Benita Jackson

Professor of Psychology


Contact & Office Hours

Spring 2023

Mondays, 3:15 - 4:15 pm

Fridays, 1:15 - 2:15 pm

And by appointment

All via Zoom - please email for details

Bass Hall 406



M.P.H., Harvard University

A.M., Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

A.B., University of California, Berkeley


Benita Jackson is interested in how environments—social, cultural, physical—are internalized and shape health. Her major research focus is on health behaviors and sub-clinical disease markers.

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, she majored in cognitive science and minored in women's studies. She was the inaugural graduate of the joint PhD program in psychology (personality) and women's studies at the University of Michigan, the first program of its kind. Her postdoctoral training included completing a master's of public health in quantitative methods with an emphasis on social epidemiology, and training in medical research, both at Harvard University.

Jackson directs the Society, Psychology, and Health Laboratory, where her team conducts research on psychological and physical correlates and consequences of social status. She has strong research, teaching, and applied interests in how these processes are linked to health disparities and prevention. She and her collaborators employ a range of research methods, including basic experiments and intervention studies with college samples, observational studies of community samples, and meta-analyses.

Beyond research, teaching and public-serving activities are also integral to her scholarly work. She is an elected Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), and past recipient of the Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring Award given by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). In recent years Jackson has focused on supporting students to translate psychology and health research for the public.

She is committed to preparing undergraduates and post-baccalaureates with a wide array of backgrounds for rigorous graduate study in fields including psychology, public health, and medicine. To that end, Jackson serves on the steering committee of and is a campus advisor for the Five College Certificate Program in Culture, Health and Science.

She also supports young people in and outside the classroom to develop psychological resources, such as resilience and leadership capacity, as building blocks of community empowerment. Beyond campus, she enjoys training for the Sojourner Truth School for Social Justice, and more broadly is committed to the messy and vitalizing project of healing social divisions to halt the climate crisis.

Interested in exploring the social liberatory potential of mind-body medicine beyond the classroom, Jackson has training to share practices like Daring to Rest—sleep-based meditation meets women’s leadership development—and breathwork techniques. Her most thorough professional development comes from her zesty fraternal twin sons, who school her regularly.


Applying Psychological Research to Promote Sustainability and Behavior Change on Campus

During the fall 2020 semester, students in Professor Benita Jackson’s PSY 240 Colloquium: Health Promotion class drafted policy memos addressed to President McCartney that proposed sustainable initiatives to address environmental issues on campus.

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Resting to Rise

A surprising reason why lying down and closing your eyes for 20 minutes might be the best productivity tool of all.

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Viewing Failure as Part of Learning

Faculty leaders say inclusive teaching is important at Smith, where the student population is made up of high achievers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.

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