Academics: Faculty

Shani Harris, Ph.D.

Title: Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Phone: 404-270-5645; fax 404-270-5632
Office: Giles Hall, Room 209

Ph.D, Clinical Psychology, Duke University - Durham
MA, Clinical Psychology, Duke University - Durham
BA, Psychology, Spelman College - Atlanta

Research Interests:
Identifying psychosocial and contextual factors related to sexual risk taking, and discerning their association with HIV incidence among African-American adolescent girls; examining the presence the sexual stereotypes in media, and exploring its impact on physiological responsiveness, sexual development and expression; and developing novel media-based interventions based on entertainment-education strategies to promote sexual health.

Courses Taught:

  • PSY 423: Health Psychology
  • PSY 306: Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 200B: Risky Behaviors (HIV/AIDS)
  • PSY 201/202: Introduction to Psychological Science
  • PSY 308: Honors Seminar
  • PSY 491/492: Honors Thesis Research
  • ECON/PSY/BIO: AIDS: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (in development)

Recent Awards:
NIH/Spelman Center for Health Disparities Research and Education Sub-project grant: Entertaining Safe Sex: An E-E Approach to HIV Prevention for African American Girls. 

NSF/Center for Behavioral Neuroscience: Physiological Responsiveness to Sexual Stereotypes in Music Videos and its Association with Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors.

Recent Publications:

  • Holmes, M., Harris, S., Bass, R. & Whitfield, L. (2012). Leveraging HIV in curricular innovation at Spelman College. Network: A Journal of Faculty Development. 
  • Peterson, S.H. (2010). Instructor’s Manual. In Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S. J., Namy, L.L., & Woolf, N.J.’s Psychology: A Framework for Understanding. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Cunningham, S. & Harris Peterson, S. (2010, Spring). Brain activation and physiological responsiveness to sexual stereotypes in music videos and its association with sexual attitudes and behaviors, MBRS-RISE Journal of Undergraduate Research, 5, 10-15.
  • Wingood, G.M., Reddy, P., Peterson, S.H., DiClemente, R.J., Nogoduka, C., Braxton, N. & Mbewu, T. (2008). HIV Stigma and Mental Health Status among Women Living with HIV in the Western Cape, South Africa, South African Journal of Science, 104 (5), 237-240.
  • Peterson, S.H., Wingood, G.M., DiClemente, R.J., Harrington, K., & Davies, S. (2007). Images of Sexual Stereotypes in Rap Videos and the Health of African-American Female Adolescents. Journal of Women’s Health, 16(8), 1157-1164. 
  • Peterson, S. H. (2006). The importance of fathers: contextualizing sexual risk taking in “low risk” African American adolescent girls. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 13(3), 67-83.

Research Interests:
Dr. Harris is the director of the Sexual Health and Media Lab at Spelman College. Her work focuses on developing and implementing entertainment-education based HIV interventions and examining the relation between exposure to media, brain and physiological responsiveness, and sexual attitudes and behaviors. More broadly, the SHM Lab examines media’s impact on sexual expression and risk in adolescents and adults. 

Current projects include the development of an E-E serial video intervention and identifying the physiological effect of exposure to stereotypical sexual imagery in music videos and its impact on sexual attitudes and behaviors in men and women. Dr. Harris is the former Chair of the Feminist Media Task Force, an initiative of the American Psychological Associations’ Society for the Psychology of Women. As chair, she developed the popular blog - FemPop: Feminist Perspectives of Popular Culture (

Dr. Harris completed a NIH-IRACDA fellowship at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, the W.K. Kellogg Community Health Scholars Program at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2003, she received her doctorate from Duke University in the area of Clinical Psychology and received her B.A. from Spelman College in 1997.

Professional Leadership:
Society for the Psychology of Women, Executive Committee, Chair of the Feminist Media Task Force (2010-2012)