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. In 2020, my book Superstition was published in the Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction series. The Spanish translation, Breve historian de la superstición, was published by Alianza editorial on January 13 (!), 2022. My latest book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational (Oxford, 2022), is out now in the US in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook. It will be published in the UK in August 2022.

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

Kendrick Frazier, Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Delusional Translations, & Test Anxiety

Kendrick Frazier (1942-2022)

In late October, just days before I left for CSICon, the annual skeptics’ conference in Las Vegas, I heard that Kendrick Frazier, the beloved editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine had been stricken with acute myeloid leukemia, a particularly virulent form of the disease. After previously editing Science News, Ken became editor of Skeptical Inquirer in August 1977 and held the job continuously for 45 years. Sadly, Ken’s illness progressed very rapidly, and he died on November 7th. Since his death, many messages of appreciation have come in from all over the world, and this wonderful obituary was published in his hometown newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal. A future issue of Skeptical Inquirer will include a memorial section.

Ken’s death was an enormous loss, and in the following days, I was asked to step in as editor of the magazine. I have never aspired to be an editor and have turned down previous offers to edit professional publications. For me, writing is my most treasured activity, and since retiring from teaching, I have tried to avoid anything that would cut into writing time. But given the circumstances, I agreed to be the interim editor for the magazine until a longer-term plan is established. I did not get a chance to talk to him directly, but I was told that Ken was pleased I would be taking over.


In other news, over the last few weeks, I have been informed that foreign rights to my new book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to be Rational, have been purchased by publishers in Saudi Arabia and in Taiwan. So Arabic and Chinese readers will soon learn the benefits of—some, not all—delusions.


Finally, I am for now, at least, still writing my column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and my latest contribution, “What if Test Anxiety Wasn’t a Disability?” looks at the somewhat controversial question of whether people who suffer from test anxiety should be afforded special accommodations during testing. The article was inspired by some new research that sheds light on the issue.


That’s it for now. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. See you next year.

SV

  1. Book Launch, Autism Politics, & Autumn Comes to New England Leave a reply
  2. Train Wrecks, Pods, and Future Talks Leave a reply
  3. The Character of Science Podcast & Stonington Library Talk Video Leave a reply
  4. Stonington Library Talk, etc. Leave a reply
  5. Book Launch & Room Rater Leave a reply
  6. Friday the 13th, the Shermer Show, & #1 Leave a reply
  7. Zoom Book Talk & Friday May 13th Event Leave a reply
  8. Book Launch & the Autism Spectrum Leave a reply
  9. Steamboat Hotel Talk & Spanish Reviews Leave a reply