How to apply the acid test to your reading skill

Jayne Dalmer | November 30, 2016

When McArthur Wheeler robbed a bank in Pittsburgh in 1995 with his face covered in lemon juice, he didn’t know he would unveil a psychological phenomenon.

He didn’t know the lemon juice wouldn’t disguise his face from the bank’s security cameras. He was astonished the invisible ink hadn’t worked when he was arrested later that afternoon.

He didn’t know what he didn’t know.

Unskilled and unaware

Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger were intrigued. They wondered whether people who lack the skills or abilities for something are also more likely to be ignorant of their shortcomings. Were they blind to their own failings?

In a 1999 study at Cornell University, Dunning and Kruger found a pattern in people with the lowest level of skills and abilities overestimating their competence. They demonstrated this effect (the Dunning Kruger effect) across a range of skills — including reading comprehension, practising medicine, operating a motor vehicle, playing chess, and playing tennis.

Image, close up of lemons.

Don’t be a lemon — sweeten your reading speed. Image by Abhijit Tembhekar / CC BY

As competence climbs, awareness is more accurate

The good news is Dunning and Kruger also demonstrated that skills could be improved, and along with that came a more accurate awareness of ability.

The more competent people are, the more accurate they are at gauging their abilities.

Read rapidly to raise competence and comprehension

Reading at an advanced level requires greater skills and techniques than most of us were taught at school. Our success in life often depends on how fast we deal with information. Many of us could do much better. Do we even know what our reading speed is?

Imagine if you could cut your reading time in half or cut your pile of reading in half.  If you’re able to analyse a bigger slice of writing at once, your thinking about the topic is more sophisticated — and more advanced processing means you’re more likely to remember what you’ve read.

Advance your reading skills with specialised training

Is it time to boost your reading skills? When was the last time you had a reading lesson? Learn advanced techniques with Write’s intensely practical Advanced Reading training. Leave with a permanent new reading style (and a more accurate assessment of your ability).

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
This lemon juice will do the trick.
McArthur Wheeler

Register for Write’s next Advanced Reading course

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.