Speed Reading: Got Learning?

Do you have an Inquiring Mind? We know the answer is yes - or you would be snoozing or playing video games. Are you aware that having an Inquiring Mind changes your brain’s structure and function? Experience and learning constantly rearrange your brain positively – it is called neuroplasticity.

Remember – use it or lose it? It applies to all muscles including your brain. Is it better to burn out from too much personal improvement, than rust out from Alzheimer?

Fact: neuroplasticity are the changes occurring in your brain as a direct result of new experiences and specific learning. Your 3-pound coconut rewires itself as you encounter new environments. Neurogenesis is the growth of new brain cells.

Who Cares

If you want to live a healthy life into your nineties, first don’t get hit by a Mack truck, and second, swear to become a lifelong learner. Scientific research at Harvard, Oxford, and Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Company, indicates educated lifelong learners increase their longevity up to ten years, and reduces their risk of Alz up to 60%.

Google: Yaacov Stern, Columbia University, Cognitive Reserve. Brain resiliency in the face of Alzheimers stops the manifestations (symptoms) from affecting your life activities.

Hand Gestures & Learning

Great public speakers like President Obama make dramatic use of their hands, not just choose emotionally powerful words to influence, convince, and persuade us. Unless it is pointed out, we don’t really notice how gestures add information to
our words.

The original form of human communication back when we separated from the other apes maybe 100 million years ago, was using our hands (and face) to make gestures. Think of the clarity of pointing, making the sign of the cross, and in India, Buddhist Mudras (hand gestures) are an intricate element of their religious interaction.

Nodding and Shaking

The use of your head to nod in affirmation, and shake side-to-side in negativity, causes a more powerful reaction than mere words alone. Get this: when you are learning and studying, and want to let your own brain to pay strict attention and concentrate – nod your head while reading to emphasize the parts you want to focus on for long term memory.

Sounds ridiculous, but many scientists believe the use of gesture and speech is part of a single thought process. Add this, you brain is part of your body, and your body
triggers your brain structures double (2x), when you supplement language with body language including posture, facial and hand gestures.

Your PFC Prefrontal Cortex, in your left-hemisphere, remembers and learns better and longer when you add specific electro-chemical body signals – gestures for redundancy and confirmation.

Nodding and shaking are hardwired methods of communicating human acceptance or rejection of feelings and ideas. Notice when you speak to one person or a crowd, when folks agree or hate you, many automatically signal by head gestures.

Who Says So

Susan Wagner Cook of the University of Rochester, published in the journal Cognition, July 2007, research indicating kids who used physical gestures at their math problems will remember what they learned three (3x) longer than those who do not. Gestures produce statistically significant improvement, huh?

She was presenting proof that actively using hand gestures when learning helps solidify the new information. It worked beyond her wildest expectations, and extends to reading.

Reading Too

Using a hand-tool to reinforce reading and learning is about 3 thousand years old. It is a pointer called a Yad (hand) in Hebrew, and used to avoid losing your place in reading from the Talmud. The fact is the pacer (pointer) is used to underline the words you read, to increases attention, concentration, comprehension, and long-term memory. IS that enough to check it out?

If you will take your pen now – and begin to read underlining the sentences (retract the ink point) you will double your learning speed within 30 minutes of practice.

Pointing gestures – artificially using a Pacer (pointer) or real – using your fingers, are hardwired to improve your learning behaviors. Do a Thought Experiment and see. Gesturing is evolutionary communication based your own experiences acting in your environment.

Speaking is later development of our left hemisphere for cooperation during group hunting when we were Hunter-Gatherers. Gesturing did not work when we could not see the other predator human. Sound carries over a mile with a good wind.

Call it trial-and-error, stimulus/response or learning by observation, you and I often learn new skills (in the garden, hobbies, and games) without speech. We just interact with our environment, right? You can gesture to indicate your contempt,
hostility, and stress using your fingers. How about showing your happy feelings, affection for another, and even complex ideas without using words?

Brain Questions

Your brain is operating 24/7, and takes no vacations. How else can you explain a new mother hearing the whimper of her baby while she is sound asleep?

Your brain is actively monitoring your senses, emotions, nervous and immune systems or you stop functioning.

When you are awake - your brain ceaselessly ask the following questions automatically:
a) What’s going on here? Am I paying enough attention?
b) Does this make sense? Should I believe this information?
c) Do I care? Is it relevant to my goals and objectives?
d) WIIFM? What’s in it for me?
e) Am I functioning on-purpose to get what I want?
f) Am I getting satisfaction from doing this?
g) Do the results I receive increase my self-confidence?

If you listen to your mind reciting answers to these questions (stream of consciousness) you will be rewarded with intuition (insight, epiphany).

copyright © 2008 H. Bernard Wechsler

Author's Bio: 

H. Bernard Wechsler is the author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's; business partner of Evelyn Wood creator of speed reading, graduating 2 million, including the White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents.