Research Interests

Shelley Taylor studies social relationships and how they protect against stress. She especially focuses on the biological benefits of social support, such as reduced neuroendocrine, sympathetic, neural, and immune responses to stress and better health. Her tend-and-befriend model, which was developed in response to the fight-or-flight metaphor that usually guides stress research, builds on the fact that, in response to stress, people come together with others for joint protection of self and offspring; this tendency to affiliate in response to stress is somewhat more true of women than men. The biological underpinnings of these responses appear to depend on the oxytocin, vasopressin, and endogenous opioid peptide systems. Professor Taylor also conducts research on self-regulation, stress, and coping, and identifies the skills that people develop and use for anticipating stressful events and for minimizing their adverse effects and when they do occur. She has especially addressed how people proactively head off stressful events through planning, goal setting, and mental simulation. Finally, Taylor studies how positive beliefs are protective of health. She shows that positive illusions, including beliefs that center on optimism, self-enhancement, and an illusion of control, have mental and physical health benefits.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 52: Psychological and Cognitive Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 28: Systems Neuroscience