Stephen Mitroff, Associate Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Member of Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Faculty Network Member of Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Stephen Mitroff
Contact Info:
Office Location: 
Office Phone:  (919) 681-0660
Email Address:   send me a message
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Typical Courses Taught:


Ph.D.Harvard University2002
M.A.Harvard University2000
B.A.University of California at Berkeley1998

Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
Developmental Psychology
Research Interests: Malleability and Individual Differences in Visual Cognition

My lab has an active interest in visual search—how we find targets amongst distractors. With a dual goal of informing both academic theory and applied "real-world" performance, we explore various influences on search. We work with a variety of expert groups to understand the effects of experience and expertise, and to reveal individual differences in performance. For example, we work with radiologists, orthodontists, and airport X-ray operators. With support from the TSA, we have a lab at Raleigh-Durham airport and are testing all of the TSA Officers there. As well, we explore aspects of the search process itself (e.g., how often targets occur and whether one or more targets can occur in the same search array). The lab is currently examining many aspects of "multiple-target visual search"—where more than one possible target can be present in the same search. Multiple-target searches are common in real-world settings (baggage screening, radiology) and they are especially error prone; we are examining what factors affect accuracy to both further cognitive theories and to improve searchers' performance. Another thread of my research program is focused on the effects of prior experiences and individual differences on the malleability of visual cognition. We explore how certain activities, traits, personalities, and predilections affect visual and attentional abilities. We work with a variety of groups to examine how different individual differences relate to visual and cognitive performance. Related to the above research lines, I also work with Nike to examine visual training from a sports perspective. I am an advisor to Nike's SPARQ Sensory Performance group and have multiple projects focused on the effects of stroboscopic vision on visual and attentional abilities. We work with a large variety of study participants, including elite athletes (Duke Basketball; Carolina Hurricanes), to understand the malleability of performance.

Areas of Interest:

Visual Cognition
Malleability of Visual Cognition
Applied Visual Cognition
Cognitive Development
Visual Search
Individual Differences
Visual Attention
Cognitive effects of Videogame playing


Lab Website
Curriculum Vitae
Current Ph.D. Students  

Postdocs Mentored

Representative Publications   (More Publications)   (search)

  1. Appelbaum, LG; Cain, MS; Schroeder, JE; Darling, EF; Mitroff, SR (2012). Stroboscopic visual training improves information encoding in short-term memory.. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74(8), 1681-1691. [22810559], [doi]  [abs]
  2. Donohue, SE; James, B; Eslick, AN; Mitroff, SR (2012). Cognitive pitfall! Videogame players are not immune to dual-task costs.. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74(5), 803-809. [22669792], [doi]  [abs]
  3. Cain, MS; Vul, E; Clark, K; Mitroff, SR (2012). A bayesian optimal foraging model of human visual search.. Psychological Science, 23(9), 1047-1054. [22868494], [doi]  [abs]
  4. Donohue, SE; Darling, EF; Mitroff, SR (2012). Links between multisensory processing and autism.. Experimental Brain Research, 222(4), 377-387. [22923209], [doi]  [abs]
  5. Smith, TQ; Mitroff, SR (2012). Stroboscopic training enhances anticipatory timing. International Journal of Excerise Science, 5(4), 344-353.
  6. Cain, MS; Mitroff, SR (2013). Memory for found targets interferes with subsequent performance in multiple-target visual search.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39(5), 1398-1408. [23163788], [doi]  [abs]
  7. Appelbaum, LG; Cain, MS; Darling, EF; Stanton, SJ; Nguyen, MT; Mitroff, SR (2012). What is the identity of a sports spectator?. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(3), 422-427. [doi]  [abs]
  8. Cain, MS; Dunsmoor, JE; LaBar, KS; Mitroff, SR (2011). Anticipatory anxiety hinders detection of a second target in dual-target search.. Psychological Science, 22(7), 866-871. [21670427], [doi]  [abs]
  9. Appelbaum, LG; Schroeder, JE; Cain, MS; Mitroff, SR (2011). Improved Visual Cognition through Stroboscopic Training.. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(276), 276. [22059078], [doi]  [abs]
  10. Cain, MS; Mitroff, SR (2011). Distractor filtering in media multitaskers.. Perception, 40(10), 1183-1192. [22308888], [doi]  [abs]
  11. Clark, K; Fleck, MS; Mitroff, SR (2011). Enhanced change detection performance reveals improved strategy use in avid action video game players.. Acta Psychologica, 136(1), 67-72. [21062660], [doi]  [abs]
  12. Fleck, MS; Samei, E; Mitroff, SR (2010). Generalized "satisfaction of search": adverse influences on dual-target search accuracy.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 16(1), 60-71. [20350044], [doi]  [abs]
  13. Donohue, SE; Woldorff, MG; Mitroff, SR (2010). Multisensory benefits of playing video games. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 72(4), 1120-1129. [20436205], [doi]  [abs]
  14. Wang, S-H; Mitroff, SR (2009). Preserved visual representations despite change blindness in infants.. Developmental Science, 12(5), 681-687. [19702760], [doi]  [abs]
  15. Fleck, MS; Mitroff, SR (2007). Rare targets are rarely missed in correctable search.. Psychological Science, 18(11), 943-947. [17958706], [doi]  [abs]
  16. Mitroff, SR; Scholl, BJ; Wynn, K (2004). Divide and conquer: how object files adapt when a persisting object splits into two.. Psychological Science, 15(6), 420-425. [15147497], [doi]  [abs]
  17. Mitroff, SR; Scholl, BJ (2004). Seeing the disappearance of unseen objects.. Perception, 33(10), 1267-1273. [15693670], [doi]  [abs]
  18. Mitroff, SR; Simons, DJ (2002). Changes are not localized before they are explicity detected. Visual Cognition, 9(8), 937-968. [doi]  [abs]