An investigation of early attention in young children through the use of Stroop task variants
Stroop interference through the colour-word task has been a popular means of studying selective attention since its introduction in 1935. Little effort has been made to adapting a non-verbal task for use with pre-school children. Cramer (1976) devised a colour-picture task where pictures characteristically associated with a particular colour (such as a picture of a banana and the colour yellow) were presented in incongruous colours (e.g., a blue banana). A series of studies was conducted with children aged between 3 and 8 years of age which investigated facets of this colour-picture task. Two methods of responding were compared - a verbal response, and a manual response that allowed younger children to participate (a card-sorting technique). In addition to the basic colour-picture task where children named colours and forms, another task was introduced where children 'prescribed' the correct colour of incorrectly-coloured pictures (Santostefano, 1978; Sebovà & Árochovà, 1986). Results showed that children consistently displayed increased latencies when colour-naming and colour-sorting characteristically and uncharacteristically-coloured pictures. Interference was frequently found for inappropriately-coloured but not appropriately-coloured pictures in form-naming/sorting tasks. The prescribing task proved difficult for children to complete and produced increased latencies and error rates. Performance of the naming colour-picture task was compared to classic Stroop colour-word procedures in children aged between 5 and 8. There were correlations between colour naming in the colour-picture and colour-word tasks for children aged 5 - 7. Performance in the prescribing task did not correlate. It is concluded that the tasks are good measures of selective attention but not necessarily direct equivalents of the colour-word task. An evaluation of the verbal and non-verbal methods is also given.