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Kerri Johnson

Professor and Chair

Contact Information

Office  2330 Rolfe Hall
Phone  310-825-3303

Broadly construed, communication includes both the sending and receiving of information over distances in space and/or time.  My research examines nonverbal aspects of interpersonal communication with an emphasis on visual communication, including both the encoding (i.e., production) and decoding (i.e., perception) of cues that convey messages to others.  While we know quite a lot about how verbal messages operate in communication, we know considerably less about how nonverbal cues such as the body’s shape and motion communicate information to observers.  Yet my research shows these messages are crucially important in interpersonal communication.

Thus, my research aims to understand the interpersonal messages that are sent by face and body cues.  Central questions include:  How/why does the way that we move our bodies communicate whether we are a man or woman, gay/lesbian or heterosexual, angry or sad? and How do overlapping categories–for instance that a person is both Black and male–affect the way that we interpret messages from nonverbal cues?  The answers to such questions have important implications for interpersonal communication, altering not only the interpretation of actions and but also leading to biases that can foster prejudice and discrimination.

My research incorporates diverse methods that are at the cutting-edge of communication science.  This enables me to pinpoint with unprecedented precision the visual cues that send messages to others and how these cues are utilized by perceivers.  In addition to traditional tools such as surveys and experiments, I have used the following methods to shed light on interpersonal communication processes:

  • corneal reflection eye-tracking (to record what part of the face/body is being observed)
  • 3D motion analysis (to record/analyze precise patterns of body motion)
  • psychophysics (to record how visual cues alter perceptions)
  • behavioral measurements (to determine how nonverbal behaviors change in different situations)
  • psychophysiology (to record affective and arousal responses during events of social perception)

Taken together, these tools allow for a more comprehensive understanding of nonverbal communication.

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Ph.D., Personality and Social Psychology, Cornell University

M.A., Experimental Psychology, University of Central Oklahoma

B.S., Education, University of Central Oklahoma


Carpinella, C. M., & Johnson, K. L. (in press).  Politics of the Face: The Role of Sex-Typicality on Trait Assessments of Politicians.  Social Cognition.

Lick, D. J., Johnson, K. L., & Gill, S. V. (in press).  Deliberate changes to gendered body motion influence basic social perceptions.  Social Cognition.

Lick, D. J., & Johnson, K. L. (2013).  Fluency of visual processing explains prejudiced evaluations following categorization of concealable stigmas. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 419 ˆ 425.

Carpinella, C. M., & Johnson, K. L. (2013).  Appearance-based politics:  Sex-typed facial cues communicate political party affiliation.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 156 ˆ 160.

Johnson, K. L., Iida, M., & Tassinary, L. G. (2012).  Person (mis)perception:  Functionally biased sex categorization of bodies.  Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, 279, 4982 ˆ 4989.

Freeman, J. B., Johnson, K. L., Adams, R. B., Jr., & Ambady, N. (2012). The social-sensory interface:  Category interactions in person perception. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 8 (81), 1 ˆ 13.  Doi:  10.3389/fnint.2012.00081.

Johnson, K. L., Freeman, J. B., & Pauker, K. (2012).  Race is gendered:  How covarying phenotypes and stereotypes bias sex categorization.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 116 ˆ 131.

Johnson, K. L., & Ghavami, N. (2011).  At the crossroads of conspicuous and concealable:  What race categories communicate about sexual orientation. PLoS One, 6, e18025, doi:10.1371/journalpone.0018025.

Johnson, K. L., McKay, L., & Pollick, F. E. (2011).  Why „He throws like a girl‰ (but only when he‚s sad):  Emotion affects sex-decoding of biological motion displays. Cognition, 119, 265 ˆ 280.

Freeman, J. B., Johnson, K. L., Ambady, N., Rule, N. (2010).  Sexual orientation perception involves gendered facial cues.  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1318 ˆ 1331.

Johnson, K. L., Lurye, L. E., & Tassinary, L. G. (2010).  Sex categorization among preschool children:  Increasing sensitivity to sexually dimorphic cues. Child Development, 81, 1346 ˆ 1355.

Freeman, J. B., Ambady, N., Rule, N. O., & Johnson, K.L (2008).  Will a category cue attract you?  Motor output reveals dynamic competition across person construal.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  General, 137, 673 ˆ 690.

Johnson, K. L., Gill, S., Reichman, V., & Tassinary, L  G.  (2007).  Swagger, sway, and sexuality:  Judging Sexual Orientation from body motion and morphology.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 321 ˆ 334.

Johnson, K. L., & Tassinary, L. G.  (2007). Compatibility of basic social perceptions determines perceived attractiveness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 5246 ˆ 5251.

Johnson, K. L., & Tassinary, L. G.  (2005).  Perceiving sex directly and indirectly:  Meaning in motion and morphology.  Psychological Science, 16,890 ˆ 897.