Phillip Shaver
Board of
Foundation for
Phillip Shaver
Phillip Shaver was born in Iowa on September 7, 1944. After attending college at Wesleyan University, he elected to do his graduate work in social and cognitive psychology at the University of Michigan, working with Robert Zajonc and Melvin Manis. Phil received his Ph.D. in 1970 and took his first faculty positions at Columbia University and New York University. During a sabbatical visit to the University of Denver in 1979, he met Gail Goodman and, not surprisingly, accepted a position in Denver’s psychology department shortly thereafter. In 1988 Phil and Gail accepted positions at the State University of New York at Buffalo where they stayed until 1992, when they both moved to the University of California (UC), Davis. Phil continues to teach and conduct research at UC Davis. And, although he has been planning to retire for over 10 years, his plans may actually come to fruition at the end of 2014.

Throughout his career, Phil has been a leader and innovator in the science of close relationships and emotions. In the mid-1980s, Phil and his student, Cindy Hazan, made a game-changing contribution to the field with their insight that romantic love can be viewed as an attachment process, one that involves the same motivational systems that organize parent-child attachments in infancy. In the years since the publication of their seminal work, Phil and his numerous students and colleagues have continued to explore the implications of this idea. In doing so, they have enhanced our understanding of how attachment processes shape our development, our emotional experiences, our relationships, and our personal strengths and insecurities. Moreover, in the field of emotions, Phil and his colleagues proposed a prototype methodology for mapping individuals’ and cultures’ cognitive representations of emotion. This work has been valuable for helping psychologists understand how people make sense of their emotional experiences and how everyday conceptions of certain emotions, such as love and shame, are understood in various cultures.

Over the course of his career, Phil has won multiple awards and held a number of prestigious positions. In 2002 he received a Distinguished Career Award from the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) and in 2010 he received the Mentoring Award from IARR. The Society of Experimental Social Psychology awarded Phil with its highest honor, the Distinguished Scientist Award, in 2013. In October of 2004, Phil and his friend and colleague, Mario Mikulincer, were invited to discuss their research on attachment and compassion with the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, India. Phil served as the chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis from 1993 – 1996 and 2001 – 2006. During that time Phil was responsible for helping to transform the department into one of the premier psychology programs in the country. Phil is a former editor of the Review of Personality and Social Psychology, currently an associate editor of Attachment and Human Development, and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Personal Relationships. He coedited the first, second, and third editions of the Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications, and coedits the series Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes. In 2004 he was named a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Although Phil is a serious intellectual and an accomplished academic, he is not without his quirks. He is regarded with both gratitude and terror among his students for his meticulous editing skills. (Phil has confessed that he keeps grammar books in his bathroom for pleasure reading.) His undergraduate emotion class is well-known as being one of the few places on the UC Davis campus where students can learn the shocking truth regarding the love lives of Bonobos. And, if his academic accolades were not enough, in the late-1980s, Phil was selected by Denver Magazine as “one of the sexiest men in Denver over 40.”

With the assistance of the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology, we would like to both acknowledge Phil’s multiple contributions to the field and express our enduring gratitude for the support, guidance, and contributions he has made to our lives and careers. We hope that, should he actually retire this time around, he will use his newfound time to enjoy some golf, learn to paint, catch up on his mile-high stack of unread books, and incite both gratitude and terror in his daughters as he edits their college essays.

R. Chris Fraley


I cannot imagine the field of adult attachment research, including my own work, without Phil’s contributions. In fact, Phil’s work gave me the theoretical courage and the empirical instruments to investigate complex and deep human phenomena, such as love, trauma, and death anxiety. His inspiration and example have had similar effects on many of my students as well. When I teach my students about the adult attachment field, I refer to Phil as the “father” of personality-related theory and research on adult attachment and as one of the few “renaissance” scholars in the field of contemporary psychology.

Mario Mikulincer

I was fortunate to have Phil as my primary mentor for three years (2003-2006) during my postdoctoral fellowship at UC Davis. His vast knowledge, availability, responsiveness, and skills have been crucial to my development as an independent scholar and for my early career success. Phil devoted incredible time and energy to our working relationship, making sure that I’d be able to fulfill my potential and obtain my career goals. He has also been an astute advocate on my behalf with other researchers, introducing me to scholars and potential collaborators within and outside his department. This was particularly valuable to me as an international scholar making my first steps in the US. Working with him has been a transforming experience for me. As a researcher in the fields of emotions and close relationships, Phil has made major contributions to our understanding of issues relevant to attachment, caregiving, sexuality, love, and important emotions and motivations. There are many indicators of his success, hundreds of papers and talks, and millions of dollars in grants are just a few. His list of prestigious research awards includes writing one of the ten most-cited articles in the history of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the flagship of social and personality psychology journals, receiving a Distinguished Professorship at UC Davis, and a Distinguished Career Award from IARR. Dr. Shaver’s work has had impact both in and outside of the discipline of psychology. All that said, Phil is one of those rare researchers who, while being highly successful in his own right (as demonstrated above), is completely and unselfishly dedicated to the success and well-being of others around him. Thank you, Phil.

Omri Gillath

Phil Shaver changed my life, and I would not be where I am now without his invaluable guidance. Not only is he the consummate research psychologist; his skills as an advisor, as a mentor, are beyond compare.

Dory Schachner

I've always thought of Phil as a scholar's scholar, an intellectual with genuine curiosity who only wanted to find out the right answer. Phil was drawn to attachment theory because its theoretical account of human emotion and relationships was clear, coherent, and (emphasis here) compelling. That said, he nevertheless often remarked that he'd be happy to be proved wrong, as long as the truth came out. To date, he's been mostly right, of course. Attachment theory enjoys its current popularity in no small respect because of Phil's ability to deliver a gripping lecture, craft a convincing article, and design a study that gets to the essence of something important. Phil has many talents: his intellectual grasp ranges far and wide -- he's read more widely (and not just in psychology) than anyone I know -- and I learned more about writing by sitting next to him than from years of coursework. These talents aside, Phil's most noteworthy quality may be his great warmth and responsiveness. Years ago, he barely knew me, yet he invited me to spend my first sabbatical in Denver, which resulted in my meeting my wife, discovering a research area to which I wanted to devote my life's work, and becoming his friend and collaborator. Phil has that altogether rare ability of making you feel that he is totally immersed in your conversation, that he is attending to nothing else but talking to you. Perhaps that's because his ability to concentrate is awesome -- as evidenced by his legendary ability to pull all-nighters, create masterful studies and manuscripts at the absolutely last possible moment, and ignore everything and everyone else except the task at hand.

Harry Reis

Phil’s work in introducing and researching the application of attachment theory in social and personality psychology has been one of the main sources of inspiration for my own work in trying to understand relational aspects of religion from an attachment viewpoint. I think Phil’s conceptual analysis of couple relationships qua attachments was spot-on, and it no doubt signified a paradigmatic shift in the study of love from descriptive, factor-analytic attempts at dimensionalizing love to a deeper, psychological understanding of this vitally important phenomenon, and why it takes so varied forms for different individuals. Phil’s work in this area also developed into an ever-expanding line of creative experimental inquiry that surpasses nearly all other research programs in psychological science, both in terms of originality and sheer quantity. I'll stand on Mary Ainsworth’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that! Once I got fortunate enough to work with Phil myself, I realized that he was every bit as insightful as I had imagined. In addition, I was impressed by the generosity with which he shared his time and breadth of knowledge to younger colleagues. Finally, I have been struck by his youthful and knife-sharp sense of humor. We had a whole lotta fun in a club in Austin one night, I believe it was 2004, enjoying a gig by a band with the brave name “I love you but I’ve chosen darkness.” We both really took to that name! It is obvious that Phil has a unique mind that never goes out of curiosity. He’s in this life to learn, it seems, and that appears to have made its way into a work ethic of flagellant proportions. The only major downside to this is that his resultant track record makes everybody else go green.

Pehr Granqvist

The field cannot thank you enough, Phil, for the wonderful intellectual leadership, expansive vision, and relentless inspiration you have given so many of us. I would not have followed the research path that I did if it were not for the risks you took many years to bring attachment theory in all its splendor to the wider field of psychology. We first met in 1984 when you came to Minnesota in honor of Ellen Berscheid's Regents Professorship and I was a graduate student trying to figure out how I might be able to make a contribution to the field. What I remember the most from that important first meeting was the tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and theoretical rigor you brought into that seminar room. It made me understand the true importance of what we, as a field, study and do. Congratulations on a stellar career!!

Jeffry Simpson

A recent message sent to Phil, from a student he has never met, insightfully described him as a “dream professor.” You might ask: What makes someone a “dream professor”? In Phil’s case, the answer comes easily. First of all, his contributions to the field of personality and social psychology are legend. As one example, when Phil and then doctoral student Cindy Hazan published their initial landmark papers on adult attachment, they began an intellectual journey that led into one of the major current theoretical frameworks in personality and clinical psychology. That is no small feat. Phil’s empirical and theoretical papers on adult attachment are some of the most influential and cited papers in these fields of psychology. However, did you know that years ago Phil along with several colleagues also started the entire field of scientific jury selection? Phil’s major contributions also include research on emotion theory, child maltreatment, fear of success, and more. Thus, the impact and breadth of Phil’s accomplishments are part of what makes him a dream professor. Second, Phil is the intellectual’s intellectual. He is a voracious reader, interested in knowing everything there is to know. As a result, he can have a lively, smart, in-depth discussion about almost anything, from psychology to physics to art. Third, Phil is a stellar mentor--to undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior and senior faculty, and even administrators, all of whom seek his advice and help. Although I was already a postdoctoral fellow when I first met Phil, he has been the most important mentor in my life. Phil is giving and supportive, and will happily sit down with students and colleagues for hours to elucidate concepts, clarify composition and grammar (Phil is an excellent writer himself), and explain how to see the deep structure and meaning of data (and of life), all the while joking to make the experience not only intellectually exciting but also more fun than work. Fourth, a dream professor should love to impart knowledge not only in writing but also in lectures, and that is true of Phil, who is an eloquent speaker. His talks are sought worldwide. Finally, in addition to being brilliant, Phil is also witty, entertaining, wise, nurturing, generous, and kind. He is a “people person”; adults and children love being around him. How do I know these things? I am fortunate to have been on the same faculty with Phil for over 30 years, at three universities, and to have collaborated with him on many projects. I am lucky to see him every day, because he is not only my dream professor, but also my dream husband as well.

Gail Goodman

I had the unique and informative experience of helping Phil organize his office after his first tenure as Chair at UC Davis. His office was piled with copies of journal articles, correspondence, drafts of works in progress, books that he had read or planned to read, and requests for interviews and scholarly contributions. Every item he picked up came with a story. He’d explain the impact of a particular article, or the connection that could be made between the book he was reading on molecular physics and psychology; another item would prompt an explanation of a shift in thinking in the field; a receipt yielded a story about a provocative lunch he had with a visiting scholar or former student. Although Phil’s collection of knowledge was astounding, what impressed me most was how Phil could see the potential contribution to understanding behavior in every seed of thought. Often our work sessions were concluded because an undergraduate or graduate student had an appointment with him to explore an idea -- an idea that he thought “could be interesting.” He was open to everything. Phil’s incredible thirst for knowledge, his ability to make connections among ideas across fields, and his unending passion to understand “how it all works” make him a remarkable scholar. Phil, if you’re cleaning out the office again, I’d love to help. This time I’ll bring a recorder. Thank you for your stories.

Caroline Tancredy

Phil has inspired my personal and professional life. His theoretical advances have changed my understanding of close relationship, stimulated my research, and affected my entire outlook on life. Phil is the master of the written word, turning papers into pieces of art and replies to reviewers into an unforgettable learning experience, filled with sharp (and humorous) observations. He is also the master of creating an immediate intimacy, a source of hope for those struggling with earning security, and a passionate dancer.

Gurit Birnbaum

Phil is a true pioneer in the field of attachment. No scholar has done more to expand attachment theory and research. He took a theory focused mainly on parent–child relationships and demonstrated how it can be fruitfully extended to the study of adult romantic relationships. The impact he has had on the field is remarkable. Phil possesses a unique combination of brilliance, kindness, passion, and generosity. We started working together in 1994 on the first edition of the Handbook of Attachment – having met only once. We’re now on the third edition. It’s been a long, lovely, long-distance partnership. I couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator and friend.

Jude Cassidy

Phil is not only a brilliant and productive scholar, he is also an incredibly kind, generous, and supportive person whose mentorship of young scientists extends far beyond his own laboratory. Despite the fact that I am not his graduate student and live on the other side of the country, Phil has gone above and beyond to support my training and career. In addition to being on my master’s and dissertation committees and writing letters on my behalf, Phil frequently finds time in his busy schedule to discuss ongoing projects and to brainstorm new study ideas. It’s been a privilege to work with Phil and collaborating with him has been one of the highlights of my graduate training.

Jason Jones

I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Phil as a graduate student. He is inspirational in so many ways -- in his work, his writing, his mentorship, and his kindness. I think about the lessons that I learned from him all the time, especially now as I work with my own students. I'm thrilled to honor Phil in this way.

Robin Edelstein

I am fortunate to have called Phil my colleague for 10 years. What I admire most about Phil is his abiding curiosity for any and every facet of human behavior. Though his research has focused primarily on Attachment Theory and, more recently, mindfulness, he would unfailingly have something interesting (and often funny) to say about any student’s or visiting speaker’s research. Phil just likes to think (and talk) about how people work. A deeply curious mind.

Phil embodies what, in my mind, is the ideal intellectual stance: He takes his (and your) research seriously, but never, ever takes himself too seriously. This is a perfect colleague.

I learned many things from Phil: How to deal with administrative constraints (do whatever the hell you want and apologize later); the minutiae of proper grammar, for which Phil is a stickler; what it means to work too hard; and, finally, how to stop working too hard (maybe; we’ll see if it takes).

This is a nice recognition for Phil, and reflects the devotion he has incited among his students, former students, collaborators, colleagues, friends, and pretty much anyone who had the privilege of working with him.

Jeff Sherman

Further Donations are always welcome, whether to honor Phillip Shaver or another psychologist. Be sure to leave a note regarding which mentor you would like to donate for and any testimonial you might like to give.