Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 2 February 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Copyright © 2008
M. S. Thirumalai



Shyamala Chengappa, Ph.D.
Manju Mohan P.


The Stroop Effect is a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task. Females and children are reported to be quicker at reacting to the stroop tests. As age increases the reaction time taken to complete the test also increases. The Stroop Effect is now a mainstay of research on age-related differences in selective attention, automaticity, inhibitory processes and executive control. Stroop tests may be developed as a part of the assessment tool in cases of mild cognitive impairment seen in geriatric population. However, studies relating to the influences of Stroop Effect interferences are lacking in the Indian literature.

The present study is aimed to see the development of Stroop Effect interference in a small group of Malayalam - English bilingual population, and to see whether gender difference exists in Stroop Effect tasks. 16 subjects (8 males and 8 females) in different age groups were taken. Age groups considered were divided into young adults (20 - 40 years), middle aged adults (40 - 60 years) and elderly, above 60 years. The subjects were shown incongruent stroop test mini cards (in which the color terms are written using different ink colors) and were asked to say the colors of the ink, correctly with which the items were written on the cards and the reaction time (RT) taken by each of the subject was measured using a stop watch.

The extensive literature on Stroop Effect has many inconsistencies, were some studies mention that the Stroop Effect does not depend on age while some studies show the influence of aging in Stroop color tasks. Differences in literature are also found with respect to effects of gender.

In the present study, Univariate analysis of variance and t tests were carried out for data analysis. Results indicated that the reaction time (RT) taken to name the incongruent colors showed a significant increase with the increase in age. The increasing trend with respect to time taken and age was apparent and the time taken by males in the entire study showed higher mean RT compared to females. As for the gender differences within age groups, significant differences were seen between males and females till the age of 60 years in naming the incongruent colors. But it was seen that after the age of 60 years there was no significant difference in the reaction time taken between males and females.

The increasing RT seen in the study with respect to increasing age can be accounted for by the general slowing effects seen in the ageing population. This increase in time taken to process the incongruent color terms due to Stroop Effect, as reported in the literature, is supported by the present study. Another finding of the study was the gender difference seen within different age groups, were females were found to outperform males before attaining the age of 60 years. The improved color recognition skills in specific, along with the advanced language flexibility in females can account for this finding. This is in agreement with the studies in literature that supports female advantage in language processing, although the reasons are still debated. The absence of gender effects after 60 years of age may probably be because the female advantage is nullified with advancing age due to general cognitive decline.


The Stroop Effect is a demonstration of interference in the reaction time of a task. When a word such as blue, green, red, etc. is printed in a color differing from the color expressed by the word's semantic meaning (e.g. the word "red" printed in blue ink), a delay occurs in the processing of the word's color, leading to slower test reaction times and an increase in mistakes. The effect is named after John Ridley Stroop who first published the effect in English in 1935.

There are two theories that may explain the Stroop Effect:

1. Speed of Processing Theory: the interference occurs because words are read faster than colors are named.

2. Selective Attention Theory: the interference occurs because naming colors requires more attention than reading words.

It is seen that in monolinguals, reaction times increased in stoop experiments when the foreign language had a close phonological resemblance to the language they used. While in bilinguals, interference was seen in both languages and it was seen that naming was slowest when the naming language and the language of the color names were the same. (Dyer F.N, 1971).

Females are reported to be quicker at reacting to the stroop tests. Females are found to have an advantage over color recognition ( Baroun, 2006) along with the fact that females may be somewhat faster, especially in naming colors, due to their general response speed (Jensen, 1965).

The Stroop Effect is now a mainstay of research on age-related differences in selective attention, automaticity, inhibitory processes, and executive control. A major focus of the aging research has been on the relative size of Stroop interference effects in younger and older adults. The typical finding is that, relative to a baseline condition involving the naming of colors of neutral stimuli (e.g., strings of X's), older adults show a greater increase in reaction time and/or errors in naming of the print colors of incongruent color words than do younger adults (Cohen et al. (1984) as cited by Douglas J. Davidson, Rose T. Zacks and Carrick C. Williams, 2003). Although these data have sometimes been attributed to general slowing effects (Verhaeghen & De Meersman, 1998), others have argued that the larger Stroop Effects in older than in younger adults support views proposing age deficits in particular cognitive processes (e.g., the inhibition deficit view of Hasher & Zacks, 1988) or neural mechanisms (e.g., the frontal lobe dysfunction view; Perfect, 1997)

With respect to this last point, there is considerable current interest in relating age differences in the Stroop Effect and on other measures of executive function (e.g., task switching,Kramer, Hahn and Gopher, 1999) to neuroanatomical and neuroimaging findings suggesting that aging particularly affects functions served by prefrontal areas of the brain. For example, a recent fMRI study by Milham et al. (2002) found differences in the patterns of neural activity associated with Stroop performance between younger and older adults, including less extensive activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the older group. Similarly it was shown that the young adult group and healthy older adult group showed similar activation regions on an fMRI task but older adults exhibited greater activation in numerous frontal areas, including the left inferior frontal gyrus. The results support the recruitment construct and suggest that the inferior frontal gyrus is important for successful inhibition. ( Scott A. Langenecker, Kristy A. Nielson and Stephen M. Rao)

In a study done by Peter J. Houx, Jellemer Jolles , Fred W. Vreeling (1993) regarding stoop interference on aging and gender, reaction time taken by elderly population were more while no sex differences were observed, and more highly educated subjects were reported to perform better than less educated subjects. This accounts to the fact that executive function, as measured by the Stroop test, declines with age and that the decline is more pronounced in people with a low level of education. This is consistent with the reserve hypothesis of brain aging (i.e., that education generates reserve capacity against the damaging effects of aging on brain functions).

It is seen that practice reduces interference on the Stroop tasks. Young adults' reduction in Stroop interference was due to general task factors plus the development of a reading suppression response. The old adults' reduction in Stroop interference was attributed primarily to general task factors. Results indicate that old adults have greater difficulty than young adults in developing new automatic processes and modifying existing automatic processes. Thus in addition to automatic processing, attentional mechanisms also must be incorporated to account for the age-related differences. (Cynthia L. Dulaney and Wendy A. Rogers)

The Stroop test has also been used for diagnostic purposes. Dyer (1973) outlined how the Stroop phenomenon has been used to study various perceptual and cognitive processes. Golden (1976) also discussed how the Stroop test has been used to diagnose brain damage.

Stroop tests may be developed as a part of the assessment tool in cases of mild cognitive impairment seen in the geriatric population. It was shown that there was close correlation between the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) score and tasks based on Stroop Effects and that the Stroop Effect did not depend on age. It was concluded that the Stroop Effect was available to diagnose forgetfulness and mild dementia. (Uchiyama Hisashi, 2002)

The extensive literature on the Stroop Test (Stroop, 1935) includes many inconsistencies. Although a number of generalizations concerning the Stroop Effect are accepted, some studies such as Macleod (1991) yielded gender difference on the interference card, while other studies reported that men and women did not display differential interference. Still other studies reported that women were quicker on the Stroop color-word card test than men were (Sarmany, 1977).

Need for the study

Studies relating influences of stoop effect interferences are lacking in the Indian literature. The knowledge regarding the semantic interference in Stroop Effect and its developmental course will help in identifying mild cognitive impairments seen in ageing population. This will also help to broaden our knowledge regarding the language representation and its interconnectivities in the brain.

Regarding the development of Stroop Effect, it is accepted that elderly population will have slower reaction times, the reason for which is attributed to various causes. There are some studies which say that females have faster reaction times than males, while other studies say there is no gender difference seen during stroop color naming tasks.

So the present study is aimed to see the development of Stroop Effect interference in a small group of Malayalam - English bilingual population, and to see whether gender difference exists in the Stroop Effect tasks.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Development of Stroop Effect in Bilinguals | Subtlety, Mockery and Dharma in Shashi Tharoor's The Great Indian Novel | Language Alternation Strategies in Nigerian Hip Hop and Rap Texts | Faithfulness and Adequacy in Translation - A Case Study of the Translation of a Poem Written by Bharathiar | Indianized English in Shashi Deshpande's That Long Silence | Naipaul's Perception of India | Teaching English Word Formation in Academic Writing - Analysis and Remedy | Sabotaged Submission - Interpreting the Role of Women in Scriptures | Socio-economic Profile of Women Prisoners | Study on the Levels of Living of Self-help Groups in Coimbatore District, with Particular Reference to Thondamuthur and Perianaicken Palayam Blocks | Agreement in Tamil and Telugu | Etymological Analysis for Some Words of Body Parts in Semitic Languages (Especially in Arabic & Hebrew) | HOME PAGE of February 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Shyamala Chengappa, Ph.D.
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore 570 006

Manju Mohan P
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore 570 006

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