Innovative Thinking – Stroop Effect – Blog 018

The Stroop Effect


In this challenge, you will need to create the chart below in your word processor.  Type the two columns of words that you see below.  Then, Change the text to the colors in the parentheses; e.g.: the YELLOW is printed in (Green), the BLACK is printed in (Yellow), etc.


YELLOW           BLACK

PURPLE             ORANGE

BLUE                  GREEN

BLUE                  RED

YELLOW           GREEN

RED                    BLUE


RED                    BLACk




Challenge #1: Start in the top right corner with the first word on the list.  Quickly, say the word, not the color.  Read all the words in both lists.




Challenge #2: Read the words again, only say the color of the word, not the word.





Did you see any difference in your ability to read the words versus telling the colors?  I bet you did a lot better on the first challenge and found the second challenge difficult.  Why would that be?  It’s very simple.  Any pre-kindergarten kid knows their colors.


It’s because you are experiencing the Stroop effect, named after psychologist John Ridley Stroop.


This test shows how dominant your left brain is.  You analytical brain is what keeps you alive by constantly analyzing the world around you and trying to determine what’s important to your safety and what can be ignored.  Let’s look at some of the data that is streaming into your brain right now that the left side of your brain is disposing of as nonessential.


Do you feel the chair pressing up against your butt?  Do you hear the hum of the printer?  The traffic outside?  Your waistband?  The armrests on your chair?  Your shoes?  The room temperature may be a little warn or a little too cool?  Your hair?  Can you feel your hair?


All this and thousands of more data inputs are streaming into your brain through every sensor your body has, but only information that your left brain thinks is important is getting in.


Your left brain presses the words, so reading the words in spite of their color and be done quite easily.  The left / analytical brain reads the words and spits them out.  Just like that.


The problem comes in when you are determining colors.  Remember from above.  The right side of your brain the creative side which processes colors.  When you try the second challenge and read only the colors, your right brain has to determine the color then relay that information to the gatekeeper, you left brain to analytically yell it our (either out of your mouth or into your head-voice).  This takes an extra step and your left brain needs to verify the information first as important enough to pass on.


Damn dominant brain!  It’s this crossover that slows our creativity and sometimes prohibits our ability to “realize” our innovation.


As with all problems, the first step is to admit you have a problem.  The second step is to be aware of this and to practice overcoming our “condition”.  With practice, the crossover comes faster and with less effort.


Lon Safko
Serial Innovator, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Innovative Thinking

Tags: innovative thinking, creative, creative thinking, Innovation, critical thinking definition, innovation definition, critical thinking skills, creative process

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