Most of us believe we can control what pieces of information influence our decisions. But can we? The Stroop Test suggests no.

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Frank Stanton, the then-president of CBS, said of the Kennedy-Nixon debate: “Kennedy was bronzed beautifully… Nixon looked like death.” The legendary debate changed the face of political media strategy, but was it warranted? A 2003 study by political scientist James Druckman suggests, yes. People were significantly more likely to think Kennedy “won” the debate when they watched it versus listened to it.

Colors are one thing, but our decisions can also be influenced by something as insignificant as a single letter – whether we’re aware of it or not. Watch this video about how José Zamora dropped a single letter to gain a title, and read more about the research that shows how names can Stroop us.


Baumeister, R. F., & Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Penguin.

Goldin, C., & Rouse, C. (2000). Orchestrating impartiality: The impact of” blind” auditions on female musicians. American Economic Review90(4), 715-741.

MacLeod, C. M. (1991). Half a century of research on the Stroop Effect: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin, 109(2), 163-203.

Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology18(6), 643.


Strooped! was created and developed by Mahzarin Banaji, Olivia Kang, Kirsten Morehouse, and Evan Younger with support from PwC, Johnson & Johnson, and Harvard University.

Special thanks to the Bok Center’s Learning Lab Studio at Harvard University.

Narration by Olivia Kang

Animation & Editing by Evan Younger

Artwork by Olivia Kang

Assistant: Theodora Mautz

Music by J.S. Bach (performed by Advent Chamber Orchestra) and Olive Musique, Ben Beiny, Immersive Music, and Allegory Musia via Premium Beat

John F. Kennedy footage by CBS via JFK Library