The Stroop Test

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The Stroop test

Here is a classic experiment which you can try for yourself. It was first carried out by Stroop in 1935 and shows us that reading words is something we do automatically and can’t stop from doing even if we want to.

Instructions

  • Time yourself reading this list of words: list 1
  • Now time yourself reading this different list of words: list 2

How did you do? Psychologists would expect that your two times didn’t differ very much at all as you are just reading each list.

Now do something a bit different. Timing yourself, go through each list again as quickly as you can, but this time say the colour of the ink and do not read the word . Be as quick and accurate as you can.

How was that? Did one of the lists seem much harder and take much longer than the other? Stroop showed that the list with the conflicting colours (list 2) takes much longer because you cannot stop yourself from reading the words which are not, of course, the same colour as the ink. List 1, where the ink colour and the word are the same, should have been both easier and quicker.

This is a classic experiment from the area of cognitive psychology which has told psychologists much about both how we read and how processes we do over and over again become automatic. If you would like more information on this, then click on the following useful link: http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Stroop/ (external link) .

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