Amy L. Johnson

B.A., Wellesley College, 2017
M.A., Stanford University, 2019
Amy L. Johnson
Dissertation Title
From Deviance to Diagnosis: Cultural Meanings of Mental Health

I am a cultural sociologist who seeks to understand the social construction of difference. My primary line of research investigates mental health and illness as an axis of difference that has shown dramatic change over time in cultural understandings and individual behaviors. A secondary line attends to how sensemaking about gender contributes to inequality. A third investigates the teaching and learning of quantitative methods and statistics. I use a combination of quantitative, qualitative, and computational methodologies and data, including longitudinal interviews, national survey data, and custom text datasets.

My dissertation, From Deviance to Diagnosis: Cultural Meanings of Mental Health, draws on computational text analysis and qualitative close reading to assess American cultural understandings of mental health and illness over time. Employing a custom dataset of newspaper articles from 1980 to 2020 discussing mental health and illness, I track change over time in how mental health is depicted in the media to uncover widespread cultural beliefs. I also use data from the social media platform Reddit to study how people talk about their own and others’ mental health. Together, these analyses unpack the connection between mental health understandings, behaviors, and cultural change.

I have a BA from Wellesley College, where I majored in Sociology and Spanish. In addition to my work in the Sociology Department, I work as a Center for Teaching and Learning graduate student consultant, as a graduate research assistant at the Stanford VMWare Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, and as a software consultant for Stanford Library’s Software and Services for Data Science (SSDS).

Recent Publications

Johnson, Amy L. 2021. “Changes in Mental Health and Treatment, 1997-2017.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Johnson, Amy L. and Rebecca Gleit. 2022. “Teaching for the Future: Intentionally Building Competency with Statistical Software.” Teaching Sociology. 

Carian, Emily K. and Amy L. Johnson. 2022. “The Agency Myth: Persistence in Individual Explanations for Gender Inequality.” Social Problems.