Articles on PhotoReading

Research Findings on Nonconscious Acquisition of Information

by Paul Scheele, MA, editor


A considerable amount of evidence indicates that nonconscious information-acquisition processes, are much faster and structurally more sophisticated than consciously controlled thinking. Also referred to as the characteristics of "preconscious processing," these processes allow for the development of procedural knowledge that is "unknown" to conscious awareness.

Research shows that this knowledge can enter the memory system through channels that are independent from consciousness and involve a more advanced and structurally more complex organization than could be handled by consciously controlled thinking. The mechanisms of nonconscious acquisition of information, also referred to as the "preconscious processor," can provide efficient processing of multidimensional and interactive relations between variables. It also provides a major channel for the development of procedural knowledge that is indispensable for many important aspects of cognitive functioning. The preconscious processor seems to be directly involved in high-level cognitive operations such as encoding, the interpretation of stimuli, drawing inferences, and the triggering of emotional reactions—all of which are essential to the act of reading.


A considerable amount of evidence indicates that the human cognitive system is capable of nonconsciously detecting and processing information about co-variations between features or events in the outside world. Results from a variety of tests provide evidence that subjects in the experiments have no access to the newly acquired procedural knowledge and no idea that they have learned anything from the stimulus material, even though the newly acquired knowledge consistently guides their behavior.

The mechanism of preconscious processing (the preconscious processor) is equipped to efficiently process complex information and appears to be incomparably more able to process complex knowledge faster and "smarter" overall than our ability to think and identify meanings of stimuli consciously. Most of the "real work," both in the acquisition of cognitive procedures and skills and in the execution of cognitive operations, is being done at the level to which our consciousness has no access.

The sophistication and speed of this inner processing far exceed what can even be approached by our consciously controlled thinking. The "responsibility" of this inaccessible level of our mental functioning is more than routine operations such as retrieving information from memory and adjusting the level of arousal. It is directly involved in the development of interpretive categories, drawing inferences, determining emotional reactions, and other high-level cognitive operations.

Editor's note: The above is paraphrased from an original work titled, "Nonconscious Acquisition of Information" by Pawel Lewicki, Thomas Hill, Maria Czyzewska, University of Tulsa, American Psychologist, June 1992,Vol. 47, No. 6, 796-801. Liberties were taken to connect the concepts presented in the article to other works by Norman F. Dixon (Preconscious Processing, 1981) and by Charles A. Perfetti (Reading Ability, 1985). This has been done to show supportive evidence for the foundational principles of the PhotoReading whole mind system.

PhotoReading and New Pathways to the Inner Mind

by Paul Scheele, MA

Discovering New Pathways

Graduates of the PhotoReading course report improvements in information processing including increased reading speed, comprehension, and recall or use of information. Most interestingly, participants with closed head injuries, brain-lesion survivors of traumatic head injuries and strokes, extreme low-vision persons, and diagnosed dyslexics have also reported benefits after graduating successfully from the course.

PhotoReading presupposes the existence of direct visual pathways to the brain that are non-conscious. However, in 1985, when PhotoReading was first developed, little research was available that could explain how the brain produces the results experienced by PhotoReading graduates.

One remarkable case is that of Dr. Isaac Katzeff, a former professor of neurology at the University of South Africa in Johannesburg. Dr.Katzeff was trained in PhotoReading and several years later suffered a stroke in the primary visual cortex (V1, associated with conscious visual perception). He lost one-quarter of his visual field and his capacity to comprehend written information. Several months after Katzeff's stroke, he began experimenting with PhotoReading. He found that any information he would PhotoRead, he could then read with comprehension. Because he had a confirmed V1 lesion, he hypothesized that perhaps there is an alternative visual pathway that allows visual processing and comprehension through a route that is nonconscious.

Within a year, breakthrough research addressed Dr.Katzeff's hypothesis. In the neuroscience journal Brain, J.L. Barbur et al. wrote an article entitled "Conscious Visual Perception Without V1." Their conclusion confirmed Dr. Katzeff's experience and hypothesis. In it they stated, "The results showed that area V5 (specialized for visual motion) was active without a parallel activation of area V1, implying that the visual input can reach V5 without passing first through V1 and that such an input is sufficient for both the discrimination and the conscious awareness of the visual stimulus" (Barbur et al. 1293).

Can Learning Occur Without Consciousness?

In addition to the visual processing studies of Barbur et al., other researchers have demonstrated nonconscious acquisition of information is possible (Dixon; Lewicki et al.). The task of the PhotoReading whole mind system has been to instruct people in an easy-to-use protocol for gaining utility of this innate capacity of the brain.

The question remains, what accounts for the behavioral demonstration of learning even though the PhotoReader does not consciously report what information had been acquired? Studies have revealed two fundamentally different ways of learning. We learn what the world is about—acquiring knowledge of people, places, and things that are available to consciousness—using a form of memory that is commonly called explicit. Or we learn how to do things—acquiring motor or perceptual skills that are unavailable to consciousness—using implicit memory" (Kandel et al. 656).

From anecdotal reports of PhotoReading graduates, the results of PhotoReading appear coherent in light of studies on implicit memory. "Implicit memory has an automatic or reflexive quality, and its formation and recall are not absolutely dependent on awareness or cognitive processes. This type of expressed primarily by improved performance and cannot ordinarily be expressed in words" (Kandel et al. 658). The unique neurological system through which implicit memory operates may be the same system through which PhotoReading works. The neurological maps used during implicit learning with amnesia patients are well charted using PET (Positron-Emission Tomography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). A brain scan during PhotoReading sessions might obtain clinical evidence of the PhotoReading process and confirm its connection with implicit memory. "Amnesics are able to perform certain tasks involving implicit memory, despite a lack of conscious knowledge of the information used in performing those tasks, and without being able to recall when and where they learned the relevant information or skill" (Farthing 136). PhotoReading seems to have a profound impact on a form of learning called priming, commonly associated with implicit memory.

Priming is the recognition of words or objects facilitated by prior exposure to words or visual clues. Subjects in priming experiments can recall the cued item better than other items for which no cues had been provided. Similarly, when shown the first few letters of a previously studied word, amnesic subjects often correctly select the previously presented word, even though they cannot remember seeing the word before. Priming has effects independent from explicit memory. Tulving and Schacter suggest that perceptual priming indicates a newly discovered type of memory, the perceptual representation system (PRS).

"The PRS involves specialized brain modules, probably in the anterior occipital lobes (forward of the striate area) for visual stimuli. The PRS is normally connected with episodic-semantic memory systems, but it can become disconnected from them and continue to function on its own, as in amnesia. The PRS can operate nonconsciously. Thus, the PRS can produce perceptual priming effects, without subjects being aware that they were previously exposed to the stimuli in the experimental context" (Farthing 136).


The practice of PhotoReading is one of mentally photographing the written page at rates that exceed a page per second. It is an unorthodox approach to processing written information and may involve new visual and neural pathways into the brain. When PhotoReading is used in conjunction with the other steps of the PhotoReading whole mind system, the reader has new options for getting through any form of written materials in the time available at a needed level of comprehension. The evidence of direct visual access to regions of the brain that are nonconscious supports the premise of PhotoReading. In addition, the existence of the perceptual representation system and its nonconscious operation suggest explanation for many of the anecdotal reports of PhotoReading graduates.

Finally, a well researched form of learning through implicit memory implies that direct learning of skills could occur without involvement of the conscious mind. The most significant result of PhotoReading may not be limited just to improved reading skills. Perhaps this system unlocks the learning capabilities of the nonconscious mind.


Barbur, J.L., et al. "Conscious Visual Perception Without V1." Brain, 1993, Vol. 116; 1293-1302.

Dixon, N.F. Preconscious Processing. NY: Wiley, 1981.

Farthing, G.W. The Psychology of Consciousness. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Lewicki, P., et al. "Nonconscious Acquisition of Information." American Psychologist, June 1992, Vol. 47, No. 6; 796-801.

Tulving, E. and D.L. Schacter. "Priming and Human Memory System." Quoted by G.W. Farthing in The Psychology of Consciousness. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.

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