SAGE Journal Articles

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Stroop Effect 

West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (1979). The development of automatic word recognition skills. Journal of Reading Behavior, 11, 211-219.


This classic article uses the Stroop Task to evaluate automatic word recognition in kindergarten, first, and second graders. This variation of the Stroop task used a discrete-trial procedure where letters, low-frequency, and high-frequency words were presented in red, blue, yellow, or green. In addition to being asked to name the color, participants were asked to concurrently hold a word in memory in order to increase the likelihood of interference. Reaction times were slower for the first graders than for the kindergarten or third graders, which was consistent with previous research. In addition, kindergarteners showed longer reaction times for letters than for words suggesting kindergarteners have yet to automatize word recognition.

Discussion Questions:

  1. The authors chose to use a variety of stimuli (letters, low-frequency words, high-frequency words) in order to eliminate any effects of reading abilities. What would be another way to take into consideration differences in children’s reading abilities?
  2. The participants in this study were mostly middle-class elementary school students. What differences would you expect to see if this same study was conducted with a sample from a low-income urban environment?
  3. One of the limitations noted by the authors was a large amount of variability in the reaction times for the younger children. Why do you think there would be more variation in reaction times for the younger children, but not for the older children?

Expectancy Effects 

Smith, M. D., Zingale, S. A., & Coleman, J. M. (1978). The influence of adult expectancy/child performance discrepancies upon children’s self-concepts. American Educational Research Journal, 15, 259-265.


The goal of this study was to evaluate the phenomenon that children from a high-SES tend to show lower levels of self-regard. The authors hypothesize that this negative correlation may be due to an interaction between adult expectations and children’s actual performance. Adults my believe that children from a high-SES should be performing at a higher level and therefore when the child does not do well, this causes a decrease in their self-esteem because they feel as though they have failed. The authors collected data on self-concept, family SES, intellectual ability, and academic achievement for children assigned to a special education classroom. The results were consistent with previous findings showing a negative correlation between SES and self-concept. In addition, there was a significant difference in self-concept in the high and low achievement groups such that the low achievement group had lower self-concept scores, but only for those with a high-SES. The findings help provide evidence to support the hypothesis that those who feel as though they should be doing better feel worse when they fail academically. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What implications would these findings have for children from a high-SES who are struggling academically? What would help to boost their self-concept?
  2. Although the authors do no mention race, do you think we would see similar patterns for minority children?
  3. How might the results of this study, and the idea of expectation discrepancy, help us understand the ideas of resiliency?