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.

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Google Scholar Citations

Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

The Free Market & Some Sad News

My latest article for Skeptical Inquirer, “The COVID-19 Free Market Experiment,” was inspired by an appearance I made on a Chicago-areawaiter-5513560_1920 conservative talk radio program. The hosts were blaming the economic downturn in their area on the coronavirus restrictions imposed by the Chicago mayor and Illinois governor (both Democrats). The evidence does not support that view.

Over the last few weeks I gave a psychology colloquium presentation (over Zoom) at the University of Connecticut entitled icdorg“The Latest in Autism Claptrap and Why Science is Losing” and an online class for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization called “How to Control Spending: Practical & Creative Ideas.” Both were fun experiences, but unfortunately neither is available online at the moment.

Finally, we received some very sad news last week. Emory University psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 59. Scott was a towering figure in the story_main_veffort to make psychology a rigorous science and a leader in the skepticism movement. I had the privilege of spending some time with him at a CSICon conference a few years ago, and more recently he was one of several co-authors on a short academic article critical of facilitated communication. He was incredibly productive, authoring over 350 articles and thirteen books, and he won many awards. Perhaps most importantly, Scott was a generous and good person. Many remembrances have been posted in recent days, but this press release on the Emory University website is particularly evocative. I wrote an obituary for Scott that will appear in the January/February print edition of Skeptical Inquirer. He will be sorely missed.

That’s all for now.

SV

  1. COVID-19 and the Tyranny of Now Leave a reply
  2. Brazilian Skeptics & COVID, Superstition on BBC Radio 4, British Museum, & Spanish Translation Leave a reply
  3. Audiobook, Autism research, & the Cheltenham Science Festival Leave a reply
  4. A Virus Changes Everything Leave a reply
  5. Vegas pod, UK Book Tour Dates, & Superstitious Real Estate—Part Deux Leave a reply
  6. Feng Shui & Coming to the UK Leave a reply
  7. Friday the 13th Leave a reply
  8. Ending the Decade Leave a reply
  9. Brazil Recap & Adventures in Peer Review Leave a reply