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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Maths
  • Word count: 3346


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THE STROOP EFFECT: FURTHER TESTS OF THE ATTENTION-CAPTURE HYPOTHESIS ABSTRACT Building on the work of Kahneman and Chajcek (1983) and MacLeod and Hodder (1998), this study examined the role of attention in the Stroop effect. A computer-controlled colour-word stimulus presentation and key-press response technique were used to study colour naming response times for dissimilar incongruent word pairs relative to identical incongruent word pairs, and response times for congruent-incongruent word pairs relative to congruent-congruent pairs and incongruent-incongruent pairs. The effect of word position was also investigated. It was found that a stimulus of two different incongruent words produced no more interference than a stimulus of two identical incongruent words and that congruent-incongruent word pairs produced more interference than congruent-congruent pairs but less than incongruent-incongruent pairs. The position of words in the pair had no significant effect. These results contradict the response competition hypothesis and provide further support for the attention-capture hypothesis of Kahneman and Chajcek (1983). However, the factors involved in allocation of attention remain unclear, and it is suggested that these be more thoroughly investigated. INTRODUCTION Presented with a stimulus varying on the two dimensions of word and colour, people seem incapable of ignoring the word dimension even when it is irrelevant to the task of naming the colour. This was first demonstrated by Stroop (1935): he gave subjects a list of words printed in different colour inks, and found that while incongruent colours did not interfere with word reading, incongruent words interfered significantly with naming colours, as indicated by longer response times for colour naming. ...read more.


The dependent variable in all conditions was the time taken to name the ink colour, measured in milliseconds. Subjects Subjects were 76 first year psychology students at Oxford Brookes University. No controls for visual acuity or colour blindness were applied. Data from one subject were excluded on the basis of an error rate of 25%. Data from 75 subjects remained for analysis. Materials Stimulus presentation and response were controlled by a computer system. The background of the computer screen was black; all instructions and fixation stimuli were presented in white. Stimulus materials consisted of four colour words - red, blue, yellow and green - presented in pairs, one above the other in the centre of the screen. Words were printed in these same four colours. Responses were made using a key-press technique. Red, blue, green and yellow stickers were placed over the numbers 8, 4, 6 and 2 on the computer's numeric key-pad. Procedure Subjects were tested over four days in groups of 18 - 20. The following display sequence was adopted for each trial: * a 'next trial' warning for 1 second * a blank screen for 250 ms. * a fixation stimulus (XXXXXX) for 250 ms. * a blank screen for 250 ms. * the word pair stimulus (displayed until response). Each subject experienced eight practice trials and sixty experimental trials: there were twelve trials for each of the five experimental conditions, presented in random order. ...read more.


and upheld by MacLeod and Hodder (1998). It seems that only one word of the pair is attended to and processed, and thus that, contrary to the assumptions of the automaticity and response competition accounts, reading on the Stroop task is not entirely involuntary and free of attentional demands: an initial stage of object discrimination appears to be involved. What factors might be involved in this object discrimination remain unclear, however. Whether the top word or bottom word was incongruent had no significant effect on response times, suggesting that word position is not a crucial factor in the allocation of attention. (It might, for example, have been supposed that the fact that we read from top to bottom could have some effect). This question is deserving of a more sustained examination. It has been briefly considered by Yee and Hunt (1991), who concluded that word length and the spatial allocation of attention were not important factors. A starting point for further investigation of such factors might be to repeat the present experiment but to analyse data on a within-individual level rather than averaging it across individuals. It is possible that, as Yee and Hunt claim, a study of individual differences may provide valuable information about the attentional mechanisms involved in the Stroop effect. In conclusion, the results of the present study provide further evidence against a response competition account of the Stroop effect, which argues that all words are involuntarily and automatically processed, and support for the theory that only one value on each dimension captures attention. However, the study offers no more information as to what influences attention capture, a question which merits further examination. ...read more.

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