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Is color naming a controlled process or an automatic process?Experiment

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Research Question: Is color naming a controlled process or an automatic process?

        When a participant is presented with the names of different colors, corresponding with the ink of the color, it is easy for the participant to read the words or name the color of the print.  In such tasks called Stroop tasks, the participant can be shown the name of the color, filled with ink that conflicts the name of the color.  For example, the word Blue is filled with red ink.  The stroop effect tests whether this process of reading words and naming colors interfere with each other.  This can be tested by timing the participants, how long it takes them to read the words or naming the colors.  The basic stroop effect found that when such conflict of color and words is presented, the background color of the word is usually ignored.  In other words, participants tend to read the words instead of seeing the colors.  

        This elicits two types of cognitive processes: controlled and automatic.  Controlled processes are voluntary, require attention from the individual, and tend to be slower than automatic processes.  Automatic processes are involuntary.  This gave rise to an interesting argument developed by the Stroop effect.  If process A interferes with process B, but process B does not interfere with process A, then process A is automatic and process B is controlled.

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Stop watchRecord sheet


  1. Read scripted instructions to participants (Appendix i)
  2. Have one experimenter hold up the word list in front of the participant and another experimenter start recording time spent by the participant reading the words off the list (see Appendix ii)
  3. Stop recording the time as soon as participants finishes reading all the words on the list
  4. Hold up the second sheet (patches of colors) in front of the participant and record the time spent by the participant naming the squares of colour.
  5. Hold up the third sheet (the sheet with color names that are different from the ink they are filled with)
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        The result of this experiment is similar to that of the above experiments. The third list, containing both words and colors, make it longer to read.

        The strength of this experiment is that the results can be recorded easily. Quantitative data can be recorded down and is thus more objective than qualitative observations. All of the subjects are presented with the same information and participant variation can be eliminated. The same instructions are also read to the participants.

        The limitation of this experiment is that sometimes the paper was held in different positions and some of the subjects could not see clearly. Another limitation is that some of the participants mistook the way to read the words. Some participants read the words from top to bottom instead of left to right. Another problem is that time stopper is used manually and thus there are inaccuracies if the button to start and end the timer is not pressed on time. Last but not least, is the problem of the color patches. Some of the colors were close and thus harder to define. Many subjects mixed up the color purple and blue.

        If this experiment was to be conducted again, the color patches selected should be in contrast and not similar. The instructions presented should also be clearer so subjects do not get confused of which way to read the words or colors. Time stopper should also be pressed in correspondence to when the lists were flipped.

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