Dr. Laura Snodgrass, Ph.D., Associate Professor
(B.A., University of California, Riverside; M.A., Ph.D., University of Oregon)
Dr. Snodgrass teaches cognitive psychology, statistics, experimental psychology, and sensation and perception.
I like teaching psychology because, even after more than 20 years, I am still fascinated and amazed by the way our perceptual and cognitive systems work. I love to share that fascination with students. I like to point out all the seemingly contradictory or counterintuitive facts about perception and cognition (e.g. that what we perceive is not the same as what we see and that inhibition of a neuron can cause the conscious experience of yellow) and then explain how it all works together to make a very efficient processing system. I like to show how seemingly esoteric facts in perception and cognition relate to students' everyday lives and to the broader psychological issues that interest them. I enjoy teaching statistics and research methods because I enjoy involving students in the process of discovery. Undergraduates can be involved in cutting-edge research in perception and cognition and in all of my classes students get to design and run their own research projects.
I like teaching at Muhlenberg because I enjoy getting to know my students personally and seeing them grow and develop over the four years. I enjoy the sense of community in the Psychology Department. I like that there are many different ways and many different levels at which students can be involved in the field and in the department (e.g., Psi Chi, Psychology Club, the Psychology Department newsletter, and all the internships and independent research projects). I enjoy having undergraduates involved in research and sharing in the excitement of that process.
Gender differences in math and science learning. One of the most consistent gender differences in cognitive abilities is that men are better than women in their spatial ability. On average, men are better than women at manipulating a visual image of a structure. This visualization ability may be an important component of math and science learning. My research has indicated that women use different, more difficult, strategies to learn math and science. We have been developing training programs to try to improve women's spatial thinking and (we hope) the ease with which they learn math and science.
Preconscious processing of the emotional qualities of stimuli. Dr. Kathleen Harring and I work with students in this area of research. We have found that the emotional tone of words and pictures can be processed before the person is even consciously aware of the word or picture. This work has helped us to learn more about the nature of consciousness and about how emotions may influence us without our conscious awareness.
Learning Disabilities research. We have been looking at what factors contribute to college success for learning disabled students. In the past we have looked at the importance of family, peers, and academic support services. We have looked at differenc es in study habits for successful learning disabled students. Currently we are looking at how multiple choice versus essay exams may impact on different types of learning disabilities.
My newest project is how gender identity influences our perception of characters in films. Dr. Harring and I work with students on this research. We are asking this question: Do people with strongly feminine or strongly masculine gender identities perceive and react to film characters differently when the characters portray traditional versus non-traditional gender roles?
Students are involved in and are critical to all of these research projects.
Representative Presentations and Publications
Snodgrass, L. (1996, Summer). Gender, academic major, and imagery strategies influence performance on three different visuo-spatial skills tests. International Journal of Psychology.
Harring, K. and Snodgrass, L. (1996) Hemisphere, emotional tone, gender, and stimulus type influence the automatic activation of affect. International Journal of Psychology.
Snodgrass, L., DeFronzo, R., and Barenholtz, L. (1997) Training and strategy suggestions improve spatial abilities scores. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, May, Washington, DC. [Muhlenberg students]
Harring, K. and Snodgrass, L. (1997, May). Familiarity effects on the detectability of emotionally toned words. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington, DC
Harring, K.; Snodgrass, L.; Zyzniewski, L. and Dyers, B. (1995, June). Predicting students' learning experiences. Presented at the American Psychological Society meeting, New York. [Muhlenberg student]