Samuel Renshaw

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Samuel Renshaw (1892–1981) was an American psychologist whose work became famous for a short period of time during World War II when he taught sailors to identify enemy aircraft in a split second, using tachistoscopic training.[1] He generally worked with fast-reading and enhancing the latent ability of the mind. He believed that most people used only one-fifth of their available mind-power to process information. By using methods of flashing pages he produced students who could read upwards of 1,200 to 1,400 words per minute.

Robert A. Heinlein depicted the technique in several of his works, including Citizen of the Galaxy (1957) and Gulf (1949); and mentioned Renshaw in the context of the training of Fair Witnesses in Stranger in a Strange Land. His FAQ cited an article on Renshaw's studies in the Saturday Evening Post for April 17, 24, and May 1, 1948, “You’re Not As Smart As You Could Be.”[2][3]

This technique and equipment appeared at the Ravenswood School District (near Stanford University) for a short time in the 1960s. Several young students were used in the experiment. Film strip readers and page-at-a-glance equipment were used.

"The Renshaw Training System for Aircraft and Ship Recognition," designed by psychologist Samuel Renshaw, was considered to have "saved untold lives during World War II." This quote is from the American Psychological Association March 2010, Vol 41, No. 3 Print version: page 24.


  1. ^ Edward C. Godnig, "The Tachistoscope: Its History and Uses", Journal of Behavioral Optometry 14:2:39 (2003) full text
  2. ^ “Heinlein’s Fan Mail Solution” by Kevin Kelly
  3. ^ “You’re Not As Smart As You Could Be.”

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