An Experiment on the interference between automatic and controlled processing: A
variation on the Stroop effect.
A modified Stroop experiment was carried out to examine the effect of ‘interference’
between automatic and controlled processing. The aim of the experiment is to
determine whether the automatic processes used in reading, interfere with the
controlled processes used in naming colours. Naming ink colour in a list of colour
related words was found to take longer than naming the colours of neutral words, thus
suggesting the presence of interference between automatic and controlled processes.
The findings of this experiment reinforce previous studies that showed a decrease in
performance when the two processes are attempted simultaneously.
The body’s senses are continuously being bombarded with a huge amount of
information, with some senses receiving information continuously and others
simultaneously. The way in which the body’s senses detect stimuli from the outside
world is referred to as ‘sensation’. This sensory information is processed and
modified by the body’s internal cognitive processes, resulting in how the sensation is
then perceived. Somewhere between what is sensed and what is perceived is a process
known as ‘attention’ (Edgar, 2007, pg. 3).
Edgar (2007) defines attention as “the process by which cognitive processing
resources are allocated”, and therefore is a process of selection. A person only selects
a portion of the information for processing as the body is unable to process all of the
information available at the same time (Edgar, 2007, pg. 9). Kahneman (1973)
introduced the theory that inside the brain there is a ‘limited-capacity central
processor’; defined as “a hypothetical construct used to explain why it is not possible
to process all incoming information simultaneously” (Edgar, 2007, p. 11). Due to the