Taylor, Shelley Elizabeth 1946-
TAYLOR, Shelley Elizabeth 1946-
PERSONAL: Born September 10, 1946, in Mt. Kisco, NY; daughter of Charles Fox, and Pearl May (Harvey) Taylor; married Mervyn Fernandes, May 1, 1972; children: Sara, Charlie. Education: Connecticut College, A.B., 1968; Yale University, Ph.D., 1972. Politics: Democrat.
CAREER: Psychology educator. Yale University, New Haven, CT, member of visiting faculty, 1971-72; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor, 1972-77, associate professor, 1977-79; University of California, Los Angeles, associate professor of psychology, 1979-81; professor, 1981—. Member of advisory board, Jonsson Cancer Center, UCLA-University of Southern California Cancer Information Service, UCLA Center for Health Advancement, and UCLA Epilepsy Center.
MEMBER: Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues, Society of Experimental Social Psychology.
AWARDS, HONORS: NIMH grantee, 1974—, research scientist development award, 1981-86; NSF grantee, 1976-79; Distinguished Scientist Award, American Psychological Association, 1980; Katz-Newcomb Lecturer, University of Michigan, 1982; Donald Campbell Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution to the Field of Social Psychology, 1995.
(Editor, with Andrew Baum and Jerome E. Singer) Social Psychological Aspects of Health, L. Erlbaum Associates (Hillsdale, NJ), 1984.
Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with Susan T. Fiske) Social Cognition, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1984, 2nd edition, 1991.
(Editor, with Letitia Anne Peplau) Sociocultural Perspectives in Social Psychology, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ), 1997.
The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing Is Essential for Who We Are and How We Live, Times Book (New York, NY), 2002.
(With David O. Sears and Letitia Anne Peplau) Social Psychology, Prentice Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1991, 11th edition, 2003.
Health Psychology, Random House (New York, NY), 1986, 5th edition, McGraw Hill (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Shelley Elizabeth Taylor is a psychology educator and writer whose main interests are health psychology and social psychology. Taylor's parents were a history teacher and a music teacher, but she was more interested in psychology, and as an undergraduate at Connecticut College, she assisted her professors with research.
Taylor earned a doctoral degree in psychology at Yale University, where she researched social cognition. She then worked as an assistant professor and associate professor at Harvard University, where she became interested in studying people's reactions to traumatic events.
In 1979 Taylor became a associate professor at the University of California—Los Angeles, where she has remained and is now a full professor. She helped found one of the major U.S. programs in the study of health psychology. Through interviews with cancer patients, she determined that most people have the ability to find substantial psychological strength when they must deal with traumatic events. In 1988 she began doing research with Jonathan Brown. Together, they found that people who believe they are in control of events are extremely optimistic and have a high level of self-esteem, and thereby cope better than other people do with trauma.
Taylor has written several textbooks, as well as books that explain her research and findings to a popular audience. In The Tending Instinct: How Nurturing Is Essential for Who We Are and How We Live, Taylor claims that nurturing is an essential characteristic of the human species, and that we are biologically programmed to help each other. Caregiving is essential for us to continue our species, and it is based in instinctive biological drives. Taylor draws comparisons between animal and human behavior, and explains the brain functions involved in nurturing. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Taylor's "highly readable" voice and text, as well as her copious endnotes for those wishing to delve deeper into the research behind her claims.
In Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind Taylor argues that mentally healthy people, instead of being "realistic," are actually unrealistically optimistic. Healthy thoughts, she notes, are "marked not by accuracy but by positive, self-enhancing illusions about the self, the world, and the future." Taylor derived this view from her studies of people who experienced trauma or life-threatening illness. She found that survivors of these events had an optimism and faith that was, as Timothy Bay wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "far out of proportion to the circumstances and probabilities of their lives." She integrates these clinical findings with a discussion of recent research in cognition, which show that healthy people reinvent reality, constructing scenarios in which they are in control of their fate and circumstances. However, she does note a distinction between these healthy behaviors and denial or repression: these positive thoughts are not attempt to retreat from unpleasant realities, but to see those realities in the most constructive light. And, she writes, these healthy behaviors are most likely essential to human perception of the world since they are part of an evolutionary strategy of adaptation and survival that helps us overcome adversity and meet distant goals. In Nutrition Health Review, a reviewer called the book "inspirational" and wrote that the principles outlined in it "can provide impetus to deal with some of life's most discouraging problems."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Psychologist, April, 1997, profile of Taylor, p. 312.
Choice, March, 1990, review of Positive Illusions, p. 1245.
Journal of the American Medical Association, April 4, 1990, Natalie Shainess, review of Positive Illusions, p. 1849.
New York Times Book Review, December, 1989, Timothy Bay, review of Positive Illusions, p. 8.
Nutrition Health Review, winter, 1990, review of Positive Illusions, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of The Tending Instinct, p. 50.
Science, October 26, 1984, Edward E. Jones, review of Social Cognition, p. 433.*