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Cathryn JohnsonProfessor


  • PhD in Sociology, University of Iowa 1990
  • MSW in Social Work, University of Illinois, 1981
  • BA in Sociology, University of Illinois, 1979


My areas of expertise include social psychology, organizations, identity processes, and emotions, with special emphasis on the study of legitimacy processes within groups and organizations. My current research examines how legitimacy affords leaders in organizations substantial benefits; legitimated leaders garner more cooperation and collaboration and less resistance and scrutiny from their workers. Specifically, I examine the processes that underlie how leaders gain legitimacy. Critical to this investigation is understanding how women and people of color are disproportionately disadvantaged in gaining legitimacy and how legitimacy processes, in turn, further heighten patterns of inequality in the workplace.

Currently, I am collaborating on an NSF supported project with my colleague Karen Hegtvedt and several graduate students that examines how leaders gain legitimacy in the workplace, with particular consideration of how justice, power, gender, and race affect legitimacy processes. Dr. Hegtvedt and I also continue work on a project with a former graduate student, initially supported by Spencer Foundation, that investigates the assessments of environmental injustice among Black U.S. residents, and how environmental attitudes, experiences with discrimination, and environmental and racial identities affect these assessments.

Dr. Hegtvedt and I have also recently co-authored a social psychology textbook for Sage Publications, Social Psychology: Individuals, Interaction, and Inequality (2018). My work has appeared in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Annual Review of Sociology, Social Psychology Quarterly, The Sociological Quarterly, Social Currents, Sociological Perspectives, Social Justice Research, Advances in Group Processes, and other journals and edited volumes.