Psychology: Informed Consent and Experiment

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The aim of this experiment, modeled off Ridely Stroop’s “The Stroop Effect” was to examine the effect of incongruent ink colors on naming the color of the text out loud. This will be examined from a cognitive perspective working in conjunction with the speed of processing theory. It was predicted that the time taken to recall the color of the ink in the control condition will be significantly less than the time taken to recall the color of the ink in the experimental condition. The hypothesis was tested by asking participants to recall the color of the text in the control condition while being timed; this was repeated in the experimental condition. It was discovered that there was a significant difference between the time taken for recall in the control and experimental condition. This allowed me to reject my null hypothesis.


Automatic processing can be defined as implicit or intuitive thinking that is effortless and unconscious, while controlled processing is conscious, intentional and effortful thinking. The Stroop Effect, often studied under the cognitive perspective, tests how these processes work. When James McKeen Cattell(1886) conducted his research and concluded that objects and colors took longer to name aloud than the corresponding words, he was aware of the conflict between automatic and controlled processing. Although Cattell had already drawn this conclusion, J. Ridley Stroop(1935) is widely known for his research with color and words, in that he was the first to have participants identify the ink color of words. Stroop used six colors and conducted separate experiments. In experiment-one, Stroop timed seventy college participants read colors in a list. List-one was a color written in black ink and list-two was a color written in contradictory ink, i.e., purple written in red ink. In experiment-two, Stroop used 24-point solid squares and had 100 college students name the colors of two lists of squares, while timing them. In his last experiment, Stroop replicated experiment-two with thirty-two college students, but used swastikas instead of squares. Stroop’s research differs from Cattell’s because Stroop was concerned with developing an understanding of interference. In his article Studies of Interference, Stroop concluded that the mind automatically determines the semantic meaning of a word. In order to be consistent, one must override the first impression when flashed a word or object in a contradictory color.

In 1984, J.D. Dunbar and C.M. MacLeod replicated the Stroop test, but compared the times taken for participants to complete each experiment. Dunbar and MacLeod introduced the control (reading of the words in a neutral color), congruent (identifying the color), and conflict (saying the contradictory color ink of a word) condition. A variation of Dunbar and MacLeod’s Stroop test is seen with the task developed by Flowers, Warner, and Polansky(1979), when they used rows of numbers with the same number in each row and asked participants to say how many numbers were in each row. Dunbar and MacLeod, as well as Flowers, Warner, and Polansky noticed the gap in the time taken, as well as the errors made while testing the conflict condition.4 With these replications, it has been concluded that participants take more time identifying words in the conflict condition and make more errors involving the interference of the word itself.

Through the work of previous researchers, we see that the Stroop Effect outlines the difference between automatic and controlled processing, but the sample sizes can be criticized. When replicating this experiment, I will use a sample size that is representative of Cone Elementary and Page High School’s population, as well as take into account counterbalancing, in order to draw a conclusion on information processing. The conclusion that is drawn will be representative of the results and the aim of the experiment, which will measure the time taken...
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