Measuring Executive Function with the Stroop Test

The Stroop Color and Word Test is a neuropsychological executive function assessment developed by John Ridley Stroop and first published in 1935. For nearly a century, it’s been a staple of cognitive assessment because it gives clinicians important information about how the brain makes decisions by asking it to respond to two different attributes of a stimulus. 

Overcoming cognitive interference

The test is most commonly presented to patients in the form of color words displayed in a color that does not match the word—for instance, the word “RED” written in the color blue. Patients are asked to identify not the word, but its color. 

The most common outcome is that identifying word colors, which forces the brain to inhibit the reading of the word while determining the word color, creates a longer response time than when the color and the word are in harmony (“RED” written in the color red). This slowed response time is known as the Stroop Effect.

Executive function assessment 

The importance of the Stroop Effect to cognitive assessment is that by measuring how long it takes a patient to overcome cognitive interference, it sheds light on executive function and fundamental cognitive processes—making it a valuable tool in neurological and psychological evaluation. The brain must decide which action to take when presented with a stimulus that defies the sequential manner in which information-processing systems function. 

The Stroop Color and Word Test creates a cognitive bottleneck that elongates response time as the brain creates a single channel to process the information. Response time and motor response can be measured over time to help determine whether a patient is exhibiting cognitive decline.

BrainCheck platform’s cognitive assessment battery

BrainCheck is equipped with five standards assessments for cognitive health, including the Stroop Test. Physicians and clinicians can also extend or customize their array of tests and assessments to best meet the needs of their patients. Schedule a demo to learn hands-on how it can improve your practice.

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