About

I am a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. I write the monthly “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer and personal essays in a variety of places—lately for the ObserverMedium, The AtlanticThe Good Men Project, and Tablet. I also blog very sporadically for Psychology Today.

My book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association and has been or will be translated into four languages. My book Going Broke: Why Americans Can’t Hold On To Their Money is an analysis of the current epidemic of personal debt and has been translated into Chinese.

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 Connecticut College in New London, CT, where I was the Joanne Toor Cummings ’50 Professor of Psychology. 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

Probability and the Immunity Dog

There has been a long summer’s break in the stream of SV communications to your inbox. I was busy completing a few projects, and there was nothing much to report. I hope your summer went well and that no hurricanes or forest fires have come your way.


I recently published a new online column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, “Moving Science’s Statistical Goalposts,” which will also appear in the print magazine later this fall. An article co-authored by seventy-two researchers proposes to change the

R._A._Fischer.jpg

Sir Ronald Fisher

probability standard for statistical tests, making it much more difficult to claim an effect is “statistically significant.” I discuss this issue in relation to the great British statistician Sir Ronald Fisher and Compound X, a fictional hair growth treatment.


If that does not sound whimsical enough, I was also recently interviewed in Britain’s New Statesman magazine about chain letters, chain tweets, and something called the

croppedDog

Immunity Dog

“Immunity Dog.” I didn’t know about the Immunity Dog, either, but I am now informed. For those who have never seen the dog, a picture is provided here. To get an explanation of the canine’s importance (or lack of importance), you will have to read the article by technology reporter, Amelia Tait, which you can find here. It was a very fun interview, and the article is quite good.


That’s it for today. Until next time, enjoy the glories of fall.

SV

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