Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Reverse Stroop Effect without Translation or Reading Difficulty

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

A Reverse Stroop Effect without Translation or Reading Difficulty

Article excerpt

It is well known that irrelevant color words affect the time needed to identify the color they are displayed in (the Stroop effect). One major view is that a reverse Stroop effect (RSE) - in which the irrelevant color affects the time needed to identify the word-does not occur unless a translation is needed between domain-specific memory codes. In the present article, we report an experiment in which the reverse Stroop effect was investigated by having subjects identify a colored word at fixation by pointing to a location on the screen containing that word. Although the response was untranslated, an RSE was observed. An account is provided in which the strength of association between a stimulus and a specific response plays a central role.

Stroop (1935) was the first to report that irrelevant color words influence color naming. Many hundreds of papers have subsequently explored various facets of this Stroop effect (see MacLeod's 1991 review). In contrast, relatively few researchers have explored the reverse Stroop task, in which the subject must identify the word and ignore the color in which it is displayed (see, e.g., Dunbar & MacLeod, 1984; Stroop, 1935). The purpose of the present article is to reconsider a major account, translation, that purports to explain the conditions that produce the presence or absence of both Stroop and reverse Stroop effects. We then report a reverse Stroop task experiment that yielded a reverse Stroop effect (RSE) in the absence of a translation. We conclude by outlining a strength of association account that emphasizes the role of a specific response.

A Translation Account

Translation accounts assert that the type of response made to the target is central. These accounts assert that the irrelevant dimension affects performance when a correct response requires a translation between memory codes (see, e.g., Glaser & Glaser, 1989; Sugg & McDonald, 1994; Virzi & Egeth, 1985). In these accounts, words and colors are processed in their own subsystems. The code in which each of these subsystems operates is asserted to be unique. However, when both the target and its response are considered to be represented in a common code, no translation is required. For example, no translation is needed when a word is read aloud because both the word and its response share a common code - in this case, a linguistic one.1 According to Sugg and McDonald, "the translation model predicts ... no inhibition in untranslated wordresponse . . . tasks [i.e., responding to the word with a word-labeled response]" (p. 648), which explains the absence of an RSE. When a color is named, however, it must be translated into a linguistic code in order to be verbalized, thus explaining the presence of a Stroop effect.

Biais and Besner (2006, Table 1) reviewed the literature describing a number of reverse Stroop task experiments. In those experiments, if the response to the word required a translation as defined above (e.g., sorting cards ulto a bin labeled with a color patch), an RSE was observed. If the response to the word did not require a translation (e.g., pressing a button labeled with a word), no RSE was observed (but see Biais & Besner, 2006, for some exceptions).

In at least three other contexts, an RSE can be readily obtained even though a vocal response is required. Fu-St, giving subjects extensive practice in color naming prior to the reverse Stroop task yields an RSE (but note that it disappears soon after the task is completed; see Stroop, 1935, Experiment 3). Second, an RSE is obtained if the word is in such small print that it is hard to identify (see, e.g., Melara & Mounts, 1993), or if the word is rendered difficult to read because it is printed upside down and backward and there are many other non-response-set items in the experiment (Dunbar & MacLeod, 1984, Experiment 4). Third, an RSE is observed in a task-switching paradigm in which subjects switch between color and word identification, typically performing two color-naming trials followed by two word-reading trials over the course of several hundred trials (see, e. …

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