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

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Macmillan, 2003 - Psychology - 308 pages
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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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bouillabaisse - LibraryThing

Interesting book focusing on our "other" response to stress: "tend & befriend" in addition to "fight or flight." For years Taylor has studied stress and our physical, mental, & emotional reactions ... Read full review

The tending instinct: how nurturing is essential for who we are and how we live

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Sure, there's "fight or flight," but, argues psychologist Taylor, women also have an instinct for "tend and befriend"Da deeply ingrained trait that benefits society. Read full review


The Power of Tending
The Origins of Tending
The Tending Brain
Good and Bad Tending
A Little Help from Friends and Strangers
Women Befriending
Tending in Marriage
Mens Groups
Where Altruism May Reside
The Social Context of Tending
The Tending Society

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About the author (2003)

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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