Cathleen Johnson


Cathleen Johnson is an experimental economist. She is currently teaching in the Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law program at the University of Arizona. Her professional work has evolved into three main areas: Research in behavioral aspects of investment and social norms, implementation of large research projects and research teams, and teaching economics through the use of laboratory experiments.

She received her Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech (2000). For her PhD, she combined work from the areas of game theory and graph theory to develop models of social networks, norms and social capital. Her experimental work focuses on applications of network theory to models of network formation and in-depth work on time preferences, risk aversion and interaction and exchange and literacy.

Her public policy-oriented research develops experimental economic instruments for measuring consumer preferences, with special emphasis on attitudes towards risk and inter-temporal preferences.  She has designed and implemented several large-scale, innovative field studies that examined individual investment in post-secondary education in Canada. This work has led her to develop more specific experimental instruments for measuring inter-temporal and risk preferences, developing state of the art adaptive and graphical techniques. She also used experimental methods to measure inter-personal preferences, and time and risk preferences among Houston high school students in an ongoing study of student behavior. Her experimental work is published in various professional journals including, Games and Economic Behavior, National Tax Journal, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Canadian Journal of Economics, Public Finance Review and Southern Economic Journal.

She was the Director of the Office of Economic Education in the University of Arizona’s Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Department of Economics.  The Office of Economic Education offers workshops and university courses to Arizona K-12 teachers so that they may become more effective teachers of economics. She develops experimental protocols for teaching economic concepts at several levels: to her students, for students who are currently teachers and with policy and program officers.

She was the Director of Experimental Economics Group at CIRANO (Center for Research and Analysis of Organizations, Montreal) and later the Vice Director of the Economics Science Laboratory (founded by Vernon Smith, Nobel Prize winner) where she supported an expansion of the affiliated social scientists on campus. She has organized several national and international conferences for the Economic Science Association, the professional association of experimental economists. Before leaving Canada for Arizona, she created and implemented for Canada’s Privy Council an intense, multiple-day introduction to experimental research methods for mid-level policy makers and program officers (200+ attendees, 30 outstanding experimentalists). Canadian agencies have hence solicited experimental economic projects to inform policy issues. She acted as the assistant editor of the Experimental and Behavioral Economic Entries for The New Palgrave (2008). 

Cate can be reached at cathleen.a.johnson "at"

Field of Study