The purpose of this experiment was to assess differences in gender performance among male and females on the Stroop interference effect. Experimental psychology students (N = 16), 5 males and 11 females, completed tasks on the computer in which they participated in a color/word test. The conditions were congruent, neutral, and incongruent, and the dependent variable was the reaction time to select the color ink color of the words in each condition. Participants responded faster in the congruent condition, word match color (i.e., the word “blue” printed in blue ink), than in the incongruent condition, the word did not match the ink color (the word “blue” printed in red ink). There were no gender differences in reaction times in the Stroop color test; however, there was a significant difference in the reaction times between the congruent and incongruent trials. These results are consistent with the Stroop effect phenomenon where females had a faster response rate than males.
The Stroop Effect is extensively thought to cause interference since the information of one stimulus gets in the way when a person is processing another stimulus. Interference occur because the procedure concerned with naming words is considered to be automatic, compared to that involved in naming colors or pictures which requires a voluntary effort hence as a result of the interference there is slower response rate (Macleod, 1991).
The Classical Stroop effect was discovered by J. Ridley Stroop in the 1930s. In his first experiment, Stroop made an observation that the participants had a slower response rate when reading words printed in an incongruent ink color which demonstrated the effects interference have on reaction time (Wuhr, 2007).
Two theories attempt to explain the cause of the interference that occurs in the Stroop Effect. One of them is the Speed of Processing Theory which proposes that words are read at a faster rate than colors are named and that as a result of the speed that we read it makes it hard to name the color of the ink that word is printed in, this causes interference which results in a slow reaction response or wrong answer. The second theory is the Selective Attention Theory which suggests that naming colors necessitates more concentration than reading words, this is because humans are fluent at reading which is an automatic process, while naming the ink color of a word is an activity that one does not comes across daily consequently this needs much of our attention (Stroop, 1935).
The Stroop variation which was being developed in this study was based on assessing Gender differences in performance on Stroop test. Long before the Stroop task, a psychologist named Ligon (1932) argued that girls had the ability to name colors’ faster than boys, however he did not consider their differences in word-reading speed ability (MacLeod, 1991). The argument was supported by other findings that researchers have revealed in their studies; in one such study it was discovered that females showed better performance than males on two- color card tests (Golden 1974), another study involving colour-word test 5 times established that females showed a considerably higher performance than males after both sexes completed the test (Sarmany, 1977).
According to Baroun (2006) males have been proved to have a disadvantage compared to females for color recognition and have been stated to react to Stroop tasks quicker; another psychologist aurgued that the gender differences may accounted to the common response speed females have ( Jensen, 1965). Shen (2005) suggested that females take a shorter time than males on the Stroop task because of their difference in cognitive strategy (Shen, 2005).
Many of the studies investigating the effects of gender performance that have been discussed have tested reaction time and error rate. This study has been carried out because there is a lack of studies investigating the difference in gender performance for the Stroop test specifically in terms of reaction time only. This study aim is to assess effect of words in congruent, neutral, and incongruent conditions on reaction time of males and females. This study will examine whether interference occurs in participants for both words and ink color targets and whether gender has any effect on reaction time.
The hypothesis for this study is that there will be a significant difference in performance between males and females, which will be measured by reaction time. It is expected that females have a faster reaction rate to Stroop test than males.
The participants used for this study were 16 psychology students (5 males and 11 females), who were chosen through stratified random sampling method; a sampling method which allows equal selection chances of individuals for participation hence reducing bias, however it also involves selecting persons who fit in to a specific sub-group, this study only required 5 males and 11females.
The material used for this study was a computer with the software application that effectively presented visual stimuli on the screen which in the case of this study were word in congruent, incongruent and neutral condition in addition to recording the reaction time once a button was pressed by the participants. A RB-530 response pad that has buttons to press was also used to enable the participants give their responses
This is a quantitative study and a repeated measures design was applied to test the effect of independent variable on the dependent variable. The independent variables are gender which has two levels: male and female and visual stimulus which has 3 levels (neutral, congruent and incongruent word-ink color). The dependent variables were reaction time (in milliseconds). This study used a correlation analysis to describe how one variable relates to another. The study we assesses whether gender affects the reaction time of participants and performance in Stroop test and whether stimuli type had effect on reaction time.
An information sheet with details of the procedure was given to participants to enable them understand what they would have to do and to know the ethical risks concerning the study. They then signed the consent form affirming that they had read and comprehended the details of the study. Participants were asked to come up with a personal code as a measure to maintain confidentiality of their records.
The participants’ personal codes were entered into computer program before commencing the study to ensure proper recording and saving of data concerning their reaction time. a practice session to ensure that participants understood what to do was carried out. The practice session involved of 3 slides with congruent, incongruent and neutral word-ink color.
After the practice session, participants started with the first condition which was responding to name of the color of ink used to print the word on the screen in congruent condition by pressing a button. The words used in this study were Yellow, Red, Green, Black, Gray, White, Orange, Brown, Blue, Pink and Purple. Participants were given the RB-530 response pad to use when indicating their responses.
The second condition of the study was responding to name of the color of ink used to print the word on the screen in neutral condition by pressing to the correct button on the response pad and the third condition involved participants responding to name of the color of ink used to print the word on the screen in incongruent condition.
The participants’ reaction time was calculated from when the words came into view on the screen to when any button was pressed by the participants.
The data was analyzed and the reaction time of each gender (male/female) determined where the results supported the hypothesis.
Stroop Test Results in number of milliseconds
Trial #, name Males (average) Females (average) Deviation between Males & Females
Congruent ink-Word color 17.6 14.8 2.8 Females faster
Neutral ink- word color 23.3 23.0 0.3; Females faster
Incongruent ink- Word colour 23.1 19.6 3.5 Females faster
The results show that females have performed faster for the incongruent ink- word stimuli compared to males; in addition there were significant disparities in both genders in terms of reaction time to neutral and congruent ink-word stimuli with females having faster reaction time. Results show that stimuli type affects participants reaction time significantly and so does gender on the dependent variable.
The findings from this study signify that overall women respond faster to the Stroop test. The results show that incongruent condition is the stimuli in which participants take the longest time to respond, this may be explained by the Selective Attention Theory, which may suggest that naming the color of an incongruent word may require more concentration as the participants have to focus on both ink color and word itself, compared to naming the ink color which corresponds to the word.
Most studies (Ligon 1932; Golden 1974; Sarmany 1977; von Kluge 1992; Baroun 2006; Baroun & Alansari 2006) have in the past showed that females’ response is faster than males’. The findings of this study are similar to the results of the studies previous studies. The present study shows that overall females responded the fastest despite the type of stimuli.
16 psychology students were used as participants for the study and 11 participants are a minute and unrepresentative sample size of the whole population. For future research studies, a larger sample size could be obtained and age could also be considered. Age would be a motivating variable to assess and study focusing on how individuals from diverse age groups vary in performance.
In this study all the participants started with the congruent stimuli and then moved to the neutral stimuli and then lastly finished with the incongruent stimuli, this may have resulted in the order of stimuli being confused. Participants were reported to react slowest to the incongruent stimulus however, the participants could have been affected by an unrelated variable which might have y slowed down their response time and hence affected their results. If this study is to undergo future replication the order of stimuli could be changed to avoid the confusion of variables. For example participants grouped differently and each group shown the stimuli in a varying order.
Another limitation to this study is that the eye-sight capabilities of participants were never tested considered hence there is no prove that the participants were long sighted, short sighted or if they may have had trouble viewing words on the screen. Although the words used were of a large size, check-up of participants eye-sight in future studies should be considered prior to the study to make sure that this has no effect on the outcome of the results.
In conclusion, the results support the hypothesis that gender differences affects reaction time. In consistency with the previous studies the results from this study has established that females respond faster than males.
Baroun, K. (2006) Gender differences in performance on the Stroop Test. Social Behaviour and Personality Hill pub. UK.
Golden, C. (1974) Sex differences in performance on the Stroop colour and word test. Perceptual and Motor Skills. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.
Jensen, A. (1965). Scoring the Stroop Test. Acta Psychologica. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
MacLeod, C. (1991) Half a century of research on the Stroop Effect: An Integrative Review. Academic Press, San Diego, CA
Sarmany, I. (1997) Different performance in Stroop’s Interference Test from the aspect of personality and sex.. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.
Shen, X. (2005) Sex differences in perceptual processing performance on the colour-kanji Stroop Task of visual stimuli. International Journal of Neuroscience. University of Texas press, Austin, USA
Stroop, J. (1935) Studies on interference in serial verbal reaction. Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Von Kluge, S. (1992) Trading accuracy for Speed: Gender Differences on a Stroop task undder mild performance anxiety. Perceptual and Motor Skills.Buros Institute press, Lincoln
Wheeler, D. (1977) Locus of interference on the Stroop Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills. Raven Press, New York
Wuhr, P. (2007) A Stroop Effect for Spatial Orientation. The Journal of General Psychology. New York: Guilford Press