Stroop Test, Inhibition and Brain-based coaching

Stephanie at Ide­alawg alerts us of a recent arti­cle, titled A Brain-based Approach to Coach­ing, that serves as fol­low-up to the one we wrote about on the Neu­ro­science of Lead­er­ship”.

The authors, David Rock and Jef­frey Schwartz, are host­ing a a free webi­nar on Thurs­day Novem­ber 2, 2006, from 2 to 3 PM Eastern.

One quote from their arti­cle: “While we don’t seem to have the abil­i­ty to con­trol our thoughts, we do have a say over which thoughts we act on. It seems we may not have much “free will” but we do have “free won’t”-the abil­i­ty to not fol­low our urges”.

In oth­er words, inhi­bi­tion pow­er is what “frees” us. Many kids and adults with ADHD strug­gle with it-and not only them. You may won­der-what is the deal with Inhi­bi­tion? well, try one of your favorite brain exer­cis­es, below:

Quick! say aloud what col­or you see in every word, NOT the word you read.

The Stroop test is used in neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions to mea­sure men­tal vital­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty, since per­form­ing well requires strong inhi­bi­tion capa­bil­i­ty. Enjoy.


  1. Alan Pritt on October 26, 2006 at 5:32

    A pos­si­ble prob­lem with using the Stroop test as a train­ing method is that after a lit­tle prac­tice it becomes real­ly easy. I sug­gest that this is not because we have learnt to inhib­it the nat­ur­al response, but because we have learnt to make the asso­ci­a­tion between colour and name stronger than word and name (at least in this context). 

    An inter­est­ing per­son­al obser­va­tion is that while I quick­ly became good at the Stoop test, after play­ing with it for an extend­ed peri­od it becomes dif­fi­cult again. I guess this is prob­a­bly some­thing to do with tir­ing out the neu­rons con­nect­ed with the new learnt asso­ci­a­tion. This prob­a­bly tests out my ‘inhi­bi­tion pow­er’ again.

    If incor­po­rat­ed into a dynam­ic train­ing pro­gram — i.e. the task fre­quent­ly changes so that it is impos­si­ble to learn a task specif­i­cal­ly — then I think this could be a viable train­ing method.

  2. Alvaro on October 26, 2006 at 6:49

    Alan, thanks for your com­ment. Yes, the Stroop test is an assess­ment, not a train­ing method per se. There are more sys­tem­at­ic ways to train inhibition.

    Your own expe­ri­ence indi­cates that train­ing is pos­si­ble. Now, no one here is talk­ing about “inhibit­ing nat­ur­al impuls­es” but about learn­ing how to man­age them. You do so by wiring new stronger asso­ci­a­tions, and learn­ing when to use them.

    Thanks also for link­ing to us-will pay a vis­it dur­ing the weekend

  3. Alan Pritt on October 27, 2006 at 4:33

    But it’s dur­ing the process of wiring new asso­ci­a­tions that inhibit­ing becomes very impor­tant. For exam­ple, if you’re learn­ing a song on your gui­tar and you dis­cov­er you’ve learnt a sec­tion incor­rect­ly, you have to inhib­it what you’ve already learnt while you lay down new path­ways. If you can’t do that, you will con­tin­ue to make the same mis­takes and strug­gle to get the new asso­ci­a­tions down cor­rect­ly. Remem­ber­ing to inhib­it one’s response seems to be a key part here, which would trans­late to atten­tion when learn­ing a new inhibition.

  4. armand l martin OD on November 26, 2006 at 4:22

    I missed somthing here? or was I just too lit­er­al? alm

  5. Alvaro on November 26, 2006 at 4:27

    Armand, have you tried all the words, or only the first few?

  6. Alvaro on November 2, 2006 at 11:22

    Alan, true, you can learn how to inhib­it your behav­ior-play­ing that gui­tar sec­tion incorrectly‑, I just meant that what you can not inhib­it is the learned impulse to play it that way at first. You have that impulse, but you man­age your response, and suc­ceed in inhib­it the behav­ior (not the impulse). Over time, you will learn new impulses.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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