Richard Harris, Ph.D.
Office: BH 424
As part of the Cognitive Psychology program, Dr. Harris' research examines issues involving language and cognition, primarily in the areas of psycholinguistics and mass communication. While some of his research has a strong applied component, other work is clearly basic research. Although he has studied many specific problems in these areas over the years, currently active research includes the following:
Autobiographical memory for media experiences. This project assesses people's memory for their own experiences of consuming media, for example, watching a movie. It examines not only memory for the content of the film or program but also for the social experience of viewing, the thoughts and emotions remembered as experienced while watching, and the consequences of viewing that are remembered. This research has been a useful complement to more traditional laboratory and field studies of media effects. In the past this project has looked at violent and romantic movies, sporting events, and media messages about smoking and memory for music. A current project examining how and why people quote movies in social conversations.
Studies of bilingual language processing. Dr. Harris has done several studies of language comprehension and memory for materials in Spanish, and other languages, as well as English. He has also studied information processing in bilinguals, particularly Spanish-English speakers, and processing of words that are either cognates or false cognates across two languages. One current project of Dr. Harris' studies the role of working memory capacity on comprehension of inferences from reading text written in one's second language. Another project looks at how we acquire information from various combinations of languages in the soundtrack and captions of subtitled films.
In addition to empirical research, Dr. Harris is the author of two textbooks in multiple editions and the editor of several books of readings. He also leads occasional community workshops on critical viewing, media literacy, and managing television in the home. He and his students have authored several book chapters on psychology and media.
Recent Representative Publications
Barlett, C.P., Branch, O., Rodeheffer, C., & Harris, R.J. (2009). How long do the short-term violent video game effects last? Aggressive Behavior, 35, 225-236.
Barlett, C.P., & Harris, R.J. (2008). The impact of body emphasizing video games on body image concerns in men and women. Sex Roles, 59, 586-601.
Barlett, C.P., Harris, R.J., & Baldassaro, R. (2007). The longer you play, the more hostile you feel: Examination of first person shooter video games and aggression during video game play. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 1-12.
Barlett, C.P., Harris, R.J., & Bruey, C. (2008). The effect of the amount of blood in a violent video game on aggression, hostility, and arousal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 539-546.
Barlett, C.P., Smith, S.J., & Harris, R.J. (2006). The interference effect of men's handling of muscular action figures on a lexical decision task. Body Image, 3, 375-383.
Bonds-Raacke, J.M., Cady, E.T., Schlegel, R., Harris, R.J., & Firebaugh, L.C. (2007). Remembering gay/lesbian media characters: Can Ellen and Will improve attitudes toward homosexuals? Journal of Homosexuality, 53, (3), 19-34.
Cady, E.T., Harris, R.J., & Knappenberger, J.B. (2008). Using music to cue autobiographical memories of different lifetime periods. Psychology of Music, 36 (2), 157-177.
Friel, B.M., & Harris, R.J. (2004). Toward an empirical definition of cognateness: Translation elicitation in six languages. International Journal of Cognitive Technology, 9, 40-54.
Harris, R.J., Friel, B.M., & Mickelson, N.R. (2006). Attribution of discourse goals for using concrete- and abstract-tenor metaphors and similies with or without discourse context. Journal of Pragmatics, 38, 863-879.
Harris, R.J., Sanborn, F.W., Scott, C.L., Dodds, L., & Brandenburg, J.D. (2004). Autobiographical memories for seeing romantic movies on a date: Romance is not just for women. Media Psychology, 6, 257-284.
Harris, R.J., Hoekstra, S.J., Scott, C.L., Sanborn, F.W., Karafa, J.A., & Brandenburg, J.D. (2000). Young men's and women's different autobiographical memories of the experience of seeing frightening movies on a date. Media Psychology, 2, 245-268.
Harris, R.J., Tebbe, M.R., Leka, G.E., Garcia, R.C., & Erramouspe, R. (1999). Monolingual and bilingual memory for English and Spanish metaphors and similes. Metaphor and Symbol, 14, 1-16.
Harris, R.J., & Cook, L.G. (2010). How content and co-viewers elicit emotional discomfort in moviegoing experiences. Applied Cognitive Psychology.
Harris, R.J., Werth, A.J., Bures, K.E., & Bartel, C.M. (2008). Social movie quoting: What, why, and how? Ciencias psicologicas, 2 (1), 35-45.
Rai, M.K., Loschky, L.C., Harris, R.J., Peck, N.R., & Cook, L.G. (2011). Effects of stress and working memory capacity on foreign language readers' inferential processing during comprehension. Language Learning, 61, 187-218.
Webster, R.J., Saucier, D.A., & Harris, R.J. (2010). Before the measurement of prejudice: Early psychological and sociological papers on prejudice. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 46, 300-313.
Wichman, A.L., Friel, B.M., & Harris, R.J. (2001). The effect of lexical, pragmatic, and morphological violations on reading time and deviance ratings of English and German sentences. Memory & Cognition, 29, 493-502.
Harris, R.J., & Barlett, C.P. (2009). Effects of sex in the media. In J. Bryant and M.B. Oliver (Eds.) Media Effects: Advances in theory and research. (3rd ed.) (pp. 304-324) New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.
Harris, R.J., Cady, E.T., & Tran, T.Q. (2006). Comprehension and memory. In J. Bryant and P. Vorderer (Eds.), Psychology of Entertainment. (pp. 71-84). Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Harris, R.J., Cady, E.T., & Barlett, C.P. (2007). Media. In F. Durso, R.S. Nickerson, S.T. Dumais, S. Lewandowsky, and T.J. Perfect (Eds.), (pp. 659-682), Handbook of Applied Cognition (2nd ed.). Chichester UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Harris, R.J. (2009). A cognitive psychology of mass communication. (5th ed.). New York: Routledge.
Leahey, T.H., & Harris, R.J. (2001). Learning and cognition. (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Dr. Harris regularly has several graduate and undergraduate students working with him, either in one of the projects described above or in an independent project not part of his programmatic research. Students are typically initially integrated into an ongoing research project and are progressively encouraged to show increasing independence in research design and initiative. For example, a beginning student might start off by collecting and analyzing data from a study already planned and then gradually move to designing and implementing a follow-up study to that. In language research, the writing and construction of the stimulus materials is of the utmost importance. Thus, this phase of research is typical a central concern that occupies significant effort and time commitment. Students also receive experience presenting research in a seminar and conference format and, for graduate students, the supervision of undergraduate assistants. Students regularly are co-authors on publications, and, if appropriate, first authors.
Dr. Harris' model of mentoring is to hold each student to high standards and expectations but to provide a highly supportive environment. Students are encouraged to talk to him about whatever concerns they have about research, the graduate program, or life in general. The goal is to help every student succeed and complete the graduate program prepared to be an effective professor or researcher in whatever their chosen career direction. The emphasis in Dr. Harris' laboratory is on collegiality, not competition. Although he gives frequent encouragement and reminders, he also expects graduate students to take much of their own initiative and set their own deadlines.
Dr. Harris has also served as a secondary major professor and collaborator with graduate students whose primary research emphasis is in Judgment and Decision Making or Social Psychology. He is quite open to that sort of supervision and collaboration.
Some past doctoral students of Dr. Harris now work for the Federal Aviation Administration, Sprint Corporation, and Young and Rubicam Advertising. A majority are employed as college or university professors, at Park University, Delaware State University, University of Texas-Pan American, Christian Brothers University, Kansas Wesleyan University, University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Ferris State University, Michigan State University, University of Northern Iowa, Messiah College, and North Carolina Wesleyan College, among others.
In addition to research, Dr. Harris also supervises the Undergraduate Teaching Practicum, whereby outstanding undergraduate psychology majors may apply to be Teaching Apprentices in General Psychology. In this capacity they have full responsibility for teaching a recitation section of General Psychology once a week during a semester.
Current graduate students
- Bernardo de la Garza
- Ryan Hinds
- Jorge Piocuda
- Manpreet Rai
- John Smyers
Dr. Harris is married to Caprice Becker, a nurse at Medical Associates. They have three children, Clint (born 1989) and Natalie and Grady (twins born in 1991). Some of his hobbies are travel, reading, hiking, theater, genealogy, and stamp collecting. Also interested in cross-cultural issues, he has on past sabbaticals served as a Fulbright Visiting Professor in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Montevideo, Uruguay, as well as a term as a Visiting Scholar in New Zealand. Although born and raised in suburban Pittsburgh PA, Dr. Harris has come to love the smaller college-town life of Manhattan.