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Shelley Elizabeth Taylor (born 1946) is a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University, and was formerly on the faculty at Harvard University. A prolific author of books and scholarly journal articles, Taylor has long been a leading figure in two subfields related to her primary discipline of social psychology: social cognition and health psychology. Her books include The Tending Instinct and Social Cognition, the latter by Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor.
Taylor's professional honors include the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association (APA; 1996), the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science (APS; 2001), and the APA's Lifetime Achievement Award, which she received in August 2010. Taylor was inducted into the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2009.
Theoretical and Empirical Contributions
Taylor's early work addressed classic questions in social cognition, an area that was rapidly developing in the 1970s and early 1980s. Much of this work concerned the effects of context and perspective on attribution processes. Taylor was among the first to apply the breakthrough work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on heuristics and biases to the field of social psychology (e.g. Taylor, 1982). Subsequent work on adaptation and coping in women with breast cancer led to the development of Taylor's theory of cognitive adaptation (Taylor, 1983). Taylor has also conducted research on social comparison processes and on the beneficial effects of positive illusions (Taylor & Brown, 1988), with a particular focus on the use of self-enhancement. Taylor has continued to conduct and publish research on social cognition throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
In 1984, Taylor co-authored a book entitled Social Cognition with her student Susan Fiske. This book became instrumental in defining the scope and ambition of the nascent field of social cognition. A second edition was published in 1991, and a sequel of sorts entitled Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture appeared in 2007.
Arguably, Taylor's most influential work in social cognition has concerned the use of positive illusions (Taylor & Brown, 1988), with a particular focus on the use of self-enhancement and the self-enhancement bias. Taylor has described the use of positive illusions as follows: "Rather than perceiving themselves, the world, and the future accurately, most people regard themselves, their circumstances, and the future as considerably more positive than is objectively likely.... These illusions are not merely characteristic of human thought; they appear actually to be adaptive, promoting rather than undermining good mental health."
Taylor helped to found the field of health psychology in the 1980s and 1990s, together with UCLA colleague Christine Dunkel-Schetter, former Yale classmate Howard S. Friedman, and other key scholars.
Taylor has become a leading figure in the newly emerging field of social neuroscience. This work has included research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), conducted in collaboration with UCLA colleagues Matthew Lieberman and Naomi Eisenberger (e.g. Eisenberger et al., 2007; Taylor, Burklund et al., 2008; Taylor, Eisenberger et al., 2006), as well as research on the serotonin transporter polymorphism (Taylor, Way et al., 2006) and on plasma oxytocin and vasopressin (Taylor, Gonzaga et al., 2006; Taylor, Saphire-Bernstein & Seeman, 2010).
The Tend-and-Befriend Model
One of Taylor's most significant contributions to psychological science in recent years has been the development of the Tend-and-befriend model, first described in a Psychological Review article published in the year 2000 (Taylor et al., 2000).
Note: List is selective and includes only highly cited and important works and works cited above.
- (2007). Neural pathways link social support to attenuated neuroendocrine stress responses. Neuroimage 35 (4): 1601–1612.
- Taylor, S. E. (1982). The availability bias in social perception and interaction. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic & A. Tversky (Eds.) Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 190–200). New York: Cambridge University Press.
- (1983). Adjustment to threatening events: A theory of cognitive adaptation. American Psychologist 38 (11): 1161–1173.
- Taylor, S. E. (2008). From social psychology to neuroscience and back. In R. Levine, A. Rodrigues & L. Zelezny (Eds.) Journeys in Social Psychology: Looking Back to Inspire the Future (pp. 39–54). New York: Psychology Press.
- Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin 103 (2): 193–210.
- (2008). Neural bases of moderation of cortisol stress responses by psychosocial resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 95 (1): 197–211.
- (2006). Neural responses to emotional stimuli are associated with childhood family stress. Biological Psychiatry 60 (3): 296–301.
- (2006). Relation of oxytocin to psychological stress responses and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis activity in older women. Psychosomatic Medicine 68 (2): 238–245.
- (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review 107 (3): 411–429.
- (2010). Are plasma oxytocin in women and plasma vasopressin in men biomarkers of distressed pair-bond relationships?. Psychological Science 21 (1): 3–7.
- (2006). Early family environment, current adversity, the serotonin transporter polymorphism, and depressive symptomatology. Biological Psychiatry 60 (7): 671–676.
- Taylor, Shelley E. (2008). She received her B.A. from Connecticut College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. From social psychology to neuroscience and back. In R. Levine, A. Rodrigues & L. Zelezny (Eds.) Journeys in Social Psychology: Looking Back to Inspire the Future (pp. 39-54). New York: Psychology Press.
- Weiten, Wayne. (2004). Psychology: Themes and Variations. Sixth Edition. page 533.
- Shelley Taylor website via UCLA
- American Psychological Association winners of Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award
- Taylor Lab at UCLA
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