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 essays in a variety of places—lately for the ObserverMedium, The AtlanticThe Good Men Project, and Tablet. 

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 will be 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 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.

Academic CV

Google Scholar Citations

 Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

Autism Wars, Netflix/Vox “Explainer,” and Tarot Cards

Here in New England, we have arrived at the dog days of summer—no offense to either dogs or Florence + The Machine. It is quite warm here as it is throughout the northern hemisphere. I hope you are all getting some time off and finding a cool place to spend it.


My most recent article for Skeptical Inquirer online is “Autism Wars: Science Strikes Back.” It outlines the latest controversies surrounding the pseudoscientific treatment methods Facilitated Communication (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). In

Screenshot 2018-07-23 09.10.56

Facilitated Communication

previous columns, I have outlined the reemergence of FC and the surging popularity of RPM. The good news, as outlined in this new article, is that the science-minded autism researchers are striking back and making some progress.


This has been my year for astrology and other forms of divination. I was interviewed for a Netflix/Vox series called the “Explained.” The episode was a very good introduction to the history of astrology. My contribution is quite brief and near the end of the episode. Screenshot 2018-08-08 17.14.44.png


Finally, I was quoted in a recent article, “Why millennials are looking for meaning in tarot cards,” in the British outlet the New Statesman. The reasons are very similar to the reasons for the apparent growing popularity of astrology. It is a nice article, but the author seems to both understand there is no evidence behind tarot card readings and still kind of believe in them. A common dilemma.


That’s it for now. Enjoy what’s left of summer, and try to stay cool during these dog days.

SV

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