Confusing Colors (Stroop Effect):
Queens Library, Queens, New York

Funding: $1.74M NSF award
More information: AAM article

Library visitors see words naming colors, each printed in a different color from the one it names; e.g., “blue” written in yellow letters. Visitors say the colors the words are printed in, not the colors those words name. Because reading words in a language one understands is usually automatic, visitors reading their own language perform the task slowly and make mistakes. The “aha moment” comes when visitors discover that speaking colors of words printed in languages they don’t understand (e.g., Chinese words for English-speaking readers) is much faster, because no verbal-visual conflict exists. Called the Stroop Effect and widely used in psychological research, this phenomenon remains as strong and surprising today as in 1935 when Stroop first published on it.

I developed this touch-screen based exhibit for the Children’s Discovery Center at the Queens Library in New York, in a city where approximately 179 languages are spoken; seven were included. Visitors choose a language and the exhibit times their progress.

Graphic design, language layouts and icon designs by Diane Burk.