Skip to main content
Portrait image for Jennifer Whitson

Jennifer Whitson

Associate Professor of Management and Organizations
“Strategy is better based on reality, not tempting illusions.”
Areas of Expertise:
  • Control
  • Illusory Pattern Perception
  • Power
  • Reciprocity
  • Rewards & Punishments
  • Sensemaking
  • Stigma


Jennifer Whitson is an associate 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.



Organizational Behavior

Leadership Foundations


Communications II



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

Huang, L. & Whitson J. A. (2020). Organizational costs of compensating for mind-body dissonance through conspiracies and superstitions. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 156, 1-12.

Greco, L., Whitson, J. A., O’Boyle, E. O., Wang, C. S., & Kim, J. (2019). An eye for an eye? A meta-analysis of negative reciprocity in organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(9), 1117-1143.

Whitson, J. A., Kim, J., Wang, C. S., Menon, T., & Webster, B. (2018). Regulatory focus and conspiratorial perceptions: The importance of personal control. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(1), 3-15.

Whitson, J. A., Anicich, E. M., Wang, C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2017). Navigating stigma and group conflict: Group identification as a cause and consequence of self-labeling. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 10(2), 88-106.

Wang, C. S., Whitson, J. A., Anicich, E. M., Kray, L. J., Galinsky, A. D. (2017). Challenge your stigma: How to reframe and revalue negative stereotypes and slurs. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26(1), 75-80.

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

Anderson Review.

Dai, S. (June 30, 2017). David Bouhadana Has a Problem, and We Need to Talk About It. Eater New York.

Dickey, C. (June 8, 2017). The New Paranoia. New Republic.

Cummings, W. (February 17, 2017). Analysis: Trump is a master of language. USA Today.

Cirino, E. (January 25, 2017). Even Scientists Act Superstitious at Sea. Nautilus.

Stafford, D. (Producer). (November 18, 2016). UCLA Anderson FEMBA Drive Time [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Zimmerman, J. (September 22, 2015). ‘This Goes All the Way to the Queen’: The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness. Haslitt.

Collins, M. (February 6, 2015). In One Ear and Out the Other: What Powerful People Do Differently. Texas Enterprise.

BBC Future: Psychology: The Truth About the Paranormal. October 2014

Wall Street Journal: Study Finds “High-Power” People Unaware of Risks. February 2013

CBS Morning News. October 28, 2012

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. August 2012



Eric and “E” Juline Faculty Excellence in Research Award, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Dean George W. Robbins Assistant Professor Teaching Award, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Inducted as a Society for Experimental Social Psychology Fellow