Recent decades have seen large advances in scientific understanding of human emotions and reactions. One of the most popular instruments used for evaluating personal responsiveness to emotional information is the emotional Stroop test. The key approach to the Stroop test involves assessing one’s ability to process emotions, which has been extensively studied and used in previous research. However, the advancement of technology and the increased importance of mental health provide a rationale for the exploration of other uses of this test. The specific research question is: “How can the emotional Stroop test benefit the modern fields of psychology and neurology according to recent research?”
In general, previous studies focused on the practical applicability of the Stroop test for the solution of a wide range of emotion-related issues. Thus, Prada et al. (2022) aimed to ascertain whether it is possible to use an emotional Stroop test to monitor emotional conflict. For this, the researchers created a computational version of the classic test and modified it by adding faces showing various emotional expressions. The results of the study provided the researchers with samples of responses by healthy people, which can be compared with patients who have emotional and psychiatric conditions.
Another approach presupposed the impact of thinking about the consequences of problem resolution on the actual problem-solving process. According to the study by Noreen and Dritschel (2022), the emotional Stroop test allowed the researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of decision-making by depressed people. Its results showed that “encouraging depressed individuals to think about the consequences of a problem being resolved may be an effective strategy to improve social problem-solving skills in depression” (Noreen & Dritschel, 2022, p. 20). It is an important advice for patients in mental health facilities, as well as those who struggle with depression.
The ability of the Stroop test to establish the connections between health conditions was examined as well. The study by Lunn and Chen (2022) aimed to explore the connection between sleep deprivation and the ability to correctly interpret emotional information. The Stroop test was identified as the most effective instrument for this task. The key finding is that sleep deprivation is directly related to the greater likelihood of mental health issues and less effective social-emotional processing in adolescents. In another study, “Chronic pain and emotional Stroop: A systematic review,” Amaro-Díaz et al. (2022) sought to understand what regions of the brain are affected in people who experience chronic pain. The review has investigated what regions were most frequently activated in studies utilizing the emotional Stroop test. Three brain areas were found to be the most active – the somatosensory region, cingulate, and prefrontal cortices. Activity in this area slows the response time of patients with chronic pain who are subjected to emotional information.
One more approach suggested that the test may assess the impact of emotional stimuli on anxious people’s perceptions. Thus, Ypsilanti et al. (2021) intended to examine the emotional negativity of COVID-related stimuli by incorporating COVID-related images into the emotional Stroop test. The main finding was that COVID-anxious people perceived COVID-related negative stimuli more intensely than negative images, which are not related to the coronavirus. It was also established that the more people were exposed to COVID-related dangers, the more negative their perception was.
Finally, the Stroop test was used for the examination of emotional biases. For instance, Kamboureli and Economou (2021) compared attentional biases in old and young people. The emotional Stroop test allowed the researchers to conclude that young and old have different danger schematics that influence their perception of positive and negative information. An especially intriguing finding was that old people are more prone to avoiding negative information and focusing more attention on positive emotions, which is not observed in young people. In turn, Tabri and Palmer (2020) focused on attentional biases as well, however, they targeted people with eating disorders. The emotional Stroop test helped the authors of the study establish that overvaluing physical appearance leads to greater attention to images of attractiveness ideals. This finding is useful for psychologists who work with depressed clients with eating disorders.
The current study is closely interconnected with previous research. First of all, it also aims to examine the application of the emotional Stroop test to the assessment of people’s brain activities and ability to process emotions for the improvement of mental health practices. At the same time, it focuses on technological advancements and new areas of the test’s use. In this case, the study presupposes the comparison between previous works and modern ones to trace the differences.
According to the review of existing literature dedicated to the Scroop test, two main themes can be identified, including a better understanding of the human brain and practical application for psychological treatment. Studies by Prada et al. (2022), Amaro-Díaz et al. (2022), and Kamboureli and Economou (2021) provide findings that advance the knowledge of neurology. At the same time, Noreen and Dritschel (2022), Lunn and Chen (2022), Ypsilanti et al. (2021), and Tabri and Palmer (2020) provide guidelines for actual psychiatric and psychological practice. Based on this information, it is possible to conclude that not only does the emotional Stroop test remain relevant, but it also has substantial potential to expand knowledge of emotional processing via numerous modifications and incorporation of computer technology. That is why it is rational to examine it taking into consideration technologies and related opportunities for its contemporary application to other areas of psychology and neurology to assess the potential of this tool.
Amaro-Díaz, L., Montoro, C. I., Fischer-Jbali, L. R., & Galvez-Sánchez, C. M. (2022). Chronic pain and emotional Stroop: A systematic review. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(12), 1-19.
Kamboureli, C., & Economou, A. (2021). Trait anxiety and interference in the emotional Stroop task in young and old adults. Current Psychology, 1-10.
Lunn, J., & Chen, J. Y. (2022). Chronotype and time of day effects on verbal and facial emotional Stroop task performance in adolescents. Chronobiology International, 39(3), 323-332.
Noreen, S., & Dritschel, B. (2022). In the here and now: Future thinking and social problem-solving in depression. Plos One, 17(6), 1-22.
Prada, E., Satler, C., Tavares, M. C., Garcia, A., Martinez, L., Alves, C., & Tomaz, C. (2022). TREFACE: A new computerized test of emotional Stroop with facial expressions. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 12(7), 342-358.
Tabri, N., & Palmer, L. (2020). People who overvalue appearance selectively attend to descriptors of the attractiveness ideal: Findings from an emotional Stroop task. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 53(12), 2003-2012.
Ypsilanti, A., Mullings, E., Hawkins, O., & Lazuras, L. (2021). Feelings of fear, sadness, and loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from two studies in the UK. Journal of Affective Disorders, 295, 1012-1023.