Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Cognitive Psychology, Psychology


Previous research has found that participants respond less efficiently to taboo words in a modified emotional Stroop task than to neutral words because of the emotional nature of taboo words. Additionally, there is some evidence that the extent to which these words impact performance depends on whether the words appear in a participant’s native language. More specifically, the taboo effect has been found to be more pronounced in a person’s native language. One purpose of the current study was to determine whether previous results in a taboo Stroop task would be replicated. Another purpose of this study was to determine if the taboo effect would extend to reprimands. Reprimands, like taboo words, are considered to be highly emotional. Taboo words were previously found to be more arousing in native speakers when presented auditorily compared to when presented visually. In the current study, the stimuli were simultaneously presented visually on a computer screen and auditorily over headphones. During a taboo Stroop task, participants were randomly presented with taboo and neutral words in colored fonts. During a reprimand Stroop task, participants were randomly presented with reprimanding phrases and neutral phrases, and only the last word in these phrases was in a colored font. Participants were instructed to indicate the font color. I analyzed participants’ reaction times and the maximum deviation of their mouse movements. Participants in both groups responded significantly more slowly to taboo words compared to neutral words. Mouse movements were also more deviated in response to taboo words than neutral words. Interestingly, participants had significantly faster (not slower) responses for reprimands compared to neutral phrases. Group differences were not statistically significant. Given participants’ early age of acquisition, it is possible that the non-native participants behaved more like native speakers. Consequently, participants with later ages of acquisition should be recruited in future research.

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