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Kathryn Johnson

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Associate Research Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 1104

Kathyn Johnson is an associate research professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University. She is interested in the social perception of non-human agents across different religious and cultural worldviews.  



  • Ph.D. Psychology, Arizona State University 2012
  • M.A. Religious Studies, Arizona State University 2005
  • B.S. Accountancy, Arizona State University 1980
Research Interests: 

Kathryn Johnson is interested in the social perception of non-human agents across different religious and cultural worldviews.  Drawing inspiration from her background in religious studies and social psychology, she has found that people in diverse religious and cultural groups often attribute human-like characteristics to particular non-living human, or non-human agents such as viruses and disease (e.g., cancer as an invading barbarian), living creatures (e.g., pets or totems), technological entities (e.g., androids, drones, self-driving cars), spiritual beings (e.g., God or angels), fetuses, stem cells, or human remains. Her research has primarily focused on the antecedents and outcomes of diverse representations of God as benevolent, authoritarian, or (more abstractly) as a cosmic force. Recently her interest in moral psychology has been extended to investigate the possibility of programming moral integrity in autonomous systems. She is also interested in helping students with divergent religious and cultural worldviews to develop metacognitive strategies to improve their academic achievement.

Research Activity: 

$100,000 Issachar Foundation & Templeton Religion Trust, PI; Fundamental Social Motivations Influence the Meaningfulness of Religion and Science (2020-2022)

$134,031 John Templeton Foundation, ASU PI; Understanding How Brains Represent God; Adam Green, Georgetown University, Primary PI (2019-2022)