The Stroop Effect: Automatic and Controlled Processes and the Time Taken to Identify Colours and Words

Topics: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Stroop effect Pages: 7 (2055 words) Published: February 10, 2013
The Stroop Effect: Automatic and controlled processes and the time taken to identify colours and words

The aim of the experiment was test whether automatic processing could affect a colour related task. Previous research has found that the response time of reading the colour of the ink of colour associated words was greater than reading the colour of the ink of neutral words. The experiment retested the Stroop effect to measure the incursion of automatic processing. The results showed that the time to read the ink colour of colour associated words was greater than that of the neutral words and proposed that involuntary interference of automatic process could affect people’s attention during controlled tasks.

Attention is one of the most important cognitive processes that psychologists have researched. It is the mental motion that allows our perceptive processes to review selected areas of our surroundings. One specific type of attention is selective attention, which is when people are instructed to respond selectively to certain kinds of information while ignoring other information. Divided attention refers to the ability to divide ones attention between two or more tasks. If one of these tasks becomes an automatic process it becomes easier to ones attention between these two tasks.

However, sometimes rather than being helpful, interference can occur between the controlled process and the automatic process. Psychologists have frequently found that the powerfully autonomic nature of reading words, as it is such a well-learned automatic activity can interfere with other tasks.

Kanheman (as cited in Edgar, 2007) devised a model of divided attention, which was based around the idea of mental effort. He proposed that some tasks might be relatively autonomic and make fewer demands in terms of mental effort, such as a reading task. Several activities can be carried out at the same time, provided that their total effort does not exceed the available capacity.

Shiffrin and Schneider (as cited in Edgar, 2007) conducted a series of investigations into automatic processes and compared it to controlled processes. They found that the time taken for them to carry out this task significantly increased. This is because the already learned, automatic process was very difficult to change, which shows how automatic processes are fixed and rigid and after practise can become automatic.

Stroop (as cited in Edgar, 2007) carried out an investigation into autonomic processing, by inventing the Stroop effect. In this, he instructed participants to read a list of colour words written in black ink which was quite simple task for the participants to carry out. Following this, participants were asked to read a list of colour words written in conflicting coloured inks, (e.g., the word “red” written in blue colour ink) and to read out the colour ink the words were written in. Although this task seemed very simple at first and is only matter of simple colour recognition, Stroop found that it took the participants noticeably longer to finish this task than the earlier one.

According to the speed of process theory the Stroop effect was viewed as an interference which took place because the words were read faster than colour naming. This theory states that words are easily read than the colours and for this reason the effect occurs. The selective attention theory on other hand states that the Stroop effect occurs because colour naming requires more attention than when a person is reading the word, therefore because of the ease to read words the effect occurs.

The purpose of this research is to carry out an investigation on the Stroop effect by conducting an experiment to measure how long it takes for participants to read out the colours of words on two lists, colour associated words and neutral words to produce evidence to support or challenge the directional hypothesis which states that people find it...
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