TRUE TO LIFE: THE ROLE OF BASE RATE AND WORD-COLOR CORRELATION IN ENGENDERING THE FAILURE OF SELECTIVE ATTENTION
Presented with color words printed in various colors, participants can attend selectively to the words but cannot attend selectively to the colors. This failure of selective attention, known as the Stroop effect, is the single most popularly studied phenomenon in current cognitive science. Recent studies demonstrated the effect of color-word correlation on the Stroop effect, thereby challenging accounts of automatic reading. However, virtually all Stroop studies to date employed equal base rates of colors and color words, which may not reflect real-life probabilities. Uneven base rates can, in turn, influence performance, favoring semantically congruent or incongruent stimuli. In a series of experiments, we tested the effect of base rate in tandem with that of color-word correlation. The results showed that marginal frequencies affect selective attention and must be taken into consideration when designing or interpreting future studies.