About

I am a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. I am a contributing editor for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, for which I write the “Behavior & Belief” column, both online and in print. I have written personal and professional essays in a variety of places, including the ObserverMedium, The AtlanticThe Good Men ProjectTablet, and Time.

The first edition of my book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association and was translated into Japanese, German, and Romanian. An updated edition was published in 2014. My book Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold On To Their Money is an analysis of the current epidemic of personal debt. The first edition was translated into Chinese, and the second edition was released in September of 2018 in both paperback and audiobook formats.

As an expert on superstition and irrational behavior, I have been quoted in many news outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and have appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, CNN International, the PBS NewsHour, and NPR’s Science Friday. See the In the Media page for recent quotes and appearances.

I hold a PhD in psychology and BA and MA degrees in English Literature and am a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The majority of my teaching career was spent at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College. My academic interests are in decision-making, behavioral economics, philosophy, behavior analysis, and belief in the paranormal.

CV

Google Scholar Citations

Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

Philadelphia Talk & Thanksgiving

Just a quick note to pass on the YouTube video of my recent Zoom talk, “The Psychology of Superstition,” for the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT). It was a nice event, however, there is a rather meandering beginning to the video. I was asked to arrive ten minutes early to deal with technical issues, and all the green room chitchat ended up in the video. So, you may want to scroll ahead about 12 minutes to the beginning of the actual event. I provided a slide show and my full “credibility bookcase” background.


It’s Thanksgiving week in a very unusual year. Students are coming home from college, and there is likely to be some slippage in compliance with health recommendations. All of this as infection rates are already on the rise throughout the country. I am cooking a modest Thanksgiving meal to be delivered to my mother and to a neighbor. It will be an unusual holiday season, but in the last weeks we have begun to hear some very hopeful news about vaccines. If we can just get through this dark season, there should be light and a return to relative normalcy by spring.

Take care.

SV 

  1. Friday the 13th & Philadelphia Critical Thinking Talk Leave a reply
  2. Halloween, British Museum Magazine, and James Randi Leave a reply
  3. The Free Market & Some Sad News Leave a reply
  4. COVID-19 and the Tyranny of Now Leave a reply
  5. Brazilian Skeptics & COVID, Superstition on BBC Radio 4, British Museum, & Spanish Translation Leave a reply
  6. Audiobook, Autism research, & the Cheltenham Science Festival Leave a reply
  7. A Virus Changes Everything Leave a reply
  8. Vegas pod, UK Book Tour Dates, & Superstitious Real Estate—Part Deux Leave a reply
  9. Feng Shui & Coming to the UK Leave a reply