Thursday, 25 August 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: A new paper by Newcastle’s PhD student uses arm-reaching trajectories to uncover complex cognitive processes

You probably spend so much time reading books, magazines, and Facebook posts, that reading has practically become automatic. Sometimes reading can get in the way of other things we might want to do. For instance, naming the print colour of the word GREEN will take longer than the word RED, if both are printed in red colour. This is the well-known Stroop effect (1935) named after John Ridley Stroop. 80 years later we are still trying to understand the source of the Stroop effect.

Recent technological advances in the measurement of arm-reaching trajectories may provide us with a unique window into the human mind. Gabriel Tillman and Ami Eidels from the Newcastle Cognition Lab teamed up with Matthew Finkbeiner from Macquarie University to design and conduct a motion-tracking Stroop task. Participants had to identify the colours of words by reaching out to response locations (see Figure). By analysing movement trajectories we found that interference from the word grows with the time available for processing, although people were instructed to ignore the words the whole time.

However, our results also suggested that in contrast to common belief we may not read each and every word that enters into our visual field, but rather only read some proportion of these words.  

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