Rapid distortion calculations of initially anisotropic turbulence are performed to better understand the physics of the pressure-strain correlation in strain-dominated mean flows. Based on the results of simulations we infer important physical characteristics of the \"rapid\" pressure-strain correlation Φ(rij in such flows: (i) it vanishes when there is no production of anisotropy, (ii) in the proximity of two-componential state it tends to decrease Reynolds stress anisotropy, and (iii) its magnitude is generally smaller than that of production. The observed characteristics are proposed as criteria that pressure-strain correlation models may be required to satisfy. All of the current popular models violate the above criteria for a sizeable subset of anisotropic initial conditions. Reynolds stress transport model calculations show that unphysical and unrealizable model behavior can be directly attributed to these violations. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.