Attention and Distraction - Battle Between the CEO and Creativity Director

Recent research from Illinois researchers indicates that the battle for attention in the Stroop task is not a matter of frontal executive function being present or absent, but rather due to the different patterns of activations in the posterior attention (parietal lobes) brain areas.

When two different Stroop tasks were given that different in the nature of task-irrelevant information (color-word vs. color-object task), little changes were seen in frontal executive areas, whereas marked differences were seen in the posterior areas.

 At left, color-word (orange), color-object (blue) for incongruent vs. neutral condition. Overlapping areas were shown in purple.

The data are interesting and remind us of the Chief Operations Officer or COO (executive) and Creativity Director described in our book, The Mislabeled Child. Stroop tasks are commonly employed in ADHD scenarios or tests of executive function, but this research suggests the truth is a bit more complicated than that.
Some children (and adults) undoubtedly may struggle with the Stroop because of weaker frontal executive functions, but differences in posterior pathways probably account for at least some of the lower performers - the question is how to distinguish the two - either in the clinic or in the classroom. Recently dyslexic teens were reported to have poorer performance on the Stroop, but is that because of weak COOs or 'too strong' Creativity Directors?

In this older study of positive mood on creative fluency and executive function (Stroop) , positive mood was positively correlated with greater creative fluency (e.g. how many different things can you think of to do with a cup), but negatively correlated with strong executive function performance on the Stroop. So happiness may help the Creativity Director, but not the COO. Instead, perhaps it's Seriousness (i.e. not really a positive mood) that drives the Chief Operations Officer.

Two attention systems in the Stroop pdf


  1. Jeff L.7:09 PM

    I had a neuropsych eval that said there was implication of, in their words, "great disruption in the right anterior hemisphere of (my) brain relative to the left", and yet throughout the latter half of my college years, my literature and creative writing teachers often comment on how original, intuitive, abstract, and imagistic my ideas and writing are.

    Also, I have to be reminded time and time again that it's apostrophe s is possessive just about every time i get help editing a paper.

    In other words, can one person test one way in a clinical setting, then consistently demonstrate what at least appears to be the opposite pattern of strengths and weaknesses outside the neuropsych's?

  2. There's a lot we don't know about the brain....