A new experiment (using a so-called Stroop test) finds that goal reminders help people solve a task that requires both working memory capacity and attentional control. Goal reminders simply help people keep a goal present in their minds while performing a task.
The study finds that goal reminders provide long-lasting and cumulative benefits for people with lower working memory capacity.
The Stroop Test was first described by psychologist John Ridley Stroop in the 1930s. The test has been called the gold standard of attentional measures, and more than 700 studies have examined nuances of the Stroop effect (MacLeod, 1992). In this article, I describe yet another study.
The Stroop Test can be used to measure selective attention capacity, working memory and processing speed. It is often used together with other cognitive tests to examine overall mental functioning. The method used is described below (I borrowed it from another article about the Stroop test):
- In his first experiment, he (Stroop) asked participants to simply read the color printed in black ink. He then asked them to read the words printed, regardless of the color they were printed in.
- For his second experiment, he asked participants to name the ink color instead of the word written. For example, “red” might have been printed in green and participants were asked to identify the color green instead of reading the word “red.” In this segment, participants were also asked to identify the color of the squares.
The Stroop test shows that people normally have difficulties naming the color of a word when it differs from the word that has been printed, and vice versa, meaning that when people are presented with incongruent information, the task becomes much more difficult as it requires that people’s working memory and attention are doing their job.
The new study used this method:
Participants completed the Automated Operation Span followed by a Stroop task in which they stopped every 24 trials to vocalize either a goal-reminder statement (“name the color not the word”) or a nongoal statement (“This is part of my intro to psychology class”) … The benefit of receiving goal reminders lasted for at least 24 trials and accumulated across the course of the experiment. These data provide strong evidence that goal reminders eliminate the relationship between working memory capacity and Stroop errors and suggest goal reminders can be a useful intervention for those suffering from lapses in controlled attention.
Reference: Hood, Charbonneau & Hutchison (2022). Once established, goal reminders provide long-lasting and cumulative benefits for lower working memory capacity individuals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 48(12), 1738–1753. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0001185