Professor Shiffrin is an expert in the field of human cognition. He has developed and helped to establish a general theory of how we retrieve information from memory. He also has developed a theory of the interaction of automatic and attentive processes in cognition. Both theories have been of fundamental importance in the field. His research interests include mathematical and computer modeling of, and empirical research in, learning, information processing and retrieval, forgetting, attention, the organization and structure of memory, perception, visual information processing and control processes in memory.
Shiffrin received a B.A. from Yale in 1964 (mathematics) and a Ph.D. from Stanford in 1968 (experimental and mathematical psychology). He joined IU in 1968, and became the Luther Dana Waterman Professor in 1980. In 1989, he founded and became the director of the Indiana University Cognitive Science Program.
Professor Shiffrin was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1975, elected to the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1981, chaired the governing boards of the Psychonomic Society in 1982 and the Society for Mathematical Psychology in 1983, and edited the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition from 1980-1984.
Shiffrin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Amsterdam in 1997 and the Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychology in 1999. In 2001, he received the prestigious $100,000 award, the David E. Rumelhart Prize, presented by the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation and Cognitive Science Society for outstanding contributions to human cognition, which includes the fields of memory, learning and perception. He received the David E. Rumelhart Prize in 2002, and was elected to the rank of Distinguished Professor at IU in that same year.
Shiffrin received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.