Controlling Stroop Interference

The investigation of the controlled and the automatic processes employing the Stroop effect experiment. Abstract The interference between the controlled and the automatic processes was observed in the Stroop effect type experiment using two different conditions. The original Stroop effect experiment concluded that the participants will find it more difficult to complete the reading task of the words related to colour meaning in comparison to the reading task of non-colour related words. The result of Stroop experiment supported the notion that control and automatic processes can obstruct each other in certain tasks.
In the current experiment, the two conditions in reading task were modified to make them look more visually similar. The result indicated that despite of visual similarities, the automatic processes interfered with control processes due to the colour related properties of the words in Stroop condition. Introduction The large quantity of information we come across in our everyday life is staggering. It is very hard to understand how much of this information is taken in and how much of the information just pass by. It is up to cognitive processes to decide how much and to what extent the information is accepted for further processing.
This selection process has been identified as attention. All of the above is indicating that our brain is not capable to process all the information available to us therefore attentional processes are required. Various theories were devised to clarify and explain the process of selection, such as a limited – capacity theory of Kahneman or bottleneck theory of attention by Broadbent (as cited in Edgar, 2007) However how much of this process are we aware of? Can we influence how much of the information is taken in or is it our subconscious which is in control?

The attentional processes are divided between conscious – control processes and subconscious – automatic processes. Even though both processes operate in very different ways, they both can work simultaneously and both have their advantages and disadvantages. The control process is conscious, therefore easy to control, however it is using a large amount of the processing resources. Based on the experiments conducted by Schneider and Shiffrin (as cited in Edgar, 2007), it is assumed that automatic processed are not using up attentional resources as no conscious awareness is employed.
The most famous experiment demonstrating the interference between the control and automatic processes was carried out by Stroop (1935). In the original Stroop experiment the participants were presented with a list of words printed in different coloured ink. In the first list, the words were names of colour printed in ink which never matched with the name of the colour – Stroop condition. Second list was containing a colour-neutral words. The participants were asked to read the name of the colour of the ink instead of the word itself. The finding was that in the colour-neutral words, the participants completed the task without difficulties.
However, in the Stroop condition the participants found it more difficult as they were trying to prevent responding with the name of the colour rather than the colour of the ink. (as cited in Edgar, 2007) The experiment above is demonstrating one of the disadvantages of the automatic processes. Even though the automatic processes are not using up our precious attentional resources, they can interfere with the control processes as we are not able to just turn them off. To test this theory further a present experiment was created using both the Stroop condition model and the control condition.
However, the Stroop condition was modified to include the colour-related words rather than the names of the colour. The words used were such as blood or carrot with strong relation to the certain colour. The words were printed in the colour ink not matching with the colour related to the word. Even though the control condition contained the non-related colour words, the words were visually very similar to the words in Stroop condition. The research hypothesis was that as in Stroop condition the participants will find it more difficult to read colour-related words. This is one-tailed hypothesis.
The null hypothesis was that there wouldn’t be any difference in time taken to complete reading task of each list. Method Section Design The design employed in the experiment is a within-participants design. The independent variable was a reading task of the colour of the words printed on the list provided. The independent variable had two conditions, the Stroop condition and control condition. The Stroop condition contained the colour-related words printed in incompatible colour ink with the word and the control condition contained non-colour related words printed in various colour inks.
The word list in the Stroop condition had 5 words repeatedly printed in incompatible ink with the word. The words in the control list were matched to the word list in Stroop condition to contain the exact same number of letters of each matched word. The word order and well as the colour order was matched exactly in the both lists. The dependent variable was the time measure to complete the reading task of each list. The measurement was complete in seconds by the researcher using a stopwatch and it was recorded to the nearest second. The participants were given the task individually in order to limit any confounding variables.
Participants The twenty participants joined in this experiment were current students at the Open University and their friends and family members. The age of the participants ranged from 18 to 69 and there were 12 females and 8 male participants. Materials The two visual stimuli were presented to each participant on A4 sheet paper in colour containing 30 words divided into two columns of 15 words. A stimuli for the Stroop condition contained 5 colours-related words printed in incompatible ink with the word. The six colours used were red, yellow, green, orange, purple and blue.
The words used in the Stroop condition were blood, lemon, grass, carrot, plum, sky. A stimuli for the control condition contained exact same number of word and same colours were used. The words matched with the Stroop condition. The words used have the exact same number of letters, they stared with the same first letters and they visually resembled the words in the Stroop condition. The words used in the control condition were blame, ledge, grade, carrer, plan, sty. Each word was repeated 6 times on each sheet. Both lists are included in Appendix 1.
The standard instruction (included in Appendix 2) printed on A4 paper were read to the participants. The consent form (included in Appendix 3) was supplied to participants to sign. The data were recorded to the nearest second and logged on the response sheet. A stopwatch was employed to record reading time accurately. Procedure Each participant was approached and asked if they will be willing to take part in a cognitive psychology experiment with a focus on controlled and automatic processing of information. All participants were explained a basic of the experiment and asked to sign a consent form.
All participants were tested individually. The age and sex of the participants were recorded prior to the start of the experiment. The full instructions were read to the participants and it was made sure that it was clear before proceeding. (Appendix 2: Instructions) All participants received the same instruction. Both lists were presented as A4 print out in coloured ink. Both lists were presented separately to the participants, only few seconds before asking the participant to read the colour of the words aloud. The first list to read was the Stroop condition list followed by a control condition list.
With every other participants the order of the presentation of the list was switched around. Full experiment took approximately minutes with each participant. The reading of each condition was recorded separately using an accurate stopwatch. The results were recorded on the response sheet. After the experiment the participants were informed about the hypothesis of experiment and explained the differences between the both conditions. Result The research hypothesis in this experiment was that participants will take longer to complete the Stroop condition.
The time to read through the full list of each condition individually was recorded to the nearest second. As Table 1 is indicated, the mean response time of Stroop condition is 2. 65 seconds slower than the mean response in the control condition. The paired sample t-test was carried out using these data obtaining following result. The difference between these conditions is statically significant (t(19)=3. 933, p=0. 002, d=0. 44) Based on the information above the null hypothesis was rejected and the experimental hypothesis accepted. Table 1Mean and standard deviation of response time in seconds
ConditionMean response time (In seconds)Standard deviation Experiment (Stroop) condition23. 606. 533 Control condition 20. 955. 520 Discussion The result of the experiment above proved that despite of using colour-related words, rather than the name of the colour as per original Stroop experiment, the findings were similar. The participants found it more difficult to read the colour-related words printed in colour which didn’t match the visual perception of the certain word. The participants tried to avoid reading the colour of the word associated with particular word therefore this reading task took longer.
Even though, the neutral words looked visual similar, and they were recorded in exact same colour order, the participants completed this reading task more quickly due to the lack of the meaning of the words and no relation to the specific colour. Therefore, in the control condition, only automatic processes were activated and there was no interference with the control processes and as a result the participants found this task easier. The control and automatic processes can interfere with each other doing certain tasks. Specifically, the automatic process of reading was interfering with controlled process of naming the colour of the ink.
Nevertheless, the current experiment was conducted with only twenty participants. There is a possibility that if the experiment was conducted with much bigger sample the results may not be as conclusive. Especially , as further experiments indicated, the automatic processes can be influenced by individual strategies. To imply this notion to the Stroop experiment, it has been found that just by focusing on the first letter of each word, the automatic processes – the Stroop effect can be reduced. (as cited in Edgar, 2007) This would imply that automatic processes are not completely free and unconscious as previously suggested.
In addition, the automatic and controlled processes are not completely fixed. For example, reading was controlled process before it was learned and became control process. This observation suggests that the relationship between the controlled and automatic processes is on continuum and can evolve with time. Gopher (1993) proposes that attentional skill can be learned to a certain extent depending on the situation or internal motivation. (as cited in Edgar, 2007) In conclusion, the result of the experiment is supporting the notion that the control processes can interfere with the automatic processes when trying to complete certain tasks.
However, further experiments in this specific field would have to be conducted to determine the full extent of automatic responses and their relation to the control processes. References Edgard, G. (2007) Perception and attention, In D. Miell, A. Phoenix, & K. Thomas (Eds. ), Mapping Psychology (2nd ed. , pp. 3-50). Milton Keynes: The Open University Appendices: Appendix 1: Word lists containing experimental and control condition (not included) Appendix 2: Instructions (not included) Appendix 3: Consent Form (not included) Appendix 4: Raw data Appendix 5: SPSS print-out of t-test

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