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

Friday the 13th Roundup

Whenever a Friday the 13th falls in the spooky month of October there seems to be an extra bit of interest in superstition and magic. This year I was contacted by several journalists and radio show hosts. For example, I was quoted in the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Hearld in an article called “Inside the fear of the number 13 and Friday the 13th.”


download.jpgOne of the most interesting Friday the 13th newspaper articles this year was written by Philip Bump, a political columnist for the Washington Post. In a piece called, “Here’s how many previous Friday the 13ths you’ve managed to survive,” he both recycled a quote I contributed to an old National Geographic story and included a calculator that allows you to determine how many Fridays the 13th you’ve encountered in your life so far. I have survived 119 in my 66 years of living. Hopefully, I will get a chance to survive many more.


tdy-header-logo.png   The NBC Today Show website’s Friday the 13th offering was an article called “Do crystals actually possess healing powers? The answer is complicated.” My answer was a bit simpler: “No they don’t.” But I offered some thoughts about why people might feel better using crystals.


Finally, I did three radio interviews on Friday. I made a brief appearance on the Mitch Albom (of Tuesdays with Morrie fame) Show, for which there appears to be no audio available online. I also did an interview for the Mike Farwell Show in Waterloo, Ontario. You can listen to the segment by clicking here and then clicking on the 10:00 AM hour for the Friday the 13th show. The segment lasts about 20 minutes. Be sure to stay on after the host hangs up with me to hear callers talking about superstitions.

The third radio interview was for WTIP community radio in Grand Marais, Minnesota, and you can listen to the interview in its entirety below.


That’s about it for Friday the 13th, 2017. Next up, Halloween!

Until then, enjoy the rest of autumn.

SV

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