Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 767–774 | Cite as

Some further clarifications on age-related differences in Stroop interference

  • Maria Augustinova
  • David Clarys
  • Nicolas Spatola
  • Ludovic Ferrand
Brief Report


Both the locus and processes underlying the age-related differences in Stroop interference are usually inferred from changes in magnitudes of standard (i.e., overall) Stroop interference. Therefore, this study addressed these still-open issues directly. To this end, a sample of younger (18–26 years old) and healthy older (72–97 years old) was administered the semantic Stroop paradigm (that assesses the relative contribution of semantic compared to response conflict both of which contribute to overall Stroop interference) combined with a single-letter coloring and cuing (SLCC) procedure. Independently of an increased attentional focus on the relevant color dimension of Stroop words induced by SLCC (as compared to all letters colored and cued, ALCC), greater magnitudes of standard Stroop interference were observed in older (as compared to younger) adults. These differences were due to greater magnitudes of response conflict whereas magnitudes of semantic conflict remained significant and unchanged by healthy aging and SLCC. Thus, this direct evidence places the locus of age-related differences in Stroop interference at the level of response conflict (as opposed to semantic and/or both conflicts). In terms of processes underlying these differences, the reported evidence shows that both age-groups are equally (in)efficient in (a) focusing on the relevant color dimension and (b) suppressing the meaning of the irrelevant word-dimension of Stroop words. Healthy older adults are simply less efficient in suppressing the (pre-)response activity primed by the fully processed meaning of the irrelevant word-dimension. Standard interpretations of age-related differences in Stroop interference and a more general issue of how attentional selectivity actually operates in the Stroop task are therefore reconsidered in this paper.


Aging Attentional selectivity Semantic conflict Single-letter coloring and cueing Stroop interference Response conflict 

Supplementary material

13423_2017_1427_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


  1. Augustinova, M., & Ferrand, L. (2014). Automaticity of word reading: Evidence from the semantic Stroop paradigm. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 343–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Augustinova, M., Flaudias, V., & Ferrand, L. (2010). Single-letter coloring and spatial cueing do not eliminate nor reduce a semantic contribution to the Stroop effect. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 827-833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Augustinova, M., Silvert, L., Ferrand, L., Llorca, P. M., & Flaudias, V. (2015). Behavioral and electrophysiological investigation of semantic and response conflict in the Stroop task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,22, 543-549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Augustinova, M., Silvert, L., Spatola, N., & Ferrand, L. (2017). Further investigation of distinct components of Stroop interference and of their reduction by short response-stimulus intervals. Acta Psychologica,
  5. Besner, D., Risko, E. F., Stolz, J. A., White, D., Reynolds, M., O’Malley, S., & Robidoux, S. (2016). Varieties of attention: Their roles in visual word identification. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25, 162-168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Besner, D., & Stolz, J. A. (1999). What kind of attention modulates the Stroop effect?. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 6, 99-104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Comalli, P. E., Jr., Wapner, S., & Werner, H. (1962). Interference effects of Stroop colour-word test in childhood, adulthood, and ageing. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 100, 47–53.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. De Jong, R., Berendsen, E., & Cools, R. (1999). Goal neglect and inhibitory limitations: Dissociable causes of interference effects in conflict situations. Acta Psychologica, 101, 379–394.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Faust, M. E., Balota, D. A., Spieler, D. H., & Ferraro, F. R. (1999). Individual differences in information-processing rate and amount: Implications for group differences in response latency. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 777-799.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Forster, K. I., & Forster, J. C. (2003). DMDX: A Windows display program with millisecond accuracy. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 35, 116–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hasshim, N., & Parris, B. A. (2014). Two-to-one color-response mapping and the presence of semantic conflict in the Stroop task. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.Google Scholar
  12. Jackson, J. D., & Balota, D. A. (2013). Age-related changes in attentional selection: Quality of task set or degradation of task set across time? Psychology and Aging, 28, 744.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Jeffreys, H. (1961). The theory of probability (3rd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Klein, G. S. (1964). Semantic power measured through the effect of words with color-naming. American Journal of Psychology, 77, 576–588.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Küper, K. & Heil, M. (2012). Attentional focus manipulations affect naming latencies of neutral but not of incongruent Stroop trials. Swiss Journal of Psychology,71, 93–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Labuschagne, E. M., & Besner, D. (2015). Automaticity revisited: When print doesn’t activate semantics. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.Google Scholar
  17. Li, K. Z., & Bosman, E. A. (1996). Age differences in Stroop-like interference as a function of semantic relatedness. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition ,3, 272-284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lien, M.-C., Allen, P. A., Ruthruff, E., Grabbe, J., McCann, R. S., & Remington, R. W. (2006). Visual word recognition without central attention: Evidence for greater automaticity with advancing age. Psychology and Aging, 21, 431-447.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. MacLeod, C. M. (1991). Half a century of research on the Stroop effect: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 163-203.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Manwell, L. A., Roberts, M. A., & Besner, D. (2004). Single letter coloring and spatial cueing eliminates a semantic contribution to the Stroop effect. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 11, 458–462.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Neely, J. H., & Kahan, T. (2001). Is semantic activation automatic? A critical re-evaluation. In Roediger, H. L., Nairne, J. S., Neath, I., and Surprenant, A. M. (Eds.), The nature of remembering: Essays in honor of Robert G. Crowder (pp. 69-93). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Parris, B. A. (2014). Task conflict in the Stroop task: When Stroop interference decreases as Stroop facilitation increases in a low task conflict context. Frontiers in Psychology, 5,1182, Scholar
  23. Parris, B. A., Sharma, D., & Weekes, B. (2007). An optimal viewing position effect in the Stroop task when only one letter is the color carrier. Experimental Psychology, 54, 273-280CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Risko, E. F., Schmidt, J. R., & Besner, D. (2006). Filling a gap in the semantic gradient: Color associates and response set in the Stroop task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 310-315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Robidoux, S., & Besner, D. (2015). Conflict resolved: On the role of spatial attention in reading and color naming tasks. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 1709-1716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ruthruff, E., & Lien, M.-C. (2016). Aging and attention. In Pachana, N. A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of geropsychology. Springer: New York.Google Scholar
  27. Schmidt, J. R., & Cheesman, J. (2005). Dissociating stimulus-stimulus and response-response effects in the Stroop task. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59, 132-138.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Seymour, P. H. (1977). Conceptual encoding and locus of the Stroop effect. Quaterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29, 245-265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Spieler, D. H., Balota, D. A., & Faust, M. E. (1996). Stroop performance in healthy younger and older adults and in individuals with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 22, 461-479.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. White, D., Risko, E. F., & Besner, D. (2016). The semantic Stroop effect: An ex-Gaussian analysis. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23, 1576-1581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, LAPSCOClermont-FerrandFrance
  2. 2.Université de Rouen Normandie, Centre de Recherche sur les Fonctionnements et les Dysfonctionnements Psychologiques (CRFDP, EA 7475)RouenFrance
  3. 3.CNRS and Université de PoitiersPoitiersFrance

Personalised recommendations