Faculty Profile: Dr. Shayla Holub
Dr. Shayla Holub, who attended Millikin University for her undergraduate studies, had always planned to be a clinical psychologist. But she changed her mind after taking an introduction to psychology class with a very knowledgeable and intense professor, who focused on cognitive psychology.
“Everything he talked about was awesome. He didn’t use slides, he just talked, and I wrote down every single word he said,” Holub said.
Professors told her she seemed to be most passionate about the science behind psychology, recommending the developmental or social path. Holub went on to do graduate work at Bowling Green State University, where she became interested in children’s attitudes, especially about themselves. Holub was excited to study self-perception shifts and parents’ perceptions of their kids’ behaviors.
After a lunch conversation with some colleagues, one topic was especially interesting — obesity stigma. Studies had been done, but Holub believed they were only scratching the surface. She worked to create a new measure that allowed young children to rate where they thought thin, average and overweight children were on a spectrum of characteristics, where they could be equally positive toward all of them. The results showed it was clear there was prejudice toward overweight children.
Holub got feedback from parents too and wondered how they convey messages to children not only through their attitudes, but their feeding practices as well. Parents' weight prejudices predicted how they fed their kids over and above their children’s weight status.
“For example, if a mother is high in weight prejudice, she might restrict her child’s food intake, even if her child is not overweight” Holub said.
After discovering her interests were in weight prejudice and the parent-child feeding relationship, Holub came to UT Dallas in 2005 to continue her research at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. She works to find ways parents can socialize kids so they are both psychologically and physically healthy. She also hopes her research will help parents teach their children to like people for who they are no matter what they look like, while also building long-term healthy eating habits and physical activity practices.
Holub, who has two children of her own, says parenting has really helped her research.
“It has given me a much better perspective on the challenges parents face,” she said.
Holub regularly teaches an undergraduate introduction to psychology class and a graduate course in social development, and sometimes teaches a graduate course in the developing child during preschool and toddler years. She is the area head for psychological sciences, making her the program head for the psychology and child learning and development undergraduate programs, as well as the program head for the psychological sciences doctoral program.
“It’s fun to get to work with the students and faculty to change our programs in ways I think are for the better,” she said.