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Stroop effects from newly learned color words: effects of memory consolidation and episodic context
The Stroop task is an excellent tool to test whether reading a word automatically activates its associated meaning, and it has been widely used in mono- and bilingual contexts. Despite of its ubiquity, the task has not yet been employed to test the automaticity of recently established word-concept links in novel-word-learning studies, under strict experimental control of learning and testing conditions. In three experiments, we thus paired novel words with native language (German) color words via lexical association and subsequently tested these words in a manual version of the Stroop task. Two crucial findings emerged: When novel word Stroop trials appeared intermixed among native-word trials, the novel-word Stroop effect was observed immediately after the learning phase. If no native color words were present in a Stroop block, the novel-word Stroop effect only emerged 24 h later. These results suggest that the automatic availability of a novel word's meaning depends either on supportive context from the learning episode and/or on sufficient time for memory consolidation. We discuss how these results can be reconciled with the complementary learning systems account of word learning.