The Stroop Effect: Experiment

The Stroop Effect

Whenever we see an object, we don’t just see its physical attributes but also comprehend the meaning behind them. Our brain automatically thinks in that direction. The underlying principle behind grasping a physical entity is aesthetics. We process information about the things we see without even realizing that processing. Our embedded knowledge about our environment impacts how we interact.

Stroop test is a test of one’s mental flexibility. Two kinds of Stroop Tests were conducted at Dignitas Digital, Color and Directional Stroop tests with a sample size of 24.

Conflict in Color Test: Name of the color with which the word is written. The words were names of colors for instance, word ‘Red’ is written with ‘Blue’, the answer has to be Blue.

Conflict in Directional Test: Name of the direction in which the word is placed. The words in this test were names of directions like Up, Down, Left and Right.

The focus in the Color Stroop Test is the color with which the word is written and direction or placement of the word is the focus in Directional Stroop Test. In these test, you have to make yourself inhibit. The task requires participants to identify the color of the font in which a word is presented or the direction, whilst ignoring the word itself. This increase in response time is known as Stroop interference.

Interference occurs when you look at one of the words, you see both its colour and its meaning. These two different bits of information begin to confuse the brain, which then causes a conflict. And when there is a conflict our cognitive load is increased. As habitual readers, we encounter and comprehend words on a persistent basis that the reading occurs almost effortlessly, whereas declaration of a color requires more cognitive effort.

Reading is automatic for most people. Therefore, when we are instructed to do the opposite and pay more attention to the color of the word, interference occurs. The interference that happens suggests that you are not always in control of what you can pay attention to. This interference is called the ‘Stroop Effect’.

The Stroop effect is one of the best-known phenomena in cognitive psychology. We conducted the test four times with 24 employees as participants, proficient in English at beginning of the week, mid-week and end of the week. The participant’s reading time of the words and accuracy of answers were recorded.

Using this test, we tried to assess an individual’s cognitive processing speed or the reaction time and their level of cognitive control and accuracy. The Stroop effect is related to selective attention, which is the ability to respond to certain environmental stimuli while ignoring others.

The words themselves have a strong influence on your ability to say the color. There are two theories that may explain the Stroop effect:

  1. Speed of Processing Theory: Word processing is significantly faster than color processing. In a situation of incongruity between words and colors, when the color is to be told, the word information arrives at the decision process stage before the color information and results in processing confusion.
  1. Selective Attention Theory: According to this theory, naming the actual color of the words requires much more attention than simply reading the text. While the brain registers written meaning effortlessly, it does require a certain amount of intentional resources, making it more difficult to process color information and therefore slowing down reaction times.

Our observations from the sample size of 24 are as follows:

  • The test was conducted four times i.e. Friday evening (end of the week), Monday morning (beginning of the week), and Wednesday morning and evening (mid-week).
  • The Colour Stroop Test was conducted on Friday Evening & Monday Morning and Directional Stroop Test was conducted on Wednesday Morning and Evening. (Have a look at the detailed results below.)
  • The reaction time (in seconds) and the accuracy (i.e. the score) of each participant was noted. The following are the averages.
Average TimeAverage Score
Friday Evening31.291723.58333
Monday Morning25.2524.33333
Wednesday Morning16.4166666717.0833333
Wednesday Evening12.5833333317.625
  • On Monday morning, the employees performed better in the Color Stroop Test as compared to Friday evening. Both the accuracy and response time depicting focus and attentiveness was more on Monday morning.
  • The Directional Stroop proved more efficiency during the evening on Wednesday.
  • Coders in the Technology team (Shushant, Mayank, Amit, Anmole and a few more) works meticulously on day to day basis. They are astute observers and their work deals with building algorithms on daily basis. Hence because of their proficient ability, they performed exceptionally well in both the tests (Colour Stroop and Directional Stroop). Their reaction time was low as compared to all the participants and they scored very well.
  • The results of the digital marketing team (Aishwarya, Neha, Mohit & Srishti) came out to be good in both the test variations but performed better in the Directional Stroop Test. We believe this is because of their work role. They have a keen eye for placement of ads, product and/or logo in the graphics. They are well aware of where the focus should be.
  • The Creative Content team (Paras & Shashank) are observant. They performed well in both the test variations as they are quite mindful in the tasks they do. The team was able to resolve the conflict almost instantly.


Our understanding of any object is derived from the permutation and combination of the memories we have of that object, our mind is like a sea of definitions that can mingle together to form new ones. Stroop does exactly that. It creates a potential for the brain to resolve the conflict based on its analytical ability.

The conclusions have been supported by the numbers in our results. Have a look at the same!

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