The Stroop Effect: Uncovering the Cognitive and Neural Anatomy of Attention

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Have you ever tried to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time? Has the task proved to be frustrating and hard to do? Well, this is in fact kind of like the Stroop effect. This effect was discovered by John Ridley Stroop in 1935. When a person tries to name the color of the word rather than the actual word it is confusing and can be something you struggle to do. According to the source, A Rational Look at the Emotional Stroop Phenomenon: A Generic Slowdown, Not a Stroop Effect American Psycologial Association , 2004, there is congruent (an example would be the word red in the color red) and incongruent (an example would be the word red in green print). When a person is asked to state the color of an incongruent set of words the task becomes mind-conflicting. This task has a slow response when someone attempts to do it. According to “Interdimensional interference in the Stroop effect: uncovering the cognitive and neural anatomy of attention.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Elsevier Current Trends, 5 Oct. 2000, you will get a quicker response to a the word red in red print opposed to the word green in red print. To most people this task is easier said than done because once they attempt to do it, it turns out that it is difficult and confusing.

Many people may also think that their mind is playing tricks on them and they may also think the task is impossible. According to Neuroscience For Kids,, there is an interference taking place, what the words say and what color they are causes a complication in your brain. Two theories explaining the Stroop effect are, the speed of processing theory which is when the interference occurs because the actual word is read faster than colors are named. The second theory is the selective attention theory, where the interference takes place because naming the color of a word requires more attention rather than just reading the word. According to the same article, Neuroscience For Kids,, this task may be easier for small children who know their colors but don’t know how to read yet so therefore they wouldn’t get confused. There are also other variations of the Stroop Effect such as to state the location of words, to count the number of words, and to state the name of the animal you see. According to the source PBS, Public Broadcasting Service,, it is an effortful task to just name the colors.

The task of choosing a response when you are situated with two conflicting conditions has uncertainly been located in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate. This part is between the right and left halves of the front portion of the brain and takes part in thought processes and emotional responses. This effect is easy to experiment with, whether it is on yourself or on someone else, you can time how long it takes for the person to finish saying all the colors and compare the results with other people. In my opinion the Stroop Effect is one of the many things that perplex me because as much as I try to be fluent while saying the colors I get tongue twisted and instantly mess up. Even when you try many times it seems as your score just keeps on getting worse. For many, to master the task of naming the color of the word rather just the word may be impossible. Many people underestimate the Stroop effect before they try it and assume it is an easy task. Once they attempt the Stroop Effect test they conclude that it is frustrating and more difficult than they thought. I suggest to try it yourself and time yourself to see how long it takes and to compare to your other attempts and tries. If you try the Stroop Effect Test you may find yourself stuttering and frustrated. In conclusion, I believe that the Stroop Effect is an amazing phenomenon that many people still don’t understand to this day. Discovered eighty-two years ago by John Ridley Stroop, his discovery arose questions about the way our brains worked and why this Stroop Effect happens to most of us when we try to state the color of the word rather than the actual word. In my opinion I am so glad I got to learn more about this amazing effect.

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