Emotional Stroop Task in Mindfulness Research

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Other


The traditional color Stroop task tests the ability for a person to respond to the color of ink a word is printed in and inhibit the incongruent meaning of the word. In contrast, the emotional Stroop task uses emotional information to cause a conflict. For example, participants might be required to respond to the color of a word while the word is “agony”. Like the traditional color Stroop task, reaction times are usually slower, when the word is emotionally negative compared to when the word is emotionally neutral. The extent of this reaction time delay is thought to reflect the extent to which the processing of the emotional stimuli interferes with the processing of the task relevant stimuli. As such, the task has been used to assess the effects of mindfulness on emotional processing. Mindfulness has been suggested to be effective at improving mental health in part by reducing emotional reactivity, so the emotional Stroop task has been used to test whether this mechanism of action mediates the effects of mindfulness practice on mental health. However, the results of studies using the emotional Stroop task to assess changes in emotional regulation from mindfulness practice have been inconsistent. Some studies have shown positive results (mostly in clinical conditions where impaired emotional regulation is seen at baseline), while other studies have shown null results. Additionally, there has been considerable variability in the different methods used in the design of the emotional Stroop task across different mindfulness studies. Since the emotional Stroop has been used less (and is less standardized) than the color Stroop, it may also be more vulnerable to study design confounds. As a result, it is difficult to be confident in whether the different studies measured the same underlying constructs, and it is not possible to draw clear conclusions from the overall pattern of results. Further research using careful study designs may improve this situation, hopefully fulfilling the potential of the emotional Stroop task to increase our understanding of the effects of mindfulness.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Assessment in Mindfulness Research
EditorsOleg N. Medvedev, Christian U. Krägeloh, Richard J. Siegert, Nirbhay N. Singh
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030776442
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

Cite this