Stephen Mitroff

Stephen Mitroff

Associate Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Harvard University 2002

  • M.A., Harvard University 2000

  • B.A., University of California at Berkeley 1998


NOTE: As of 8/1/2015 Dr. Mitroff and his lab will move to The George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Lab focus: 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.

Mitroff, SR, and Sharpe, B. "Using big data to solve real problems through academic and industry partnerships." Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 18 (December 2017): 91-96. Full Text

Biggs, AT, Clark, K, and Mitroff, SR. "Who should be searching? Differences in personality can affect visual search accuracy." Personality and Individual Differences 116 (October 2017): 353-358. Full Text

Ericson, JM, Kravitz, DJ, and Mitroff, SR. "Visual Search: You Are Who You Are (+ A Learning Curve)." Perception (July 14, 2017): 030100661772109-030100661772109. Full Text

Chang, BP, Cain, D, and Mitroff, SR. "Emergency department crowding associated with differences in CXR interpretations between emergency physicians and radiologists." The American journal of emergency medicine 35.5 (May 2017): 793-794. (Letter) Full Text

Dowd, EW, Mitroff, SR, and LaBar, KS. "Fear generalization gradients in visuospatial attention." Emotion (Washington, D.C.) 16.7 (October 2016): 1011-1018. Full Text

Krasich, K, Ramger, B, Holton, L, Wang, L, Mitroff, SR, and Gregory Appelbaum, L. "Sensorimotor Learning in a Computerized Athletic Training Battery." Journal of motor behavior 48.5 (September 2016): 401-412. Full Text Open Access Copy

Biggs, AT, and Mitroff, SR. "Differences in multiple-target visual search performance between non-professional and professional searchers due to decision-making criteria." British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953) 106.4 (November 2015): 551-563. Full Text

Adamo, SH, Cain, MS, and Mitroff, SR. "Satisfaction at last: Evidence for the “satisfaction” hypothesis for multiple-target search errors." Visual Cognition 23.7 (August 9, 2015): 821-825. Full Text


Clark, K, Cain, MS, and Mitroff, SR. "Perception and human information processing in visual search." The Cambridge Handbook of Applied Perception Research. January 1, 2015. 199-217. Full Text

Simons, DJ, Mitroff, SR, and Franconeri, SL. "Scene Perception: What We Can Learn from Visual Integration and Change Detection." Perception of Faces, Objects, and Scenes: Analytic and Holistic Processes. June 22, 2006. Full Text

Selected Grants

Identifying and Understanding Superior Multiple-Target Visual Search Abilities awarded by Army Research Office (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2016

Conference on Visual Search: A Comprehensive Treatment of Search awarded by Army Research Office (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2014

STIR: Assessing and Training Response Inhibition Abilities awarded by Army Research Office (Co-Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2014

Identifying and enhancing superior searching abilities awarded by Army Research Office (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2013

The nature of persisting object representations awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2009

External influences on visual search awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2009