Laura Knowles, Ph.D


My doctoral dissertation investigated the role of female body image in stress response and recovery from sexual assault.  I investigated how female self-objectification is related to interpretation of sexual assault and the level of importance a survivor will attribute to an assault in her own life story (event centrality).   A portion of this research was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2013.  

With the help of my mentor, Dr. Adriel Boals and advisor Dr. Bert Hayslip, I was able to publish a paper on the impressive abilities of many older adults in coping with traumatic and stressful memories in the Journal of Aging and Health. Results indicated that older adults do not incorporate stressful events into their identities' thus protecting their emotional health from potentially traumatic memories.

Prior to this, I conducted outcome research looking at the efficacy of Stress Inoculation Training delivered in a group setting to older adults with concerns about their ability to maintain living independently.  While at the University of Houston at Victoria, I helped investigate efficacy of using new software exercises to increase student understanding and retention of operant conditioning and shaping procedures. The results of the study were eventually published in the journal Teaching of Psychology in 2005.
Future Projects and Dream Research

I am in the pilot study phase of investigating the efficacy of using power point slides in lectures when teaching college students. My experience has led me to hypothesize that the convenience of the slides has led students to mistakenly undervalue listening in class and to view class as a time to copy notes instead of fully listening to a lecture, determining important concepts, summarizing the concept and recording their thoughts. If you are a college teacher and would like to get involved with this study please contact me.

My doctoral dissertation chair and I are considering expanding the research completed for my dissertation. We would like to return to the wonderful people at Denton County Friends of the Family and collect additional data about sexual assault survival, PTSD symproms, body image, event centrality and the participant's view of the traumatic event.

At the beginning of my graduate career, before I heeded the advice of one of my mentors, Dr. Sander Martin, who said, "the best dissertation is a done dissertation," I had grand plans to investigate Animal Assisted Therapy and the use of a therapy dog in counseling.  While many practitioners accept the benefits of having a therapy animal in session, scientists have yet to quantify and measure how exactly the animal makes a difference in the therapeutic process. Although one of my mentors from UNT, Dr. Cynthia Chandler,  is working on in.  If given the time and resources, I would absolutely love to help unravel this mystery.

Along these same lines I would jump at the opportunity to develop a Therapy Farm project where teens and adults could reside, reconnect with the natural world and receive counseling for their emotional problems. I would also love to know more about music, art and movement therapy as I believe these mediums can get past our defenses and help us connect with our emotions in a very powerful way.

"Your class is like being given the instruction manual to myself."

former student.

Teaching Psychology

I absolutely love teaching psychology to college students. I have been teaching college courses since 2006 and have enjoyed working at University of North Texas, North Central Texas College, and Collin College.  I have taught courses on Introduction to Psychology, Child Development, Life-span Development. At present I am teaching a graduate course in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for New York University. 

My teaching philosophy is rooted in the fact that psychology is a social science and so requires students to look at their own way of being and their assumptions about others.  I put a premium on critical thinking and analysis in my classes, which is often difficult for students who have grown accustomed to memorizing and regurgitating facts and definitions.  However, the ability to integrate psychological information and concepts into their daily lives is not only a course skill, but a life skill that can potentially save their lives and relationships in the future.  

Below you can find links to some of my favorite intro to psychology videos, lectures, and lessons available on the Web.