Mallory Stites, Ph.D.

Cognitive Neuroscience

Mallory Stites is a Senior Member of the Technical Staff in the Cognitive Science and Systems department (1463) at Sandia National Laboratories. Her primary research interests lie in understanding the moment-to-moment processes involved in skilled reading and visual information processing, using complementary techniques such as eye-tracking and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to find converging evidence for underlying comprehension mechanisms. Particular questions of interest include how readers integrate multiple conflicting pieces of information (e.g., from ambiguous words), how individual differences impact reading strategies, and how comprehension changes across the lifespan (from pre-K through older adults). Mallory received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014, an M.A. in psychology in 2011, and a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in English from Truman State University in 2009. Prior to coming to Sandia, she completed a post-doc in developmental neuroscience at Binghamton University.

Mallory’s work at Sandia has expanded to include the study of cognitive load of security officers performing complex visual search tasks, the application of cognitive psychology techniques to user experience research, and the factors that influence human navigational abilities in novel environments. The common thread that unites her research areas is the idea that the way information is presented to users, and they online processes they employ when viewing it, has a real impact on their ability to effectively understand and act on the information.

 Research Areas

 Cognitive Load

  • Developing new techniques to measure cognitive load in near-operational environments
  • Measuring human behavioral performance in applied settings
  • Utilizing cognitive load metrics to improve website design

 Visual Cognition

  • Understanding how information can be presented to help people act on it most effectively
  • Using novel methods to record eye-movement-like behaviors during inspection tasks
  • Combing cross-discipline data analysis techniques to visualize data in unique ways


Matzen, L. E., Haass, M. J., Divis, K. M., & Stites, M. C. (2017). Patterns of attention: How data visualizations are read. International Conference on Augmented Cognition, 176-191.

Stites, M. C., & Laszlo, S. (2017). Time will tell: A longitudinal, data-driven investigation of brain-behavior relationships during reading development. Psychophysiology, 54(6), 798-808.

Stites, M. C., Payne, B. R., & Federmeier, K. D. (2017). Getting ahead of yourself: Parafoveal word expectancy modulates the N400 during sentence reading. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 17(3), 475-490.

Stites, M. C., Federmeier, K. D., & Christianson, K. (2016). Do morphemes matter when reading compound words with transposed letters? Evidence from eye-tracking and event-related potentials. Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience.

Payne, B. R., Stites, M. C., & Federmeier, K. D. (2016). Out of the corner of my eye: Event-related potentials reveal effects of foveal load on parafoveal word processing in reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000253

Stites, M. C. & Federmeier, K. D. (2015). Subsequent to suppression: Downstream comprehension consequences of noun/verb ambiguity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 41(5), 1497-1515

Khalifian, N., Stites, M. C., & Laszlo, S. (2015). Relationships between event-related potentials and behavioral and scholastic measures of reading ability:  A large-scale, cross-sectional study. Developmental Science, 19(5), 723-740DOI: 10.1111/desc.12329

Stites, MC., Federmeier, K. D., & Stine-Morrow, E. A. L. (2013). Cross-age comparisons reveal multiple strategies for lexical ambiguity resolution during natural reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 39(6), 1823-1841.

Stites, MC., Luke, S., Christianson, K. (2013). The psychologist said quickly, “Dialogue descriptions modulate reading speed!” Memory & Cognition. 41, 137-151.

Laszlo, S., Stites, M., & Federmeier, K. D. (2012). Won’t get fooled again: An event-related potential study of task and repetition effects on the semantic processing of items without semantics. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27(2), 257-274.