Jennifer Whitson

Profile photo of Jennifer Whitson
“Strategy is better based on reality, not tempting illusions.”
 

Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations

Areas of Expertise

  • Control
  • Illusory Pattern Perception
  • Power
  • Reciprocity
  • Rewards & Punishments
  • Sensemaking
  • Stigma

About

 

Biography

Jennifer Whitson is an assistant professor of management and organizations at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Prior to joining Anderson, she served as assistant professor at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin. Her research addresses two central issues that all managers face: making sense of their environment and regulating their social and organizational interactions.

"I've always been interested in how people make sense of the world, both when they get it right and when they get it wrong. For example: how did we miss the signs of the economic downturn in 2008 before it was upon us?"

Whitson explores two phenomena crucial to sensemaking and social regulation: control and power. Her work establishes a critical relationship between the psychological experience of lacking control and illusory pattern perception. She also explores how those who lack power can seek control, examining how stigmatized groups can take control of the very slurs used against them via re-appropriation. Her work also explores how control is exerted via rewards and punishments in response to wrongdoing or honesty. In addition to continuing research in all these phenomena, her current papers seek to illuminate how sensemaking influences institutional norms, how group identification influences re-appropriation, and how cultural variation influences endorsement of different conspiracies.

Her scholarly work has appeared in journals such as Science, Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Research in Organizational Behavior, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It has been covered in articles in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Reuters, MSNBC and Scientific American and in three separate books. In addition to garnering international coverage in Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, her work has resulted in invitations to appear on CBS Morning News, National Public Radio, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman and National Geographic’s Brain Games.

 

Courses

Organizational Behavior

 

Education

Ph.D. Management and Organizations, 2007, Northwestern University

M.S. Management and Organizations, 2004, Northwestern University

B.A. Psychology and Social Behavior, 2000, University of California, Irvine

 

Published Papers

Landau, M., Kay, A. C., & Whitson, J. A. (2015). Compensatory control and the appeal of a structured world. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3): 694-722.

Whitson, J. A., Wang, C. S., See, Y. H. M., Baker, W. A, & Murnighan, K. (2015). How, when, and why recipients and observers reward good deeds and punish bad deeds. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 128: 84-95.

Whitson, J. A., Wang, C. S., Kim, J., Cao, J., & Scrimpshire, A. (2015). Responses to normative and norm-violating behavior: Culture, job mobility, and social inclusion and exclusion. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 129: 24-35.

Whitson, J. A., Galinsky, A. D., & Kay, A. C. (2015). The emotional roots of conspiratorial perceptions, system justification, and belief in the paranormal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56: 89-95.

Whitson, J. A., Weber, K., Hirsch, P., & Bermiss, Y. S. (2013). Chemicals, companies, and countries: The concept of diffusion in management research. Research in Organizational Behavior, 33: 135-150.

Galinsky, A. D., Wang, C. S., Whitson, J. A., Anicich, E. M., Hugenberg, K., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2013). The reappropriation of stigmatizing labels: The reciprocal relationship between power and self-labeling. Psychological Science, 24(10): 2020-2029.

Whitson, J. A., Liljenquist, K. A., Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Cadena, B. (2013). The blind leading: Power reduces awareness of constraints. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(3): 579-582.

Galinsky, A. D., Whitson, J. A., Huang, L., & Rucker, D. D. (2012). Not so fluid and not so meaningful: Toward an appreciation of content-specific compensation. Psychological Inquiry, 23(4): 339-345.

Wang, C. S., Whitson, J. A., & Menon, T. (2012). Culture, control, and illusory pattern perception. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(5): 630-638.

Loyd, D. L., Phillips, K. W., Whitson, J. A., & Thomas-Hunt, M. C. (2010). Expertise in your midst: How congruence between status and speech style affects reactions to unique knowledge. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 13(3): 379-395.

Kay, A. C., Whitson, J. A., Gaucher, D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2009). Compensatory control: Achieving order through the mind, our institutions, and the heavens. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(5): 264-268.

Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Gruenfeld, D. H., Whitson, J. A., & Liljenquist, K. A. (2008). Power reduces the press of the situation: Implications for creativity, conformity, and dissonance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(6): 1450-1466.

Whitson, J. A. & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Lacking control increases illusory pattern perception. Science, 322(5898): 115-117.

 

Media Coverage

Texas Enterprise: In One Ear and Out the Other: What Powerful People Do Differently. February 2015 http://www.texasenterprise.utexas.edu/2015/02/06/research-brief/one-ear-and-out-other-what-powerful-people-do-differently

BBC Future: Psychology: The Truth About the Paranormal. October 2014 http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141030-the-truth-about-the-paranormal

Texas Enterprise: Keeping Calm When You’re on the Clock. May 2013 http://www.texasenterprise.utexas.edu/2013/05/22/workplace/stress-tips-keeping-calm-at-work

Wall Street Journal: Study Finds “High-Power” People Unaware of Risks. February 2013 http://blogs.wsj.com/corruption-currents/2013/02/21/study-finds-high-power-people-unaware-of-risks/

CBS Morning News. October 28, 2012

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. August 2012

 

Recognition

Faculty Fellow for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies Faculty Development Program, University of Texas at Austin, 2008–2009
Selected for Academy of Management 2006 Organizational Behavior Consortium
Selected for Academy of Management 2004 Conflict Management Consortium
Doctoral Student Teaching Award, 2004–2005