Skimming is Winning

Skim reading could be what leads to the next epidemic for written works. This can be explained as the phenomenon in which readers pick out only what appear to be the most important and valuable pieces of information from a text. In “Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound.” Maryanne Wolf delineates the negative effects of skim reading on our intellectual processes such as; critical analysis, deep reading, and research surfacing as individuals move into digital based modes of reading.

Wolf introduces the term “cognitive impatience” to explain how we are unable to take the time to concentrate because skimming has taken over most of our reading. This affects our ability to comprehend important information.” The argument states that humans are losing the ability to use their intellectual comprehension skills when it comes to reading. Skim reading is affecting the process to obtain information without analyzing the facts. This leaves the reader with “false information and demagoguery.”

False information is obtained through skim reading as the “act” itself causes one to attain general information and words which can lead to misinterpretation. In addition, it adds a prejudice point of view as the reader fails to dive into facts which stand to be the main focus of the information being presented, and this can be explained as demagoguery. As a solution, she comes up with the idea of a “bi-literate” brain that will be capable to form the deepest of thoughts on either traditional or digital forms.

It will benefit everyone as it will create a sustainable society by giving us the ability to seek more knowledge than we already have. Essentially, Wolf’s essay is a warning of the dangers that skim reading has. It is leading individuals to misinterpret knowledge causing them to have false information.

In her opening paragraphs, Wolf states (“The neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing – a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.”) The term “Cognitive impatience” is introduced and explained how individuals around the world are slowly becoming impatient when it comes to reading denser, more difficult texts. It is stated that what underlies “cognitive impatience” should be critically analyzed far more than the problem itself. Specific real-life examples are presented in relation to cognitive impatience, such as wills, contracts, and voting.

For instance, contracts are essential when getting a job, purchasing a house, etc. If individuals fail to read the information correctly regarding the agreements or rules, it can cause them to miss out on specific information one may need to know to avoid unnecessary conflict. The author stresses the importance of deep reading by presenting real-life factors that rely on our growth as a society. The use of these examples in the article is a way of appealing to the reader’s emotions, having them become more aware of the impacts skim reading can have even in situations we would not think of, such as the ones that were stated previously as well as digital skim reading.

Technology has affected the ways in which we obtain information. As it becomes more advanced we are beginning to rely on technology to gain access to the information that we may require. However, various studies have proved that digital screen use may be causing troubling effects on reading comprehension in high school and college students. Ziming Liu from San Jose University conducted a study where he indicated that Skim reading is becoming the new “norm.” Many students began to glance at specific words and sentences for the rest of the text. When the brain skims likes this, it does not allow us to “to grasp complexity, understand others feelings, perceive beauty and for readers to have thoughts of their own.”

By this, the author is trying to inform us that reading is comprised of more than just understanding the moral of a story. It is about being able to connect with the author and the emotions being presented, look at situations from a different perspective, as well as create thoughts of our own as we read in depth. Since technology has become a widely used tool in classrooms, this is seen as an opportunity to explain how it is affecting the information that we acquire.

Negative effects of reading in digital modes can appear as early as the fourth or fifth grade. The author grasps the attention of the readers by informing them how early the effects of screen reading can affect the mental health of students. By this, she raises awareness to those who provide technology to their children or students constantly. For instance, parents giving their children technology to keep them occupied from a young age can cause them to rely on technology, hindering the development of basic reading skills leading to the underdevelopment of the child’s brain.

Scientific terms, such as circuit, neuroscience, and brain were present to stress and further explain the issue of skim reading. The author uses various studies conducted by psychologists as evidence to further support her argument. Anne Mangen, a psychologist from Stavanger, Norway came to a conclusion indicating (“That student’s who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers.”) The reading circuit is a part in our brain that both psychology and science are parallel to.

When our brain cannot comprehend information, or critically analyze along with various basic reading skills, it affects our brain which in turn affects psychological behaviours. The author references other neuroscientists which show the timeline the issue began, to stress the point that this is an issue across all age groups. Reading is a lot more than just being able to comprehend the text, It is being able to critically analyze and empathize, which is a crucial factor. It involves being able to understand the perspective of the author and the emotion they are trying to portray. Wolf also introduces a type of “bi-literate brain”, a brain capable of forming the deepest thoughts in traditional or digital mediums.

The author does not only stress the importance of deep reading, perspective taking, analyzing, comparing etc. just for a simple book or text, but also indirectly tells us to have the same view towards our society and the way we live. The Bi-literate brain will help view life and certain situations in other perspectives, look at things and be appreciative of the beauty around us and also be able to create beauty with our imagination and ideas. Being able to go beyond our current knowledge and dig deeper to reach the knowledge, is necessary to sustain a good society. Wolf Indirectly states that using those same reading skills can also be used in real life to create a better future not only for literature but also our society.

As the future moves society into a more digitized world, members are becoming unable to comprehend information accurately. “Cognitive impatience” the inability to take time and read, is leading readers to be unable to properly comprehend the information accurately because skimming has become a norm. This causes a prejudiced outlook due to readers being misinformed. It is no doubt that Wolf’s article is a warning towards individuals in every age group to stress the point, how we are slowly diminishing in utilizing our basic reading skills such as critical thinking, analyzing, and deep reading. As Wolf presents real-life factors that are essential to our growth, we as members of society also have a duty to go beyond the knowledge that we already acquire and sustain a good society.

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