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 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.

CV

Google Scholar Citations

Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

Celebrities, Hypnosis, & Crystals

Happy Springtime! Here in New England it’s beginning to be keep-the-windows-open time.

Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey on the Larry King Show.

My latest column for Skeptical Inquirer is “From False Cause to False Cure: Autism and the Rich and Famous.” It reports on the reemergence of celebrities in the autism world—this time to promote discredited therapies for people with severe autism. I was happy to see that the article was promoted by RealClearScience and has now been translated into Spanish for the Buenos Aires based magazine Pensar.

My friend Andreas Mink, who writes for a number of German language newspapers in Europe, recently interviewed me for a fascinating story about the shockingly widespread use of hypnosis by police in witness interviews, particularly the Texas Rangers. I spoke about the fallibility of human memory and the power of suggestion in interviews. The two-page-spread article was published in the Sunday May 2 edition of the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The article is behind a paywall, but for any of my German-speaking friends who might be interested, a pdf of the article can be found here. I love this graphic NZZ used with the article.

Finally, it appears that I am the go-to skeptic for comments about crystal healing. I am not sure how that happened, but I was recently interviewed for the Washington Post. In this case the author of the piece did a reasonably good job. The title says it all. “‘Healing’ crystals are having a pandemic moment. But science says they’re just pretty stones.” Very expensive pretty stones in many cases.

That’s it for now. Thanks to science, it looks as though I will be attending the 2021 Timeworld Global Congress on Randomness in Paris, July 1-3. I will be speaking on the topic “Can Humans Tolerate a Random World.” You can find out more about the conference at this link. I will let you all about it when I get back.

Bye for now. Enjoy the spring breezes.

SV

  1. Beware the Child Rescuers Leave a reply
  2. QAnon & Upcoming Events Leave a reply
  3. A New Year Leave a reply
  4. Philadelphia Talk & Thanksgiving Leave a reply
  5. Friday the 13th & Philadelphia Critical Thinking Talk Leave a reply
  6. Halloween, British Museum Magazine, and James Randi Leave a reply
  7. The Free Market & Some Sad News Leave a reply
  8. COVID-19 and the Tyranny of Now Leave a reply
  9. Brazilian Skeptics & COVID, Superstition on BBC Radio 4, British Museum, & Spanish Translation Leave a reply