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

Audiobook, Autism research, & the Cheltenham Science Festival

Hello all. Just a quick update from from quarantine to pass on a few bits of news.

My latest article for Skeptical Inquirer, “Of Eye Movements and Autism: The Latest Chapter In A Continuing Controversy,” discusses a new research study that purports to show that Rapid Prompting Method, an unsubstantiated communication method used with nonspeaking children and adults with autism actually works. (Spoiler: We don’t know if it works or not, and the new research doesn’t help us figure it out.)

I am happy to say that my latest book SUPERSTITION: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION is now available as an audiobook from Audible. I am not the narrator, which is probably a good thing, but during this time when bookstores are closed, it is nice to have the book available in every format: paperback, kindle, and audiobook.

Although many things are not possible during the coronavirus pandemic, some things have become possible that might not otherwise have happened. For example, I will be appearing at the Cheltenham Science Festival at Home on June 5. The town of Cheltenham, England sponsors a number of cultural festivals each summer, but for obvious reasons, they are moving this summer’s events online. I recorded a brief talk on the subject of my new book on superstition which will be shown during the festival. Several Oxford Very Short Introduction authors will participate, as well some famous scientists, including Brian Greene and Brian Cox. The schedule of the conference can be found here.

That’s it for now. The warm weather has been a little slow arriving here in New England, but I am looking forward to spending some socially distanced time outside in the coming weeks. I hope you are finding ways to stretch your legs, too.

SV

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