patients who had intracranial electrodes implanted in their auditory cortex for therapeutic purposes. Participants were asked to read a story silently and listen to a voice giving them instructions while researchers recorded their brain activity. Scicurious writes: [...]

  • Maki says:

    Great read! Made me ponder my inner monologue.

    If I know the writer, I read in their voice. But if I don't, I tend to read it in the voice of NOVA podcast producer David Levin.

    It started when I got a job writing copy for short video clips. To keep myself engaging, descriptive, and brief, I took to writing in his voice. It hasn't let me down, yet 😉

    Currently writing this in my own voice, though. Cheers!

  • This is so interesting in the context that a lot of reading is automated, in that you will sometimes read things before you realize that you have read them (see: the Stoop effect! particularly the interference effect).

    I definitely hear my own voice when I am writing, and when I am reading more complicated articles. But when I'm reading a fun article or just observing a billboard as I'm driving past it? No internal voice.

    This is a really neat area of research! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • JimH338 says:

    I can tell you right now that I consciously and intentionally imagine that I hear someone speak the words as I read them. I have no idea how this action would appear on any type of medical equipment, but I can vouch for the process I go through when reading.

    I never gave any thought to what voice I'm hearing, though. I suppose it's possible that I envision reading the text aloud - in which case, it would be my own voice that I'm imagining.

  • JimH338 says:

    Although... if I am reading a transcript of something I have actually heard, I hear the original speaker's voice. For example, when I read the words...

    "Yesterday, December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy..."

    I can't help but hear FDR's voice.

  • Guy says:

    Personally, when reading I don't have a "voice" reading, not always anyways. I have a very high reading rate(upwards off 600 wpm) and can finish decent size novels 3-5 a week given very little time. But on occasion, especially when tired, I find the "voice" or monologue will turn on suddenly, and I find myself pronouncing each word in my head so to speak. This drops my reading rate DRASTICALLY and I find reading completely intolerable and need to put down the book and try again later(usually the next day). I havn't found any way to just stop the voice. It's quite a nuisance.

    • Mike says:

      I can't read without the voice. I have to insert inflections, pacing, volume and pacing and that does put a conversational speed limit on my reading.

      I can think without the voice and I do all the time, it's way awesome. But I can't read without it.

      How do you read without the voice?

  • Another Guy says:

    I've trained myself so that my inner voice is always Morgan Freeman.

  • LZ says:

    I agree with AK. I don't hear a voice when I'm reading silently, either. I'm just reading.

    Unless I get self-conscious about it, as I did when reading this article. Then I hear my voice hesitantly reading aloud, and I read more slowly as a result.

    Is that weird?

    • R says:

      Completely agree! I never knew people heard actual voices when reading, it actually sounds fairly annoying to me... I do have an inner dialogue and voice that i perceive as my own, just not when silently reading. Guess we're both a little weird!

  • A Better Guy says:

    I wonder what the scans show when deaf people are reading. I'm assuming they don't have an inner voice, well, since they're deaf so they don't know what a voice sounds like.

    • scicurious says:

      I posted a reply to questions like this over at The Smithsonian, here it is again:

      Unfortunately, the paper did not address how deaf people process reading, or whether they do it in the same way. There are other studies which sort of address this, but it’s a difficult test to perform. Most deaf people receive cochlear implants, become deaf after learning to speak, or are taught speech in addition to sign. In fMRI studies, deaf people who have been taught to speak still show auditory processing when they read (see here:, but when reading normally they appear also to associate with the mouth shape and hand sign (activation in manual areas especially, Another study which worked exclusively with people who were deaf prior to learning to read showed activation instead associated with phonological processes, so with the shape of the mouth required (as in lip reading) as opposed to the sound itself (see here: A third study shows no activation of lanugage areas in deaf people when they read (see here: So I would say the jury is still out on how exactly the deaf process language, but it is clear that they use auditory associated areas less than people who hear (as you might expect). I hope that helps!

    • AJ says:

      I don't know how it's like with other deaf people, but for me, I was taught to speak so most of the time, I "hear" myself when I read. But sometimes a phrase or paragraph just doesn't make sense until I visualizate myself signing the same thing. Hope it helps a bit!

  • tssoma says:

    Well, I don't know about others but I always hear what I read silently. When I write too, I speak out the words to myself without opening my mouth.

  • Mark Nevill says:

    I don't hear any voice when I am silent reading. The key to silent "speed reading" is not to say the words in your head but to see pictures. If you see pictures you remember what you have read; greatly improving recall and comprehension. Very suspect assumptions and findings here - like a lot of poor sciencechurned out by academics, who must continuely "publish or perish" these days.

  • Desiree says:

    Several years ago, when studying for my BA in Deaf Studies, I asked one of my deaf tutors what happened when they read something, and he explained that for most 'signers' they actually visualised the appropriate signs for what they were reading, in much the same way as we who can hear will 'hear' a voice reciting what we read. He possitied that this was also probably the reason why the majority of deaf, and signing deaf people have a fairly low reading age.

    • scicurious says:

      That's really cool. And there's an fMRI study (see above) showing something similar. I'd love to see it replicated!

  • Kristine Gustavson says:

    When I read silently, if I have mental voice or not depends on what I am reading. I find that if reading fiction, the words disappear, and I see the movie of the narrative and hear dialogue with different voices for each character--just like watching a movie. If reading non-fiction I may or may not "verbalize" it. With chemistry, I tended to use the words to build mental models of molecules and reactions. Same with physics. History varies--depending on how familiar I am with the period and setting. I would agree with those who read rapidly that the "voice" slows the pace and actually interferes with the movie.

    In teaching reading we need to be sensitive to how children learn and give them as many options for comprehension as possible without telling them one way is the right way. Many of the LD kids I work with are thrilled to learn that they can build mental images from the words and go to movies in their heads as opposed to hearing just the words.

    Curious about how other teachers work with this. . .

  • Mark fewtrell says:

    I do have an inner voice and it is strong and continuous and dependent mostly on whether I'm alone.. The voice will change if having read I then hear someone else read or the author read the same text. Why do so many worry the idea of this voice that does not speak? It seems ultimately the place you can keep lies and memories truthful and freedoms to be protected. Does this inner voice have all the attributes of the object voice? Maybe volume can be forgotten. Perhaps Robinson crusoe would only of moved his lips.

  • Andreas Johansson says:

    I've on various occasions found myself trying to speak a word I've previously only only seen in writing (typically a foreign name), only to realize I don't know how to pronounce it. Not merely not knowing how to pronounce it correctly, but at all - there doesn't seem to be a phonetic version of the word stored in my mind. I have to think about the written form and consciously guess a pronunciation.

    Which would lead me to suspect I don't necessarily process written language as speech.

    BTW, Suomi is probably better known to anglophones as Finnish.

  • [...] (The Edition) • Silent Reading Isn’t So Silent. Apparently we “speak” the lines we read to ourselves, or so brain scans show. • [...]

  • JudyJH says:

    I remember at school trying to learn to 'speed read'- ( something I read about on the back of comic book) and deciding that hearing my inner voice as I read was detrimental to becoming an alpha student. So EVERY time I heard myself I would stop and start over. As I now read this I feel that I could have saved myself a bit of browbeating. I also wonder if the voice comes into play on one level at least, as a means of regaining lost attention. When a piece is particularly technical or challenging, reading out loud can assist in understanding ( slowing over enthusiastic reading). Does this make sense? Maybe I am just a bit slow? Is my inner voice a result of being slow?

  • LaLine says:

    I used to speed read without hearing any single voices, just an immersion in the story, like watching a show. Then I moved to another country and had to learn a new and complex language. I learned by listening because with a new alphabet with a lot more vowels than I was used to I couldn't figure out the appropriate sounds just by looking at the letters - I had to hear a word pronounced out loud before I could actually understand it. Ever since then, I can't read without voicing what I'm reading in my head. My reading has slowed considerably, but I feel like I catch more of the subtle nuances good writers use.

  • Jess says:

    Most of the time - especially when I'm reading an article or an informative text - I extract the sense of the words without actually hearing a 'voice', per se. However, if I am reading a fictional text, especially one which is dialogue driven, I sometimes have a male narrator (as opposed to my own female voice) and create different tones for the separate characters.

    I don't know if that's weird or not.

    There are occasions when I imagine my own voice reading the words, but they are few and far between.

    • Sylvia Holmes says:

      As I have read thru dozens of these comments, I wonder if those who question if what or how they think is "wierd" are generally younger people? More maturity seems to do less self judgementalism or find a need to classify the way the different brains work. I think good teachers would be less likely to classify something as wierd. Science is still in the dark ages of understanding how different brains react, both genetically as well as environmental developmentments during a lifetime of learning. I spent more years as a poor reader and I could not type without tons of errors, but being a compulsive "learner" who would not quit struggling to type. Now in my late 70's I read well and type like a whiz, am an aspiring writer and still a driven "learner". All 'voices' aside; persistance and gaining experience never ends as long as we breathe. Keep reading, keep writing, keep on's interesting!

      • Ann from OH says:

        You inspire me. Being only in my mid 60's there's hope. I type better than I did but not a whiz.

        unrelated - When I was caring for my brother who had Alzheimer's he couldn't ride in the car without reading signs out loud. I noticed some of this behavior with another relative affected by Alzheimer's .

  • Ann says:

    I seldom read with voices in my head. I do talk to myself, however. What I do have in my head is music - anything from kindergarten songs to full synphonic works (I was a music major way back and taught elem and jr hi vocal/general music for 33 years). I haven't heard of many who always have music going!

  • [...] Silent Read­ing Isn’t So Silent, At Least, Not To Your Brain — Scientopia [...]

  • [...] Perrone-Bertolotti och hennes kolleger  säger, att vi inte läser ”tyst”, utan hör en tydlig röst där inne i huvudet när vi läser för oss själva. Jag prövar på sidan [...]

  • keith says:

    Interesting reading, I suspect neuroplasticity has a lot to do with all of this. The brain/ mind is a beautiful thing and we have no idea yet what it is capable of.

  • Jan Moss says:

    There seems to be a lot of contradiction on the internet about whether you should read out loud to retain more or not - your findings seem to show that it doesn't make much difference as our brains think we ARE reading out loud!

    I loved the comment about the teachers can only correct a child's reading if they are reading out loud (of course) as it reminds me of two words I always read wrongly in my head and it wasn't until years later that I used the words in conversation (fortunately to my mother) and she didn't know what I was talking about and asked me to spell them - the words were 'misled' (which I pronounced with the first part to rhyme with Prize and the second part the same as in chiselled) and the second word eludes me for the moment but it was similarly funny 🙂

    Thanks for bringing this experiment to our attention 🙂

  • Dee says:

    Read where many dyslexics don't have the voice in their head when reading. I'm curious what sort of pictures one sees when reading things that aren't visual like legal documents. Also, I wonder if some people just aren't aware of the voice. No voice if I just look at one word because the meaning is obvious but when reading a sentence or more, it just happens naturally. No voice when looking at a completely foreign language because I don't know what it is. But of course, I can't comprehend what it is either.

  • Good blog post. I absolutely appreciate this website.


  • zara says:

    I've reading my head for so long but i haven't improve in my English skills. because i have accident on front of my head. my memory isn't good.

  • Paula says:

    This blog is really amazing it really help thank you so much

  • Alan Gross says:

    Yes, I hear a voice in my head while I'm reading silently, which of course, I do a lot. However, I also read out loud a lot to my wife. To read aloud with expression, I have to look ahead to see where the sentence is going. I do that look-ahead scanning silently, but with comprehension and *no* voice in my head.

  • Greg says:

    Interesting. My wife and I have had discussions about this. She reads and types much faster than I can but I can think faster than she can. When she reads, she only sees the words and compredends them but when I read I hear each word in my head. When she types, she types the word but I spell each word in my head as I type it out. I wonder if this is nature vs nurture. It would also be interesting to see if it could be taught one way or another. She suggested it's simply a self confidence type thing.

  • Greg says:

    Oh, and my mother-in-law thinks I’m hearing God. I told her I thought he would use less offensive language than what I’m hearing up there. 🙂

  • samone says:

    i have this problem !! but my teacher dont belive me what do i do because he thinks im stupid??? please help

    • Ann from OH says:

      Stupid should be classified as a swear word.

      You are not s..... if you are here trying to understand and resolve what you see as a problem. I too was considered s..... before learning differences were recognized. I learn differently and that's OK. It's awkward and sometimes painful but it is much more important that I am curious about and interested in the world. Don't set your self value by the opinion of your teachers. Learn as much as you can in any way that suits you. Perhaps there is a guidance counselor you could ask.

  • Vítor Neves says:

    Do forgive my bluntness but I simply had no guts to read all the blah! Therefore I do not know if any reference was made to the very first person who wrote about "silent" reading.

    Does anyone know if it was Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas? This is what I was looking for when I fell in this delightfull conversation.

    As for myself, and childish as it may seem, I believe that the ability not to forget how to speak foreign languages is enhanced, very enhanced,if one "hears" what one reads.

  • Vítor Neves says:

    By the way:

    Do be carefull about generalizing! I have been conducting my own very informal statistics via the question:

    "Do you hear yourself while you read? I do not mean do you need to read aloud, or move your lips or whatever..."

    The answers have been fifty-fiftyish yes or no, perhaps with a slight tendency to no...

  • Vítor Neves says:

    My apologies for the staccato...

    Still on my informal enquiry:

    the answers I was given have nothing to do with being male or female, being knowleadgeble or not about anything, being smart or not.

    And I will not mention intelligence because by default I am happy enough not to have dealt with dumb individuals! On the contrary, I had answers from some of the best posible minds around, be they artistic or scientific.

  • Cindy Hardin says:

    I am 60 now so a lot of what I went through I am sure is out of date. I was diagnosed as mentally retarded in the 5th grade. In the 6th it changed to mentally retarded but educable. I was not told I had a learning disability till I was in collage after 1971 and trying with limited success to get a degree in special ed. My reading and writing was painfully slow even with extra classes designed to help with speed and comprehension in my Jr Collage. Now to this article. I had to teach myself to think in words. I was not told to do it. I had heard in high school that we all think in words. (Remember this is in the late 60s) I already felt like I was different so I worked to fix it. I started by writing letters "out load" to myself in my head. At first I could only do a line or two before I lost that inside voice. I think best in feelings I guess you would call it. Instead of thinking "chair" or getting a picture of a chair the best I can describe it is I think of what a chair is, what it's used for, how it feels to use it. I sometimes wonder if it's how deaf and bind process things with no sounds or "pictures" to go to when thinking. Has anyone tested kids with Dyslexia on this? I would do it when they are young since like me they could change how they think with practice. I can't think in words or take in words as well when I am tired or in pain or alone for long stretches but most of the time if I pay attention I realize I am thinking in words. I was tested just two years ago for something else for basic intelligence. I scored very high on every thing that did not require my repeating things out loud in the order I heard them. I guess I have come a long way baby.

    • Vítor Neves says:

      Slang: Boy! How long...

      Better(?): Girl! (60 am I...)! You did travel indeed!

      I carry SCA3, and one of the main symptoms should be severe disartria (very bad speech articulation)

      I do believe mine is not that serious because I "speak" everything I write or read; of course having been a teacher for almost 36 years also counts, but degenerative genetic diseases are really merciless. This will be a subject of clarification with my neurologist.

  • i talk to myself all the time.. when I'm reading silently i think my voice in my head as a confirmation to a word. i also hear this word when i am writing compositions and/or essays for class work. that just kinda gives me a hint of what i am suppose to write instead of saying it out loud to publish my intelligence or ideas to others.

    • i talk to myself all the time. when I'm reading silently i think of the voice in my head as a confirmation to a word. i also hear this voice when i am writing essays etc for class work, that kinda gives me a hint of what i am suppose to write instead of saying my ideas out loud to others

  • Flabber Gasted says:

    Just a note to those of you who wondered about speed-reading - According to what I've read and experienced, (most) speed readers don't hear the voice in their heads. We take it all in as a looking at a picture. I was drilled in reading and writing at a very early age, so it came naturally and I did not hear the voice until I started public school. Additionally (for those of you who are interested in educating children) I DO NOT recommend children learning to read aloud in a group unless their faulty reading is only a small part of the training. Here's why (rant ahead):

    I had been home schooled until the 4th grade, and I remember one of my first classes being in reading and comprehension. When I was tested, they told me that reading quietly "didn't count", but because I was a speed reader, that made it impossible for me to read it out loud without sounding instead I opted for sounding like a storyteller. They dropped me into a corrective reading class because it was slow. This was the first bad sign...faulty testing. I went into it excited, but after about a year and a half, I noticed that it was getting harder and harder for me to read simple sentences without stuttering.

    My classmates were mispronouncing the same words over and over, and the teacher would only correct them once or twice, so what we heard in repetition was incorrect. Some kids even had trouble with the word "and". One girl couldn't read a sentence without inserting a ",..." in between. There were a few corrective drills, but every day we heard the same words being stumbled over. Each kid had problems with several words, so what we were hearing was quite a lot of gibberish. After a while, some different kids adopted those same mistakes, and so did I. I began to adopt their reading problems, and my mother (who taught me to read) noted that I was struggling with words that I never had problems with before. It's as if it reset what I had learned at home.

    To this day I still can't read quite like I used to, and only after purchasing a speed-reading program did I begin to realize just what I'd lost. I used to be able to take in about half a page of text in the same way that I take in a sentence now.
    The school I went to had their hearts in the right place, but they did it all wrong.
    The right way to learn is by hearing someone else read the words correctly every time, with a consistent rhythm. After hearing this repeatedly, I was taught to articulate each word properly in a sentence. If it begins to feel redundant, that's how you know you're doing it right. Then more CORRECTIVE repetition. Just flying through it over and over with the same mistakes doesn't work. The teacher seemed to be more concerned with finishing the book (even though it was a corrective reading class). Not only did I lose my speed, but I struggled with comprehension. I had a budding photographic memory, and that's pretty much gone. Being exposed to such a bad learning environment actually made me dumber.

    • Vítor Neves says:

      GOOD! (I think...)

      Let's be equanimous about all this:

      Some do, some don't hear themselves reading.

      Sound in so to say "inner speech" may be usefull, useless or even harmful.

      Whatever the statistics and studies the whole situation is not modified

      (and -- very, very far attempting to insult anyone in the present company --there always will be idiots around! Go read:

      Why should one generalize what is not generalizable? Besides I honestly do not think the very first post aimed at more than just to describe an interesting observation.

      Why the heck did one of Saint Thomas or Saint Augustine thought about this in the first place? Dyslexia, e. g. ,was far away from being identified in their times...

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  • Wendy says:

    Hello, I'm not sure if this is along the same lines, but we have a friend who is 62yrs old and for approximately 3 months past he's been having an issue with reading. He's an avid reader, going through books like chocolate, and states that he has been unable to even read a book for the past month due to the issue that started approx. 3 months ago. The issue is when he's reading silently, the words are translating to his brain haltingly in pairs like "The quick...brown fox....jumped over...the" and when he finishes a page, he can't remember what he's read. So, he started reading out loud to himself and that was fine, but he says it's slower and tedious reading out loud, so he hasn't been bothering. Have you ever heard of this phenomena? wendy

  • Hi there! This post couod noot be written any better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate!
    He alwayys kept chatting about this. I willl forward this article tto him.

    Fairly certain hhe ill have a good read. Thanks for

  • adeela says:

    'i rarely think in words atall ,a thought comes' EINESTINE

    Based on the Einestine words above , should we take this post to mean that when we find ourself speaking ‘out loud’ in our head while reading , are we stifling our intuitive and inner voice in the process along the way unconsciously ?? If so then it could be really alarming coz mostly plpz could mistake their voice in head for their ‘inner voice’ & that could possibly misled us…I find it alarming and I am really concerned

    do someone knows the answer to my query?

  • Hellfire0880 says:

    When I read, I imagine different voices for my characters. Is that weird?

  • […] Read the full piece at Silent reading isn’t so silent, at least, not to your brain | Neurotic Physiology […]

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  • Michelle Perks says:

    This has been an interesting read. I am studying literacy acquisition in children with little or no functional speech. They often have good receptive language skills but are physically unable to articulate well enough to speak or read aloud. They have to learn to read silently from the start. I wonder if they hear a sub-vocal voice reading to them? Many of them start communicating through use of pictures as they need to communicate long before they can read. Perhaps they become 'visual learners' and tend to see pictures rather than hear words when reading. I wonder if they may have more chance of becoming speed readers because they don't have that internal voice?

  • prasanna says:

    During my childhood, I used to read aloud and hardly understood anything. This helped me in academic activities due to my strong memory. but i started reading silently in my mid teen and my performance was comparatively poor but better in understanding . I understand what i read through eye but hard to make the most out of it. I cant find which is the best way to read. I finished my computer science engineering yet i feel that i would've done better knowing my potential. It's still hard for me to understand immediately if i read aloud. but i can understand things if i read silently. Silent reading is very hard to focus and maintain concentration for a lengthy stories or information. i am not sure if i am suffering any sort of dyslexia or something. but i suffered a lot and still trying to find my strength.

    loud reading helped me to store the large data with difficulties in understanding, silent reading helped me to understand but failed due to lack of concentration in large information processing . do i have any problem?

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