The Stroop Effect

When given a list of colors to read out, with each written using the color it identifies, one is sure of naming all the colors correctly. However, if the colors used in writing the same names of colors are interchanged, and the reader asked to read out the colors used in writing the names, then they are prone to make errors. Even when they do not make the errors, the time used in identifying the colors used in writing such name colors becomes more. The experiment used in identifying this difference is known as a Stroop test and is proof of the existence of the Stroop effect. The phenomenon is named after John Ridley Stroop who first published about the condition in English in 1935. Obviously, the effect is much more pronounced in some people and silent in others. Several factors including the age and gender of the people affect the reaction time to a certain task.

Regarding the influence on the Stroop effect, several theories have been advanced to explain the reasons for this reaction. One theory proposes that the processing speed of the brain is to blame for the difference in recording the two sets of stimuli. Accordingly, the brain reads words faster than it recognizes color (Schmidt, pp 74) making it harder to read out the colors of the printed words. The assumption in this theory is that color processing is much more difficult than word processing. Therefore, when the instruction is to read out the color, information about the words written reaches the brain at the decision making stage thereby leading to confusion in processing and the resulting errors. Another theory puts the blame on the fact that there is a difference in the selection time for words and colors. In this the theory asserts that reading colors requires much more attention than words and therefore presenting the brain with confusion. The most common theory is however the automaticity theory which suggests that the recognition of colors is not an automatic process. This fact results in the respondent hesitating from naming the color they observe and thus resulting to confusion.

Gender is one of the factors affecting the prominence of the Stroop effect in people. However it is important to note from the start that these differences in gender have nothing to do with which gender is smarter than the other. Rather, it is a manifestation of the uniqueness of the two genders and their differences as regards to abilities. Studies have shown that females have better recognition to color than their male counterparts. In addition the females possess a longer attention span giving them an edge in the time used in recognizing colors. This means that females are less affected by the Stroop effect as compared to the male counterparts. It is not surprising, therefore that women rarely mess up on colors in between the test. Whereas men may get the first colors right, their probability of getting all the colors right is much less compared to women. Perhaps the reason for this difference is also associated with the ability of women to multitask while men cannot.

In relation to nature of the Stroop effect across the two genders, studies show that women are much more likely to participate in the Stroop test. There is, on the contrary lower participation levels among the male counterparts. Perhaps this is attributable to the confidence in women that they can do it and the lack of the same in men. In one study, men and women were given the Stroop test and the time used in saying all the colors correctly counted. In men, the average time was recorded to far higher than that recorded in women thus confirming the fact that females have a much higher attention span than men.

It is not only gender that has an effect on the incidence and outcome of the Stroop effect. Rather, age is also recorded as having a significant impact on the vulnerability of the respondents to the Stroop effect (West & Claude, pp 182). Surprisingly, children have been found to have a faster reaction time than relatively older people. In addition, the oldest people have the slowest reaction time as different studies have confirmed. It is therefore in order to assert that the reaction time reduces with an increase in age and that the Stroop effect increases with an increase in age. Perhaps the reason for these results is confirmed in past studies that have shown cognitive abilities are an important inhibition to the Stroop effect. Essentially, therefore, younger people who have generally higher cognitive abilities are more likely to inhibit the Stroop effect.

While there is controversy regarding the influence of gender and age on the Stroop effect, credible studies have confirmed their impact to be significant. Even studies that found either of the two to be insignificant alluded to the fact that their sample size was very low and suggested that an increase in the sample size would result in significant correlations. However, the Stroop effect is not merely a product of age and gender of the respondents abut is dependent on many more factors some of which may not be within human control. Assuming that older people will have slower reaction times for instance would be fallacious. The reaction time for each individual is unique and results from studies are only generalizations and averages based on studied results.


Works cited

Schmidt, James R. The Stroop Effect: Why Proportion Congruent Has Nothing to Do with Congruency and Everything to Do with Contingency. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada = Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, 2008. Print.

West, Robert, and Claude Alain. “Age-related decline in inhibitory control contributes to the increased Stroop effect observed in older adults.” Psychophysiology 37.02 (2000): 179-189.



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