Reclaiming the Stroop effect back from control to input-driven attention and perception

Daniel Algom*, Eran Chajut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


According to a growing consensus, the Stroop effect is understood as a phenomenon of conflict and cognitive control. A tidal wave of recent research alleges that incongruent Stroop stimuli generate conflict, which is then managed and resolved by top-down cognitive control. We argue otherwise: Control studies fail to account for major Stroop results obtained over a century-long history of research. We list some of the most compelling developments and show that no control account can serve as a viable explanation for major Stroop-phenomena and that there exist more parsimonious explanations for other Stroop-related phenomena. Against a wealth of studies and emerging consensus, we posit that data-driven selective attention best accounts for the gamut of existing Stroop results. The case for data-driven attention is not new: A mere twenty-some years ago the Stroop effect was considered "the gold standard" of attention (MacLeod, 1992). We identify four pitfalls plaguing control studies of the Stroop effect and show that the notion of top-down control is gratuitous. Looking at the Stroop effect from a historical perspective, we argue that the recent paradigm change from attention to control is unwarranted. Applying Occam's razor, the effects marshaled in support of the control view are better explained by a selectivity of attention account. Moreover, many Stroop results, ignored in the control literature, are inconsistent with any control account of the effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1683
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJULY
StatePublished - 2019


  • Contingency
  • Control
  • Selective attention bias
  • Stimulus factors
  • Stroop


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