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April 01, 2010

The Stroop test, a widely available, easily administered assessment of a person's ability to screen out distractions and inhibit inappropriate responses, may predict which cocaine abusers are likely to drop out of therapy. In a study of 74 cocaine abusers, Dr. Chris Streeter and colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School found that Stroop scores predicted treatment retention better than addiction severity, symptoms of depression, or other clinical and demographic characteristics. The researchers suggest that programs might use the test to assign patients to appropriate treatment interventions and intensities.

screen from Stroop test showing the names of colors some correctly colored others the wrong color

The Stroop test measures the difference in response times between instances where the automatic response is appropriate and instances where that response must be inhibited. In the Boston trial, this difference—of about 30 seconds, on average—was 24 percent greater among patients who dropped out than among those who completed therapy.

Neuropsychopharmacology 33(4):827-836, 2008. [Full Text (PDF, 139KB)]