Avoiding the Approach Trap: A Response Bias Theory of the Emotional Stroop Effect

Eran Chajut, Yaniv Mama, Leora Levy, Daniel Algom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In the laboratory, people classify the color of emotion-laden words slower than they do that of neutral words, the emotional Stroop effect. Outside the laboratory, people react to features of emotion-laden stimuli or threatening stimuli faster than they do to those of neutral stimuli. A possible resolution to the conundrum implicates the counternatural response demands imposed in the laboratory that do not, as a rule, provide for avoidance in the face of threat. In 2 experiments we show that when such an option is provided in the laboratory, the response latencies follow those observed in real life. These results challenge the dominant attention theory offered for the emotional Stroop effect because this theory is indifferent to the vital approach-avoidance distinction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1567-1572
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Approach-avoidance
  • Attention bias
  • Emotional Stroop effect
  • In vivo testing


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