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), will be published in hardcover and audiobook on May 2, 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.

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Google Scholar Citations

Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

January 13th, Freakonomics, & Spanish Edition

Today is the 13th day of 2022. Not a Friday but the only 13th day of the year. However, based on the two brief items below, it appears to be a lucky day for me.


For many years, I assigned the Freakonomics podcast in my behavioral economics course. The episodes are always informative and well-produced, and in my class, they always led to lively discussions.

As of today, I have achieved an important life goal: appearing on Freakonomics Radio in an episode entitled, “What Do Broken-Hearted Knitters, Urinating Goalkeepers, and the C.I.A. Have in Common?” The topic was superstitions and curses, and I was one of several people interviewed for the show. Apart from my contribution, there is some great material on curses, including sports curses and a discussion of “the sweater curse.”


As of today, the Spanish edition of my book Superstition: A Very Short Introduction (Breve Historia de la Superstición) is out from Alianza Editorial. In the United States, it is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book format from Barnes & Noble.

The cover of the Spanish edition is somewhat unique in avoiding the more common black cat theme in favor of an image of crossed fingers.


That’s all for now. I hope that January 13th is a lucky day for you, too.

SV

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