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.

Current CV

Google Scholar Citations

Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

Vegas pod, UK Book Tour Dates, & Superstitious Real Estate—Part Deux

ElevatorMy latest “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer is a continuation of the topic of superstition in real estate. In this installment, I cover the 13th-floor phobia, which continues to plague developers in both the United States and Moscow—although the Russians deal with it differently than we do. I also discuss vastu shastra, the Indian version of feng shui. In the United States, vastu shastra is most commonly encountered in a version developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the developer of Transcendental Meditation who became popular after the Beatles visited him in India fifty-two years ago this month. Proponents of Maharishi vastu—like those of feng shui—make a number of unsupported claims about how the design of their buildings promote health and prosperity for the occupants.


A few weeks ago I spent a very pleasant hour with Jeff Walker on the “Jeff Does Vegas” podcast discussing the role of superstition in the casino. Jeff is based in Canada, but he makes many trips to Vegas each year and clearly knows the place well. He also has EP52.jpga terrific radio voice. Spoiler Alert: Jeff makes the surprising admission that he thinks his wife is unlucky, and I suggest an empirical test that might prove whether she is or not.

You can listen to the podcast here.


My mini book tour of England is shaping up nicely. I will be doing a number of dates in early May in support of my new book Superstition: A Very Short Introduction. I am getting excited about being in the UK in the spring.

The dates of the tour are below. If anyone is interested in the details of these talks, send me an email (or reply to this one).

51Bt6XwIn1L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

Screenshot 2020-02-18 14.34.34.png


That’s it for now.

SV

  1. Feng Shui & Coming to the UK Leave a reply
  2. Friday the 13th Leave a reply
  3. Ending the Decade Leave a reply
  4. Brazil Recap & Adventures in Peer Review Leave a reply
  5. A Monument to Homeopathy and My Trip to Brazil Leave a reply
  6. Video of my recent talk Leave a reply
  7. Exorcism, Race, & Guns Leave a reply
  8. Audio Course and Book Talk Leave a reply
  9. The history of crutches Leave a reply