Shelley Elizabeth Taylor was born in 1946 in Mt. Kisco, New York. She did her undergraduate work at Connecticut College where she showed an early penchant for psychology. She went on to Yale University for her Ph.D. and was an assistant and associate professor at Harvard prior to moving to sunny Los Angeles, California. UCLA has been fortunate to have her in Franz Hall ever since, and she is currently a Distinguished Research Professor.
Throughout her prolific career she has authored over 350 journal articles, chapters, and books (e.g., The Tending Instinct, Social Cognition, Positive Illusions). She has been a leading figure in social psychology, contributed several prominent theories, and was at the forefront of many areas of research—including nurturing the now-vibrant subfields of social cognition and health psychology. Shelley has garnered numerous professional honors including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science, the Donald Campbell Award in Social Psychology, and the APA's Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an inductee of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the United States National Academy of Sciences.
Throughout her career, Shelley’s contributions also took form in her generously mentoring scores of students, postdocs, and early career academics. In addition she has pushed our field, and science more broadly, toward gender equity--by being an undeniable exemplar, a resilient voice, and a sage advisor. Shelley Taylor continues to build her heritage through her scholarly pursuits, professional activities, and steadfast mentorship.
- Shelley has had a major influence on a broad range of topics, from schematic processing to positive illusions, neural, and immune responses. To each area she brings the same perspective on human behavior – that people are highly capable and resilient, and the human mind is a powerful force in that resilience, as are our relationships. She also brought that perspective to teaching and mentoring, encouraging me and my fellow students to think big and think creatively and inspiring us through her confidence in our abilities. When I was in graduate school Shelley and I were developing ideas about the impact of better-off others on self-evaluations. We had many areas of agreement but we each felt different processes were involved. Shelley never gave me the impression my own ideas were wrong, and listened to my (probably arrogant) feedback about hers, and responded thoughtfully. She treated me as an equal, which may well have been how I arrived at the conclusion that people can assimilate, and thereby improve their self-evaluations, when they encounter people with superior skills. Of course, I also proved Shelley’s point in my response to contact with her superior skills – I was indeed inspired and motivated by her example. Shelley’s intellectual impact on the field and her inspirational impact on her students will be felt in social psychology for a long time to come.
- I have been fortunate enough to have worked with Shelley—first as a graduate student, then as a colleague and collaborator—for the past 10 years. During this time, I have learned that it is totally normal to never stop being in awe of her. One can never quite habituate to Shelley’s super-human efficiency, her brilliant mind, her encyclopedic memory of scientific research findings, or her incredible ability to unearth the most interesting findings in any projects that she touches. My academic career has been forever transformed for the better by having Shelley as a mentor, collaborator, and colleague. More importantly, our field has been transformed by having her in it. There is probably no other scientist who has done more to advance more areas of psychology—from social psychology to health psychology to social neuroscience—than Shelley Taylor. Thank you, Shelley, for your mind, your heart, and your dedication to our field.
- My career-long friend, advisor, and role-model, Shelley Taylor was 6 months out of graduate school when I walked into her office volunteering to work on her research. She had an original and elegant study in mind, theoretically interesting and practically important—the hallmark of her work ever since. Not only a brilliant researcher, she has more theory papers in Psych Review and Psych Bulletin than anyone. A founding mother of health psychology, her work saves lives and psyches. A valued wise person, her perspective saves careers.
-Susan T. Fiske
- Shelley has been a truly great mentor, collaborator, and friend for me and my family. She taught me how to raise big questions and how to answer them using tools and perspectives that are not limited by conventional disciplinary boundaries, and how to tackle these big questions without losing my sanity. Shelley has been a role model for me, not only because she is one of the most productive and inspiring scientists, but also because she is someone who approaches life with the same vigor and inspiration. She showed me that the balance between work and life is important and possible. The image that summarizes Shelley in my mind is her saying “Oh, goody!” about new research findings over a great wine and dinner (perfectly cooked by Shelley, I’d like to add) with such excitement, which I suspect is the fuel for all aspects of her amazing life. I am very glad that I am a part of it.
- Shelley Taylor brings brilliance, energy, creativity, and joy to research. After graduate school, I wanted to work with her so much that I delayed starting my first tenure-track faculty position (at Carnegie Mellon) in order to be a postdoc in her lab. What an experience. I never regretted that decision. And I became a better faculty member than I would have been if I hadn’t learned so much from Shelley. Shelley embodies a call to excellence. The call says, “Don’t just do the next thing; do the next excellent thing that will move the field in an important direction. Don’t fret; write a grant proposal, sprint up the learning curve as you employ new methods – from genetics to hormones to facial musculature to fMRI. Do what it takes to test the hypotheses that matter.” She elevates those around her and elevates the (many!) fields to which she contributes. If my research makes a contribution to the fields of SPSP, it makes a better one because of Shelley and a few select others. I stand in the sunlight of her glow.
-Jennifer S. Lerner
- As Shelley's first Social Psychology graduate student at UCLA, I've known and respected her for 35 years. She was an inspiring mentor and role model, demonstrating creativity and brilliance in conceptualizing how to develop and complete research protocols in the then-new field of Health Psychology. Her enthusiasm for our study was infectious, stimulating each of us to stretch and become more proficient researchers.
I've witnessed first hand Shelley's unique talent for balancing her rich career with a fulfilling family life, all the while remembering how to have fun in the process. After being included in all three over the years, I'm proud to call Shelley my friend today.
- Shelley Taylor was never a "formal" mentor or colleague, but she played a critical role in my career and I owe a great deal to her generosity and intellectual inspiration. She was a wonderful informal mentor when I was a grad student and a new professor, inviting me to attend her lab meetings (not to mention social gatherings) and offering a great deal of wisdom over the years. In addition to kindling numerous ideas about social psychology, probably her greatest legacy for me was serving as the ultimate role model – as a woman academic and a paragon for how to balance family and career.
There was one conversation that changed my life. I had assumed, via previous advice and observation of our field, that I needed to wait until after tenure to have children, and that was my definite plan. After mentioning this plan to Shelley, she emphatically discouraged me from it, offered several reasons for why it was ill-advised, and spurred me to change course. My kids should thank her for that conversation! Here's to many more years of fun, wisdom, and intellectual stimulation.
- When I (along with fellow Taylor lab alum John Updegraff) set out to pen an anthem for health psychology set to the tune of REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it” there was no doubt how we were going to end the first stanza: “Shelley Taylor is not afraid.” Shelley not only was one of the people who fearlessly launched the field of health psychology, she has been “not afraid” to go down whatever scientific path she needs to in order to address her questions of interest. From the moment we began our collaboration, it was instantly intellectually inspiring to me to see how Shelley approaches academic and scientific life: with passion and perspective, generativity and generosity. With deep respect and appreciation, thank you Shelley for your guidance and contributions to the field of psychology.
- "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." - Wayne Gretzky
I first learned of this quote early on in my graduate career, in one of our weekly lab meetings. I don't know if it was Shelley who said it, or someone else, but it was apt at the moment - in reference to looking forward in research, rather than looking at the present or in the past. I've heard this quote many times since, in lots of other contexts, but every time I hear it I immediately think of Shelley. She's the Wayne Gretzky of psychology, and much as it would have been a thrill to be an NHL'er playing alongside Gretzky, it was a thrill to work alongside Shelley. In the summer before I started at UCLA, I read her Social Cognition book, and I read her Positive Illusions book, so I would feel "prepared" to join the lab. Little did I know she was skating to where she saw the puck going next - neuroscience. Lab meetings were the most intellectually stimulating environment I've experienced in my career: no topic was off-limits, and we discussed power, motivation, coping, cortisol, oxytocin, prairie voles, happiness, cognitive biases, Prospect Theory... and so much more. Her breadth of knowledge was extraordinary, but her gift was not in knowing what was known, but seeing what was unknown and fearlessly moving towards it. An offhand comment on one day could turn into an entire research program years later. If you look at what Shelley's students and postdocs accomplish now, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single theme that unites them all, but that was the joy in working with Shelley. She was fiercely supportive of her students, an inspiring mentor, and a great person I was very lucky to work with.
-John A. Updegraff