Stroop effect: objective and neuropsychological implications

Stroop effect: objective and neuropsychological implications

The Stroop Effect is a test that may seem new and unknown. However, the vast majority of us know what it is and, furthermore, it dates back to 1935. Imagine yourself in front of a screen where the name of a color appears, for example, blue, but it is written in red. What is the OBJETIVE? Say the name of the color of the word. This is sounding more to us, right?

The best way to capture this test is through an example, so the article will begin with an example of it. Subsequently it will deepen its objective, importance and usefulness. What processes are related to neurological level and what processes can be evaluated with this famous test will be explained.


  • 1 Stroop Effect Test
  • 2 The Stroop Effect, what is your goal?
  • 3 The third test: neuropsychological implications
  • 4 Emotional Stroop interference effect

Stroop Effect Test

Let's get started!

Phase 1: Color and the word match.

As we can read in the instructions in phase 1, the color and the word match.

Before us appears the word "red" in red, so, in this first phase the correct answer would be "red". The results in this first phase are usually correct and the response speed is high.

Phase 2: Color without semantic interference

In phase two, color is exposed without interference.

What does it mean "without interference? This means that there is no element that interferes when choosing the right option. We are offered a neutral stimulus composed of several" X "and the color of the" X "should be indicated. In this case the answer would be “red.” The results in this test are usually correct and the response speed is high, although lower than that of phase one.

Phase 3: Color with semantic interference

In phase three the task is already complicated. Here we can see that they will offer us the name of a color written in another color, that is, with semantic interference.

In this example we read the word "red", but we must point out the color of the word, which in this case would be "blue". So the correct answer would be "blue." In this test, as there is semantic interference, more errors occur and the response time increases considerably.

The Stroop Effect, what is your goal?

As Ramírez-Benitez and Díaz (2011) define, the Stroop effect "It is one of the most used paradigms for study of attention processes, executives and to understand cognitive processes that occur in parallel in the human brain". As García and Muñoz (2000) also affirm, "evaluates the ability to change a strategy by inhibiting the usual response and offering a response to new stimulus demands ".

In these two definitions we find two important aspects:

  1. Cognitive processes that happen in parallel. Ramírez-Benítez and Díaz, refer to two processes that occur at the same time: read the word and say the color. Further down it deepens at this point. However, it should be said that it is a point to highlight because it puts attention on two processes that occur at the same time but one predominates over the other. The question is: If they occur at the same time, why is one more imposed on the other?
  2. Evaluation of the ability to change strategy by inhibiting the usual response. At this point, and anticipating the results, the usual response that happens automatically is the tendency to say the color of the word instead of reading the name. Therefore, through this test, the ability to change response is analyzed.

The third test: neuropsychological implications

As Ramírez-Benitez and Díaz (2011) describe, the third test "is one of the most classic that They are used to evaluate frontal lobe alterations in children and adults. … Measures sustained and selective attention, capacity for inhibition and ability to classify and react selectively to such information".

Different studies that have been carried out through functional neuroimaging have shown that the areas of greatest activation in interference tests are the frontal and posterior sensory brain regions. These findings show that communication between these structures is necessary to respond and successfully modulate interference tasks.

The strong point of the Stroop effect is that it is observed that the colored word causes an automatic verbal response, that is, the color is said before the name of the word. This response requires many of the same neuropsychological functions that are necessary to name colors. On the other hand, the speed of reading the words as well as naming the colors is such that the response of reading the word occupies the neuropsychological channels that, at the same time, the response of naming colors needs to be processed.

In this way, and as mentioned a few paragraphs above, through this test it is shown that we identify colors rather than words. Although the goal is to read the word, most of the answers are usually the color of the word.

Emotional Stroop Interference Effect

In 1996, Williams, Mathews and McLeod, conducted an experiment in which they used the Stroop effect for an emotional level experiment. In this experiment a different variety of emotional and non-emotional words and / or photographs written in different color inks were presented. The task is simple, you just have to name the color of the ink in which the word or photo appears. What happened?

It was found that people with anxiety take longer to name the color of a word when it is threatening or relevant to their concerns than when it is neutral. On the other hand, this effect was not observed in people with low levels of anxiety. The slowdown that was observed was called "emotional stroop interference effect".

As Alberto Acosta, professor of Psychology at the University of Granada explains, "This interference that is possibly triggered automatically, not consciously, captures resources of conscious processing of the individual, slowing down the processing of the color of the word and the emission of the response".


If you want to participate in the test you just have to click on the following link:

Stroop Effect Test


  • Acosta, A. (2007). Emotion psychology. University of Granada: Sider. S.C.
  • García, D. and Muñoz, P. (2000). Executive functions and school performance in primary education. An exploratory study.Complutense Journal of Education, 11 (1), 39 - 56.
  • Ramírez-Benítez, Y. and Díaz, M. (2011). Stroop effect and its executive limitations in child neuropsychological practice. Notebooks of Neuropsychology, 5 (2), 163-172.