Consequences of emotional stimuli: Age differences on pure and mixed blocks of the emotional Stroop

Victoria Ashley, Diane Swick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: Studies of aging and emotion suggest that older adults show diminished responsiveness to negative information, possibly resulting from increased emotion regulation, but the mechanisms accounting for this effect are uncertain. Methods: To examine whether aging affects the allocation of attention to negative stimuli, we compared 20 younger and 20 older adults on 2 versions of the emotional Stroop task: "pure blocks," in which all words in each block were either emotional or neutral, and "mixed blocks," a pseudorandomized design in which either a negative emotional or a neutral category word was always followed by six neutral words. The emotional Stroop task typically elicits slower reaction times for naming the font color of negative emotional words compared to neutral, but no studies have examined the effects of aging on the immediate and sustained components of the emotional Stroop effect. Results: Both groups showed an emotional Stroop effect on pure blocks manifest as slower RTs on the emotional, relative to the neutral, block. However, only younger adults showed persistent slowing that carried over from emotional words onto subsequent neutral words in mixed blocks. Conclusion: These results suggest that the consequences of emotional stimuli may differ with age. Younger and older adults showed equivalent interference from the emotional words themselves, but older adults did not show a sustained effect of negative information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
StatePublished - Mar 2 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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