Creativity or logic? The Stroop Color-Word Test determines which side of your brain dominates

Freshman Gracie Strumpfer’s passion for writing the word for a color in another color is actually a technique used to test brain function. It’s known as the Stroop Color-Word Test.

In the test, people are instructed to say the color of the word, rather than the word itself.  It sounds easy, but it’s more difficult than it appears.

This is because the right side of the brain wants to pick the color of the word, while the left side wants to choose the word as written. When people make a mistake, it’s the fault of the left brain.

The left and right sides of the brain process different information, which explains why they pull the tester’s brain in different directions. Also known as the “left brain, right brain dominance theory,” this idea suggests that the left brain and the right brain control different functions.

According to the theory, the right brain excels at creativity.  On the other hand, the left brain is better at logical thinking and analyzing.  Thus, the terms “left-brained” and “right-brained” are often used to classify people’s ways of thinking.

Betty Edwards, a drawing teacher at California State University, Long Beach, thinks that drawing is an activity that requires only the right side of the brain. She published her theory in 1979 in her book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”

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But recent research from the American Psychological Association says that the brain is not as divided in thinking. Now psychologists believe that when the left and right brain work together, the ability to think is stronger and more cohesive.

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Art teacher Patricia Kelly agrees with that. Kelly thinks that drawing is “not just all creativity.”

To her it is more about looking at the relationships of parts and visualizing how they fit together, which would require the use of the left brain as well as the right.

“Art is about seeing—not just seeing, but really looking,” Kelly said.

Art teacher Andy Cunningham also agrees with the more recent research.

“The material part (the medium you’re using) of drawing allows for the opening of the right side of the brain,” Cunningham said.

“Drawing with a ruler architecturally or drawing with fingerprints can facilitate that opening,” he said.

Right-brained testers do better on this test, according to a California State Science Fair experiment. Their ability to focus on the color of the word helps them to disregard the word itself, which is harder for left-brained testers to do.

Another experiment shows that females recognize the color of the word faster than males while children respond much faster in comparison to adults.

The Stroop Test is often associated with the evaluation of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s patients were slower in responding than control patients in a 2002 study done by the University of California in conjunction with the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

Studies evaluating the accuracy of the Stroop Test vary. According to one study (Hutchison, Balota and Duchek), an adapted version of the Stroop Test was better than 18 other tests used to measure cognitive functioning. However, a study from the University of Southern California shows that not all people with Alzheimer’s have trouble with the color confusion.

To try this test yourself, visit

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