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Get the Scoop on Stroop

Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Specialty items (Nintendo DS™ and Brain Age™ game cartridge)
Cost High ($100 - $150)
Safety No issues


Do you like to read? Did you know that most people read without even thinking about it? Find out in this experiment how a simple reading/color test called the Stroop Effect can show you how your brain works.


In this experiment you will test if the Stroop Effect is stronger in kids of reading age compared to kids that can't read yet.


Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies

  • Brain Age™ and Nintendo DS™ are registered trademarks of Nintendo® of America, Inc. All rights reserved.

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Get the Scoop on Stroop" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 8 May 2013. Web. 22 Sep. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p031.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2013, May 8). Get the Scoop on Stroop. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/HumBeh_p031.shtml

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Last edit date: 2013-05-08


If you are in elementary school, then chances are you have been spending the last few years of your life learning to read and write. At first, trying to read even a simple sentence was a struggle, and you needed to think carefully through each and every word. Now it may come more easily to you, and even feel like it is automatic. This is all part of the learning process, and it has a lot to do with cognitive psychology, or studies of how our "thinking brain" works.

When a behavior or skill no longer requires you to think through each and every step, cognitive psychologists say it is automatized. Even though a behavior has become automatized, it doesn't mean that you are turning into a robot! Many behaviors can become automatized: reading, writing, bicycling, playing musical instruments, playing sports, etc. Automatization is interesting because it is an important part of daily life. We need to perform a variety of automatized behaviors quickly and effortlessly without really thinking about them.

One way cognitive psychologists test for automatized behaviors is to put someone in a situation where an automatized response is in conflict with the desired behavior. If the usual automatic response does not match the given answer, then there is a conflict that the scientist can see, or observe. One well-known example of this type of influence is called the "Stroop Effect" named after the psychologist who first described it, John Ridley Stroop:

"Stroop (1935) noted that observers were slower to properly identify the color of ink when the ink was used to produce color names different from the color of the ink. That is, observers were slower to identify red ink when it spelled the word blue. This is an interesting finding because observers are told to not pay any attention to the word names and simply to report the color of the ink. However, this seems to be a nearly impossible task, as the name of the word seems to interfere with the observer's ability to report the color of the ink." (CogLab, 2007)

In this experiment you will test if the Stroop effect is stronger in students that have learned to read. You will use a "Stroop" test available on the "Brain Age" game for the Nintendo DS Lite handheld game console. You will use this test on students that can (ages 8-10) and cannot (ages 4-5) read, but who do know their colors. If the Stroop effect is due to the automatization of reading as a behavior, then will you see a different result between students that can and cannot read?

Terms and Concepts

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Automatization
  • Behavior
  • Observation
  • Stroop Effect


  • Is reading an automatized behavior, something we do without really thinking about it?
  • How is the Stroop Effect an example of reading as an automatized behavior?
  • Will children of different ages, who can and cannot read, show different responses to the Stroop Effect?


Materials and Equipment

  • Nintendo DS™ handheld game console
  • "Brain Age™" game cartridge
  • Kids aged 4-5 and 8-10 for volunteers

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Experimental Procedure

  1. In this experiment you will use a program for the Nintendo DS™ called "Brain Age™" which has several quick cognitive tests. Before you use the program to test your volunteers, you should get familiar with the game yourself. Make yourself a profile and try taking some of the tests, they are really fun!
    Brain Age
    This is the Nintendo DS™ game that you will use for this experiment.
  2. The test that you will give to your volunteers is the "Quick Brain Age Check" in the "Quick Play" menu. It is a game version of the Stroop test. Be sure you are familiar with how this particular game works, and how to use the menus and buttons. You should know the game well enough to explain to your volunteers what to do.
  3. In this experiment, you will be collecting lots of data, so you will need to make a table to organize your data. Here is a sample data table you could use to collect data for this experiment:
    Grade (K-5) Age (years) Score on Stroop Test (by decade: 20's, 30's 40's, etc.)
  4. The next step is to find volunteers. You will need two groups of volunteers. One group of children who are too young to read (try asking a preschool or kindergarten class) and a group of students who can read already (try asking a 4th or 5th grade class).
  5. Before you do your Stroop test, you will need to test each volunteer quickly to verify that they know their colors (blue, red, black, yellow, and green) and whether they can or cannot read:
    1. To test for color recognition, hold up a piece of each color of construction paper and ask the student to name each color. If they cannot name the colors, then do not include the student in your study.
    2. To test for reading ability, choose a particular passage from your favorite children's book. Have each student read the passage to you. If they are in the younger age group, and they can read the passage, then do not include the student in your study. If they are in the older age group and they cannot read the passage, then do not include them in your study. You need kids from the younger group that cannot read, and kids from the older group that can read for your comparison.
  6. Ask each volunteer to take the "Quick Brain Age Check" test on your Nintendo DS™. Write down the students grade (K-5), age (in years) and score in your data table. The score of the Brain Age Stroop test is given by decade (20's, 30's, 40's — up to 90's) so write down this number in your data table.
  7. Collect data from as many volunteers as possible. You should try to get at least two classrooms worth of data, about 30-40 kids total for each group, but do get more if you can. The more volunteers you get, the better and more reliable your results will be. You should also quiz the same number of students in each of your two age groups for an even comparison.
  8. Analyze your data by making a frequency table for each age group. Do this by counting the number of people in each age category with the same scores and writing them in a table:
    Stroop Score Non-readers (age 4-5) Readers (age 8-10)
  9. Now you can use your tables to make a histogram of your results. You can make your graph by hand, or use a site like Create A Graph to make your graph on the computer.
  10. What do your results show? Did you observe a difference between the two age groups you tested? Why do you think you got this result? What do you think it means?

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  • Add more age groups to your experiment. You can add in as many age groups as you like. How will the Stroop Effect results change as you look at groups of people at different ages? For this experiment, you can compare the average scores of different age groups to see if you observe any trends.
  • You can test any other variables that you might think are important. You can test for differences in the Stroop Effect when you test people of different:
    • gender (girls vs. boys)
    • handedness (right vs. left handed)
    • talents (artists vs. scientists)
    • amount of sleep (full 8 hours vs. 4 hours)
    • any other ideas?

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