Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Likelihood of Attending to the Color Word Modulates Stroop Interference

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Likelihood of Attending to the Color Word Modulates Stroop Interference

Article excerpt

Published online: 7 December 2011

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2011

Abstract Three experiments investigated whether the Stroop color-naming effect is modulated by the likelihood of a color word capturing visual attention. In Experiment 1, a bar or a neutral word was presented at fixation as a color carrier, along with a color word randomly appearing in either an achromatic color (white in the main experiment, gray in a follow-up) or purple. Reduction of the Stroop effect (known as Stroop dilution) occurred when the color word was achromatic but not (or to a lesser extent) when it was in purple. In Experiment 2, the color of the color word remained constant throughout trial blocks, and Stroop dilution was equally evident when the word was always in purple and when it was always in white. In Experiment 3, a color bar was presented as the color carrier with both a color word and a neutral word. In this case, the Stroop effect was larger when the color word appeared in purple, and smaller when the neutral word appeared in purple, than when neither word did. These results imply that the extent to which processing of a color word occurs is determined by the likelihood of the word capturing attention.

Keywords Stroop . Selective attention . Attentional capture

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

Task performance is often affected by irrelevant stimulus information, which indicates a failure of selective attention. The Stroop effect has been taken to be a good example of such failure (MacLeod, 1991; Stroop, 1935/1992). In the Stroop color-naming task, participants are to say the color of a target stimulus in the presence of an irrelevant color word (which may carry the target color or be separate from it). Responses are slower and less accurate when the to-beignored color word conflicts with the task-relevant color information than when it does not. The Stroop effect is often cited as evidence that word recognition is automatic (e.g., Brown, Roos-Gilbert, & Carr, 1995), with the logic being that the color word affects task performance because it is automatically recognized (e.g., MacLeod & Dunbar, 1988). However, the Stroop effect has been investigated mainly through indirect measures of word recognition (i.e., the influences of color words on the time to name the taskrelevant colors), without consideration of how visual attention is deployed. Consequently, the conclusion that visual attention is not required for recognition of the color word may be questioned (Choi, Cho, & Proctor, 2009).

Control of visual attention involves both bottom-up and top-down mechanisms (Johnson & Proctor, 2004). Visual attention is guided to a salient stimulus by the bottom-up mechanism (e.g., Theeuwes, 1992) or to a stimulus defined as relevant to the assigned task by the top-down mechanism (e.g., Francolini & Egeth, 1979). Folk, Remington, and Wright (1994) showed, by manipulating the type of spatial cue, that top-down control settings affect whether attention will be captured by a salient stimulus. A cuing effect was obtained when the spatial cue included a feature related to the target-defining feature (e.g., a rotating cue for a rotating target), but not when the spatial cue was unrelated to the target-defining feature (e.g., an abrupt-onset cue for a rotating target). Folk et al. (1994) pointed out that even salience-based selectivity includes the top-down control mechanism and does not operate in a purely bottom-up manner.

Becker, Folk, and Remington (2010) recently elaborated the view that attentional capture is contingent on the goals of the performer, providing evidence that stimuli that are similar to the target can capture attention better than can the designated target if those stimuli are more distinct from the other distractors. For example, when searching for an orange target among yellow distractors, a red stimulus will capture attention more than will the orange target, because it differs more from the yellow distractors. …

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