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

Zoom Book Talk & Friday May 13th Event

A quick message to let you know about two events later this week.


On Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 pm ET, I will return to Skeptical inquirer Presents to talk about my new book, The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to Be Rational. You can register for this zoom event here. As a teaser, I will let you know that the talk will include mention of both Patty Hearst and the recent TV show Severance.


This Friday, May 13th, the Freethought Society is sponsoring their first “Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Center’s International Educational Seminar via Zoom,” and I will be the keynote speaker. The festivities begin at 6:45 PM ET with standup comedian Ian Harris. There are a number of other speakers, and my keynote will be at 8:00 PM ET. The direct link to the zoom event can be found here. No registration is required. Should be fun.


That’s it for now.

SV

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