Effects of Automatic and Controlled Processing

The theory of attention was focused on within the experiment, using a modified version of the Stroop effect.

The stroop effect suggests that automatic and controlled processing can conflict with each other making it difficult to focus on a particular task. Participants were asked to look at two sets of stimuli which contained words written in coloured ink, colour related words and neutral words. Participants were asked to say the colour of ink that the word was written in. The results of the experiment showed a significant effect on response times between both stimuli, providing further support to the Stroop effect.

Introduction The environment around us contains an infinite number of sensations, and the human brain cannot attend all sensations at the same time. Reasoning for this could be that humans have limited processing resources. Kahneman (as cited in Edgar, 2007) suggests that we are not aware of everything that is occurring around us because our pool of resources is limited. Schneider and Shiffrin’s automaticity model (as cited in Gross, 2005) suggests that there are two types of processing, Automatic and Controlled.

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Automatic processing uses limited processing power, and does not require conscious awareness, thus making an automatic response. Controlled processing requires a large amount processing power and therefore requires a conscious effort (Attention) to focus on a task. The process of attention enables us to filter out unnecessary information required and focus on the information needed at that given time. The benefit of automatic processing is that due to the limited resources it requires, it enables us to complete more than one task at a time.

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Kahneman (as cited in Gross, 2005) suggests that some tasks (those that have been practised regularly) become automatic, requiring less processing capacity, therefore allowing other tasks to be completed. However as this process is automatic, it makes it difficult to switch off. The Stroop experiment (as cited in Gross, 2005) required participants to look at a list of colour words such as ‘red’ . These words were not written in the corresponding colour for example ‘red’ was written in black ink. The task was to say the colour of ink for each word as quickly as possible.

The results of Stroop’s study showed that participants found it difficult ‘switching off’ the automatic process of reading in order to identify the colour the word was written in. One theory of the results in Stroop’s study could be that automatic and controlled processing of stimuli within the experiment where in conflict with each other. This theory has been explored in the present experiment. The experiment used two different types of stimuli, words that are associated with colour and words that hold no association with colour.

The aim of the experiment was to study the response time of both conditions to see if automatic processing (reading of the word) has an effect on the controlled processing ( identifying the colour). The research hypothesis was that there will be a difference in response times between the colour related condition and the neutral word condition. This is a two tailed hypothesis The null hypothesis was that there would be no difference in the response times of the two conditions. Method Design The experiment used a within participants design.

The independent variable was the manipulation of colours and words. Two conditions were used. These were colour related stimuli where participants were shown a list of coloured words, the coloured ink did not match the associated word and the neutral word stimuli, where the same colours were presented however no association with the word was present. The dependant variable was the time taken in seconds to complete each condition. Control conditions were put in place to reduce possible confounding variables. All of the participants received the same set of instructions.

All participants completed both condition 1 and 2. The order of the conditions were alternated between participants to reduce any practice effect, and the same equipment was used for all participants. Participants Twenty participants were recruited for the experiment. Sixteen of these participants were recruited from the Open university or their family and friends. Four participants were recruited from the experimenters family. All participants were naive to the hypothesis of the experiment. The age range of the participants was between 18 to 69 years old.

There were 14 female participants and 6 male participants. The participants were invited to take part in an experiment. The participants were informed that the experiment was designed to look at automatic processing, a subject discussed within cognitive psychology. The experiment would take approximately 2-5 minutes to complete and 10 minutes to provide a debrief at the end. Participants were informed that their information would remain anonymous, however, data recorded (Age, sex and response times) will be included within the study.

Participants were asked if they had any impairments which may prevent them from completing the experiment, this included Colour blindness and sight difficulties . It was explained that this information was required as the experiment involved looking at colours and completing 2 conditions as quickly as possible; and due to the nature of the experiment, participants with impairments may find the experiment difficult. No impairments were disclosed to the experimenter. Participants were informed of their right to withdraw from the experiment at any time without giving reason.

All participants signed a consent form before taking part in the experiment. None of the responses from the participants was excluded from the data analysis. Materials All participants were provided with the same instruction which was typed on A4 paper and read out to each participant (Appendix 1). A digital stopwatch was used to time how long it took for each participant to complete both conditions. The recorded time was to the nearest second. The experimenter used a response sheet printed on an A4 piece of paper to record the data received (Appendix 2)

The Stimuli was presented on two separate pieces of A4 paper labelled ‘condition 1’ and ‘condition 2‘. Both condition 1 and condition 2 contained two columns. Each column contained 15 words totalling 30 words for each condition. The same set of colours was used for each condition- Red, Orange, Blue, Purple, Green and Yellow. The order that each colour was presented in condition 1 corresponded with the order presented in condition 2. Condition 1 contained a list of colour related words (Appendix 3).

Condition 2 contained a list of colour neutral words (Appendix 4). . Procedure The participants were informed that they would be required to name the colours of the ink in which words are written and would take approximately 3 minutes to complete. The participants were informed that the experimenter would be timing each condition and recording the data on a sheet of A4 paper. The participants were asked to disclose their age for the data, and their Sex was also recorded. The participants took part in the experiment individually.

Each participant was given the same instructions The participants were asked to work through each set of stimuli as quickly as possible. Once it was confirmed that the participant understood the instruction given, a copy of the first set of words was placed in front of them face down on the table. The participant was told to turn the sheet of paper over and begin the task. The experimenter then started the stopwatch. Once the participant finished the task, the experimenter stopped the stopwatch and recorded the response time on the response sheet.

The same procedure was completed for the second set of words. There was no interstimulus-interval, as the second set of words were presented immediately after finishing the first task. The order in which participants completed both sets of conditions was alternated to reduce the possibility of practice effect. The experiment took an average of 2 minutes to complete depending on how long the individual participant took to complete each condition. The participant was then provided with a debrief which explained the purpose of the experiment.

The participant was given further information on Automatic processing, and the design of each condition was explained. The participant was given the opportunity to ask Questions following the debrief. It was acknowledged by the experimenter at this time that her limited knowledge on this subject may prevent her from answering all of the questions posed. Results The hypothesis researched within this study was that there will be a difference in response times between the colour related condition and the neutral word condition. The data collected within the experiment was measured in seconds.

Updated: Aug 12, 2021
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Effects of Automatic and Controlled Processing. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/effects-of-automatic-and-controlled-processing-essay

Effects of Automatic and Controlled Processing essay
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