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 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

Michigan, My Audio Course, and Political Bias

Happy first day of Spring!


I’ve had a busy couple of months at the end of winter. On February 21, I was honored to give the keynote address for the conference of the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) at Eastern Michigan University n Ypsilanti, MI. The talk was entitled “Can the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Adapt to the Environment?” My message was not particularly encouraging, but the talk was well received.

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The dome of the Islamic Center of America

One of the treats of the Michigan trip was spending an evening with a former student, now a graduate student at the University of Michigan, who took me on a quick tour of Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest Muslim communities in the country. We sampled some wonderful Yemeni food and visited the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America.  It was a wonderful experience to be in a place where women wearing hijab was commonplace and many varieties of middle eastern culture were everywhere on display. 


Soon after returning home from the BAAM conference, I headed down to Rockville, Maryland to record an audio course entitled “The Science of Irrationality: How to Think

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The Now You Know Media recording studio.

Better.” I delivered fifteen 25-minute-long lectures that were videotaped as I stood at a lectern in front of a very learned looking backdrop. The publisher of the course is Now You Know Media, and at some later date, they will decide whether to offer the course on DVD as a video course. In April, the course will be released as an audio course in all of the usual forms (CD, MP3, Audible, etc.). So, for any students who might be missing the sound of their old professor’s voice, this course will provide a good solution. In addition, you might learn something about how to be less irrational.


After returning from Maryland, I went back to writing my “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This month I took on a recent controversy in the psychological literature in an article called, “Who Are More Biased: Liberals or Conservatives?” A recent study by Peter Ditto of the University of California at Irvine in collaboration and several colleagues suggested that6261650491_0cd6c701bb_z conservatives and liberals are equally biased. This conclusion was immediately challenged by Jon Baron of the University of Pennsylvania and John Jost of New York University, who cited considerable research showing that conservatives are more rigid and supportive of the status quo than liberals. Much of that same research shows that liberals are more open to new experiences. All of which would point to liberals being less biased than conservatives. At the end of the article, I make a few comments about what is and isn’t useful about this line of research.


That’s all for now. Spring is officially here, and the days are getting longer. Enjoy the growing light and warmth.

SV

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