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

Beware the Child Rescuers

My latest piece for Skeptical Inquirer looks at the long history of false claims of child endangerment. The stimulus for this piece was the recent accusation of liberal pedophilia raised by the QAnon movement, but throughout history, claims of child abuse have been leveled against the opponents of social movements. Unfortunately, these false claims have the potential to harm children rather than help them.

For those who missed my recent Stonington Free Library talk, “Superstition: A Very Short Introduction,” it is now available on YouTube. I actually went to the library to give the talk, but the audience was on Zoom. Sometime soon I hope we can return to live events with wine and cheese receptions and book signings. For now, this will have to suffice.

That’s all I have for you at the moment.

I am happy to report that, thanks to my advanced age and the fact that I live in Connecticut, I am now fully vaccinated. I hope you all get vaccinated very soon. I don’t think things will every be exactly as they were before the pandemic, but we are getting closer to a much better world. I can’t wait!

SV

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