Research

As a middle school teacher, I gained an interest in the situational and individual components of achievement and performance.  As a scientist, I examine these components through the lens of social psychological theory.  My masterís research examined stereotype threat in elementary, middle, and high school students, and my current research examines performance under a variety of conditions.  Specifically, three theoretical frameworks are of interest to me: social comparison, the self, and goal pursuit.

Social Comparison

While much previous research has been concerned with the effects of social comparison on evaluations, I am increasingly interested in how social comparison affects behavior and performance.  In particular, my research (Johnson, et al., under review) has demonstrated that the conditions that lead role models to be inspiring, as outlined by Lockwood and Kunda (1997), do not lead to increased performance.  Rather, it is role models who are perceived as unattainable that lead to increased performance.  Based on this initial finding, I am pursuing several lines of research have emerged investigating possible mediating mechanisms.  One line of research is with Bob Arkin and Diederik Stapel.  This work examines how exposure to role models may be threat inducing and lead to self-handicapping or other self-protective behaviors.

Self-Doubt

This is related to other work we are doing on the antecedents of self-doubt and how self-doubt may manifest itself in social cognition.  In particular, we argue that self-doubt may influence perception, leading individuals to see threats, self-relevance, and ambiguity where there is none.

Goal Pursuit

A third line of research examines how self-regulatory resources and depletion of cognitive resources may affect goal pursuit.  This work (Johnson & Chartrand, under review) has demonstrated that goal shielding, or suppression, during goal pursuit may be detrimental to current goal pursuit, but benefit future goal pursuit.  In a similar line of research (Johnson & Shah, 2002), the regulatory resource demands of prevention and promotion goals are being examined. While promotion goal pursuit is thought to be relatively active and resource depleting, pursuit of prevention goals is thought to be relatively automatic and passive, thus requiring fewer resources.

Social Comparison Studies
bulletBeyond Inspiration: The effects of role models on performance
bulletTranslating role models into personal success: Explaining the discrepancy between self-evaluation and performance
Self-Doubt Studies
bulletSeeking Clarity: When self-presentation leads to uncertainty
Goal Pursuit Studies
bulletRunning on Empty: Resource depletion and self-regulatory focus 
bulletGoals on the Horizon: Consequences of sequential goal pursuit.

Complete Vita

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