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J Anxiety Disord. 2009 Jun;23(5):650-5. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Does the modified Stroop effect exist in PTSD? Evidence from dissertation abstracts and the peer reviewed literature.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, United States.


The modified Stroop effect (MSE), in which participants show delayed colour naming to trauma-specific words, is one of the most widely cited findings in the literature pertaining to cognitive bias in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The current study used a novel approach (Dissertation Abstract Review; DAR) to review the presence of the MSE in dissertation abstracts. A review of dissertations that used the modified Stroop task in a PTSD sample revealed that only 8% of the studies found delayed reaction times to trauma-specific words in participants with PTSD. The most common finding (75%) was for no PTSD-specific effects in colour naming trauma-relevant words. This ratio is significantly lower than ratios found in the peer reviewed literature, but even in the peer reviewed literature only 44% of controlled studies found the modified Stroop effect. These data suggest that a reevaluation of the MSE in PTSD is warranted.

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