Katherine (Kat) K. Bae (she/her/hers)

PhD Candidate in Management & Organizations

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

I am a PhD candidate in the Management and Organizations area at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. I received my BA in psychology magna cum laude from Northwestern University and completed an honors thesis.

My primary research program investigates leadership: the social process of influence between leaders and followers. I use a variety of research methods, including interactive laboratory and field experiments and survey-based field research (e.g., multiwave surveys, experience-sampling studies, multisource surveys). My research has been covered by media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, New York Times, and Psychology Today.



The precautious nature of prestige: When leaders are hypervigilant to subtle signs of social disapproval

Case, C. R., Bae, K. K., Larsen, K. T., & Maner, J. K. (2021). The precautious nature of prestige: When leaders are hypervigilant to subtle signs of social disapproval. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(3), 694–715. 

Some group leaders exhibit hypervigilance to signs of social disapproval and that vigilance manifests at basic levels of social information processing such as visual attention and face perception. The current research tests hypotheses about when, why, and in whom such vigilance occurs. Across 2 pilot studies and 5 experiments (N = 1,667) we find that, when their social relationships are at stake, prestige-oriented leaders (but not dominance-oriented leaders) overperceive signs of social discontent and disapproval. When delivering public (but not private) critical feedback to subordinates, prestige-oriented leaders attended vigilantly to social cues, especially negative emotional expressions indicating social discontent (Experiment 1). When delivering public (but not private) critical feedback, prestige-oriented leaders were also biased toward perceiving smiles as disingenuous (Experiment 2). Experimental manipulations of prestige produced similar results, suggesting that an orientation toward prestige causes leaders to perceive smiles as disingenuous (Experiment 3), interpret neutral facial expressions as concealing negative, rather than positive, emotions (Experiment 4), and fixate their attention on social cues (Experiment 5). Consistent with error management theory, hypervigilance to signs of social discontent and disapproval may prompt prestige-oriented leaders to strengthen their social relationships and help them avoid losing the support of their group. These findings are among the first to illuminate basic cognitive processes underlying the psychology of prestige. 

To lead or to be liked: When prestige-oriented leaders sacrifice group performance

Case, C. R., Bae, K. K., & Maner, J. K. (2018). To lead or to be liked: When prestige-oriented leaders prioritize popularity over performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(4), 657–676.

Leaders often are faced with making difficult decisions for their group, such as when a course of action preferred by group members conflicts with one that is likely to optimize group success. Across 5 experiments (N = 1110), we provide evidence that a psychological orientation toward prestige (but not dominance) causes leaders to adhere publicly to group members’ desires at the expense of group task outcomes—to prioritize popularity over performance. Experiments 1–3 demonstrated that, in private, prestige-oriented leaders chose what they saw as best for group performance but that, in public, they chose whichever option was preferred by members of their group. In private, prestige-oriented leaders’ tendency to choose the performance-enhancing option was mediated by group performance motives; in public, their adherence to group preferences was mediated by social approval motives. Experiments 4 and 5 advanced the investigation by using experimental manipulations to prime an orientation toward prestige. Findings replicated those from the earlier studies: participants primed with a prestige orientation prioritized popularity over performance. Results illuminate the conditions under which “good” leaders might make poor decisions. 

  • Featured on The Wall Street Journal: The dangers of wanting to be a popular boss (May 2019)

  • Featured on The Boston Globe: As leadership styles lean kinder, how do bosses make unpopular decisions? (November 2018)

  • Featured on Ross Thought in Action: To lead or be liked: Choose wisely to succeed (May 2018)

  • Featured on The New York Times: Bossy vs. Buddy: Two leadership styles, each with its place (October 2016)

  • Featured on Psychology Today: What Kind of a Leader Are You? The pros and cons of dominance versus prestige (June 2016)

Additional Publications

Individual differences in sadness coherence: Associations with dispositional affect and age

Wu, D. J., Svoboda, R. C., Bae, K. K., & Haase, C. M. (2020). Individual differences in sadness coherence: Associations with dispositional affect and age. Emotion, 21(3), 465–477.

Drivers of desire for social rank

Mitchell, R. L., Bae, K. K., Case, C. R., & Hays, N. A. (2020). Drivers of desire for social rank. Current opinion in psychology, 33, 189-195. 


I have taught the following course and was the recipient of the Thomas W. Leabo Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence (Teaching rating: 4.9/5, ~80 students per section):

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This course teaches students basic concepts in the behavioral sciences that can improve their abilities to lead and manage in organizations. Frameworks for individual, team, and organizational behavior are presented and discussed in the context of real-world cases. Group projects provide practice in problem-based teamwork and in applying the frameworks in practice.

*MO 300 is a required introduction to management course for all Junior BBAs

I was a teaching assistant for the following courses:

I was a classroom activity facilitator for the following courses:

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