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Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Jul;31(5):817-28. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.03.007. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

The emotional Stroop task and posttraumatic stress disorder: a meta-analysis.

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University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Brain Imaging Research Center, United States.


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with significant impairment and lowered quality of life. The emotional Stroop task (EST) has been one means of elucidating some of the core deficits in PTSD, but this literature has remained inconsistent. We conducted a meta-analysis of EST studies in PTSD populations in order to synthesize this body of research. Twenty-six studies were included with 538 PTSD participants, 254 non-trauma exposed control participants (NTC), and 276 trauma exposed control participants (TC). PTSD-relevant words impaired EST performance more among PTSD groups and TC groups compared to NTC groups. PTSD groups and TC groups did not differ. When examining within-subject effect sizes, PTSD-relevant words and generally threatening words impaired EST performance relative to neutral words among PTSD groups, and only PTSD-relevant words impaired performance among the TC groups. These patterns were not found among the NTC groups. Moderator analyses suggested that these effects were significantly greater in blocked designs compared to randomized designs, toward unmasked compared to masked stimuli, and among samples exposed to assaultive traumas compared to samples exposed to non-assaultive traumas. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.

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