The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships

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9780805072891: The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships
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“A tour de force . . . The Tending Instinct elevates women’s natural strengths in caregiving and befriending to a long-deserved prominence in society. A crucial message for us all.” —Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

For generations, scientists have taught us about the “fight or flight” response to stress. But is this instinct universal? Renowned psychologist Shelley E. Taylor explains that “fight or flight” may only be half the story. Humans—particularly females—are hardwired to respond to stress differently. As Taylor deftly points out in this eye-opening work, the “tend and befriend” response is among the most vital ingredient of human social life.

Ranging widely over biology, evolutionary psychology, physiology, and neuroscience, Taylor examines the biological imperative that drives women to seek each other’s company, and to tend to the young and the infirm, bestowing great benefits to the group but often at great cost to themselves. This tending process begins virtually at the moment of conception, and literally crafts the biology of offspring through genes that rely on caregiving for their expression.

In the tradition of groundbreaking books about the science of human nature such as Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, Taylor’s book will change forever the way we talk and think about ourselves.

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About the Author:

Shelley E. Taylor is a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and one of the country’s leading scientists. A world-renowned expert on stress and health, her work on the “tend and befriend” theory is considered to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding stress since the 1930s. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

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An epiphany in science is fairly rare, but when it happens, there is no sensation like it. The sudden recognition that all of the classic theories of stress were based almost entirely on males was as stunning as being hit over the head with a club. I remember thinking, "I didn't know there were any big mistakes left in science." We all stared at each other as the opportunity that lay before us became clear: a chance to start from scratch and discover what women do in response to stress.

Females of all species, including humans, have been the primary caretakers of offspring, and so it stands to reason that their responses to stress would have evolved so as to include some measure of protection for their children. From our research with humans, we knew that women turn to the social group in times of stress, and so we looked for patterns of "befriending." By the end of one especially spirited evening, we had spawned the title . . . "tend and befriend."

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