Samuel Renshaw

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Samuel Renshaw (1892–1981)[1] 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.[2][3] 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 as fast as 1,200 to 1,400 words per minute.

He was involved in the establishment of the Midwestern Psychological Association and served as the organizations Secretary-Treasurer in 1929.[4] For his contributions to the war effort he was given the Distinguished Public Service Award in 1955 by the United States Navy.[1] He wrote 23 volumes of a journal Visual Psychology.[citation needed]

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. He cited a Saturday Evening Post article on Renshaw's studies for responses to fan mail about the subject. [5][6]

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" was considered to have "saved untold lives during World War II." [7]


Renshaw, S. (1945), "The visual perception and reproduction of forms by tachistoscopic methods", Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 20: 217–232


  1. ^ a b Larsen Jr., J.M. (1983), "Samuel Renshaw (1892-1981) Obituary", American Psychologist, 38: 226, doi:10.1037/0003-066X.38.2.226
  2. ^ Edward C. Godnig (2003), "The Tachistoscope: Its History and Uses" (PDF), Journal of Behavioral Optometry, 14 (2): 39, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-07
  3. ^ Vicory, Arthur C. (1968), A Brief History of Aircraft Identification Training (PDF), The George Washington University Human Resources Research Office, retrieved April 19, 2019
  4. ^ MPA History: List of Past MPA Presidents, Midwestern Psychological Association, retrieved April 18, 2019
  5. ^ Kevin Kelly. "Heinlein's Fan Mail Solution". Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  6. ^ Wittels, David G. (April 17, 1948). "You're Not As Smart As You Could Be". Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  7. ^ "Spotting the enemy", Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association March, 41 (3): 24, 2010, retrieved April 18, 2019

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