Sometimes when reading, text segments are not so important or relevant, when that happens I tend to read between lines in a visual manner, without sub-vocalizing or pronouncing the words in my mind.

Could that way of reading affect text comprehension?

  • $\begingroup$ You mean just skimming through the words? I don't think you're going to retain a lot of information. :P By the way, also going too slow is not helpful at all. $\endgroup$
    – Alenanno
    Dec 6, 2012 at 10:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think most people normally simulate talking when they're reading (and I don't mean mouth movements, but rather pronouncing the words in your mind): I read much faster than I talk. It does change certain aspects of how you experience the text, yes. $\endgroup$
    – Cerberus
    Dec 6, 2012 at 13:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think some people read exactly the way Cerberus describes. And I think some people read quite differently. It can't be stated too often that, unlike language, which is a naturally evolved characteristic of H. sapiens, literacy is modern technology and humans do not have any common evolved talents, organs, brain structures, or other adaptations for reading or writing. Which is to say, everybody learns how to read and write differently, using whatever skills and structures they can manage to adapt to it. Success in literacy, as often noted, is pretty variable and often spotty. $\endgroup$
    – jlawler
    Dec 6, 2012 at 16:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Cerberus: What dainichi said. I'm not aware that I simulate talking while reading, but I do "hear" what I read. Always. My brother, who is capable of "speed-reading" (I'm not) says that he takes in entire blocks of consecutive words which somehow convey meaning to him. We both think there can't really be any internalised speaking/hearing involved in that - him because he's not aware of it, me because I don't see how you can "speak/hear" that fast in the first place (he reads up to 15-20 times faster than me if he's showing off! :) $\endgroup$
    – FumbleFingers
    Dec 11, 2012 at 2:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ see this related question: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/1691/… $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2012 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


Yes, inhibiting sub-vocalization is likely to impair comprehension.

Here is the abstract from Slowiaczek & Clifton (1980):

Two experiments demonstrated that subvocalization is of value in reading for certain types of meaning. Blocking subvocalization by requiring subjects to count or say “cola-colacola …” aloud impaired their reading comprehension but generally not their listening comprehension. The effect of blocking subvocalization was found to be specific to tests that required integration of concepts within or across sentences, as contrasted with tests that required only memory of individual word concepts. Two hypotheses were offered: first, that subvocalization results in a more durable memory representation needed for integration of concepts; and second, that subvocalization enables a prosodic restructuring that makes information needed for sentence comprehension accessible.


Slowiaczek, M. L., & Clifton Jr, C. (1980). Subvocalization and reading for meaning. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19(5), 573-582.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.