I have a way above average reading speed at around 700 wpm. This is not recommended for comprehension of the book but I can read that fast normally and understand the book just fine. Not many people I know get even close to that and only the other people with aphantasia I know get close to that speed. I was wondering if any of the other people here experience the same thing or if that's just some weird thing I do.
I think if we were to do a survey of reading speeds for people with aphantasia, we would find a broad distribution from slow to fast. There’s no basis for that belief, but that tends to be the result for most characteristics measured in aphants. The potentially interesting question would be if the distribution was skewed from the general population or not. I have aphantasia (both visual and auditory) and I tend to read quickly, not that I’ve bothered to measure my reading speed. I’m sure my reading speed varies with the type of reading material and my purpose for reading it anyway.
That said, I can think of two potential reasons why aphants might tend to read more quickly:
(1) We don’t visualize, and a lot of aphants report that they skim or skip over long descriptions. I don’t form pictures in my mind of anyone I read about or any landscape. Most checks on comprehension probe ideas and relationships more than the details of those types of description, so I’ve always been evaluated as having good reading comprehension.
(2) People who do not “hear” sounds in their mind’s ear probably do not sub-vocalize either. I know that I don’t hear the words when I read, unless I am reading out loud to someone else.
Speed-reading systems tend to focus on using skimming and scanning to get the gist of written material. Another tip is to get people to stop sub-vocalizing, even when reading every word, since that slows reading. Perhaps aphants are more inclined in that direction to start with?
I read very slowly. I just can’t stand to miss a single word, and want to be sure I didn’t misunderstand anything! My Philosophy teacher who was also an Aphant (though there was no name for it back then), made a big point of it: “There is no such thing as speed reading.” If you didn’t take time to fully think it through, you hadn’t really read it in his view! I was glad to hear that since, I could not bring myself to read fast in the classes I took for it!
There are probably multiple factors involved, as Alice and Frank note below. My own experience is a lot like Frank’s. I read slowly, with a fair amount of rereading as I go, and I’m quite conscious of the fact that this is because (1) my mind often fails to automatically retrieve images (or image-like conceptual patterns) that reflect the words and (2) I don’t want to miss anything. My inclusion of “image-like conceptual patterns” along with actual visualized images makes me think that there may be another piece of “aphantasia” that doesn’t relate to any of the senses.
At one time, I decided to improve my reading speed with the help of a tutorial; but gradually I realized that what is given by nature is practically impossible to improve in adulthood – it’s like liquidating aphantasia or developing a photographic memory that was not there from birth. Just this type of memory significantly increases the speed of reading. In addition, I am a pianist, and reading music became the basis of my musical education. So, the acquired habits of reading music are no different from reading text.