The Stroop revisited: a meta-analysis of interference control in AD/HD


R. van Mourik, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, Vrije Universiteit, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Email:


Background:  An inhibition deficit, including poor interference control, has been implicated as one of the core deficits in AD/HD. Interference control is clinically measured by the Stroop Colour-Word Task. The aim of this meta-analysis was to investigate the strength of an interference deficit in AD/HD as measured by the Stroop Colour-Word Task and to assess the role of moderating variables that could explain the results. These moderating variables included: methods of calculating the interference score, comorbid reading and psychiatric disorders, AD/HD-subtypes, gender, age, intellectual functioning, medication, and sample size.

Methods:  Seventeen independent studies were located including 1395 children, adolescents, and young adults, in the age range of 6–27 years. A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the effect sizes for the scores on the word and the colour card as well as the interference score.

Results:  Children with AD/HD performed more poorly on all three dependent variables. The effect sizes for word reading (d = .49) and colour naming (d = .58) were larger and more homogeneous than the effect size for the interference score (d = .35). The method used to calculate the interference score strongly influenced the findings for this measure. When interference control was calculated as the difference between the score on the colour card minus the score on the colour-word card, no differences were found between AD/HD groups and normal control groups.

Discussion:  The Stroop Colour-Word Task, in standard form, does not provide strong evidence for a deficit in interference control in AD/HD. However, the Stroop Colour-Word Task may not be a valid measure of interference control in AD/HD and alternative methodologies may be needed to test this aspect of the inhibitory deficit model in AD/HD.