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Gender and Response Time to Stroop Test Color Recognition

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Author: Janice VanCleave

What Effect Does Gender Have on the Stroop Test Color Recognition Response Time?

Category: Biology—Zoology—Behavior

Project Idea by: Kayla Miklas and Rachel Orfinger

The American psychologist John Ridley Stroop (1897–1973) devised a test in 1935 called the Stroop test. This test demonstrates the interference that happens in the brain when two simultaneous thinking process are involved, such as reading words and identifying colors. In this test, participants see the names of colors printed in ink that is the same color named by the word as well as in other colors. For example, the word red could be written with red or green ink. The participants are asked to identify the print color. When the print color is different from the color word, participants usually take longer to name the print color and often say the color word first instead of saying the name of the print color.

Skills such as reading that are highly practiced become automatic and can be carried out with little or no mental effort. In fact, the longer you practice reading, the more difficult it is not to read words you see. It takes considerable mental effort not to read them.

Reading and identifying colors are two separate mental tasks. But since a person tends to automatically read printed words, it is easier for that person to read a word than to name a color.

The mental process involved in reading and naming a color is called inhibition, which means you stop one brain response in order for another response to be processed. There are two possible responses in the Stroop test: reading a printed word and naming the color in which the word is printed. Since reading is more of an automatic response, to identify the color in which the word is printed, you have to inhibit your response to read the word.

Do boys and girls of the same age inhibit reading and recognize color at the same speed? A project question might be, "What effect does gender have on the Stroop test color recognition response time?"

Clues for Your Investigation

Prepare two reading lists. In the first, write the names of colors in the color indicated by the name. In the second list, write the same names in a color different from each name. Select a group of boys and girls of the same age to be tested. Test each separately. Give each person these instructions: "Do not read the words. Instead, identify the color of the print." Time how long it takes each person to recognize the color of each word.

Independent Variable: Gender

Dependent Variable: Time it takes to recognize colors

Controlled Variables: Same words, size of words, environmental conditions, age of participants

Control: List of words where the name of the color is printed in that color

Other Questions to Explore

  1. What effect would non-color-related words such as dog, cat, bird, and hamburger have on the Stroop test?
  2. What effect would testing a young child who cannot read have on the results of the Stroop test?
  3. What effect does age have on the Stroop test?

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