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

Brazilian Skeptics & COVID, Superstition on BBC Radio 4, British Museum, & Spanish Translation

It has been almost two months since I last posted, but, of course, in pandemic time that is just a few minutes. I hope you are managing these dreadful times as well as possible.


Natalia_brownMy latest article for Skeptical Inquirer is, “Brazilian Skeptics Take Center Stage in the COVID-19 Crisis.” Brazil is doing almost as badly with the coronavirus crisis as the U.S., and they have access to even less sound scientific information. Like President Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has called COVID-19 “a little flu” and has mingled in crowds of people without wearing a mask. Natalia Pasternak, president of the foremost Brazilian skeptic’s organization and a microbiologist, has become a media superstar fighting against misinformation and pseudoscience.


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Rafael Nadal lines up his water bottles

I was interviewed for a BBC Radio 4 documentary about superstition in sport. This is a topic that has been covered many times in the press, but this half-hour-long program is by far the best I’ve ever seen. The producer Neil Kanwal got many athletes to talk quite openly about their superstitions, and several of the interviews are quite insightful. There is considerable discussion of tennis star Rafael Nadal whose superstitions are so extensive that they often delay matches. I was particularly honored that I was given the last word at the end of the documentary.

The documentary was very well received in the British press. It was ‘Pick of the week’ in the Times and Radio Times, and ‘Pick of the day’ in The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Express. You can listen to it here.


As you may recall, I was invited to speak at the British Museum in London in May, butScreenshot 2020-07-16 07.28.49 my UK trip was canceled when the virus came to town. As an alternative, I will be giving an online talk on August 10 on the “Ancient Origins of Modern Superstitions.”Unfortunately, this is a “museum members only” event, but you can see the website for the talk here, which includes a large image of this beautiful magical amulet —>.


A final bit of news. I recently learned that my latest book, Superstition: A Very Short Introduction, will be translated into Spanish. This is the first translation of this little volume. I am keeping my fingers crossed there will be others.


That’s it for now. I hope that you are staying safe and getting outside to enjoy a little nature while the weather is good. Take care.

SV

  1. Audiobook, Autism research, & the Cheltenham Science Festival Leave a reply
  2. A Virus Changes Everything Leave a reply
  3. Vegas pod, UK Book Tour Dates, & Superstitious Real Estate—Part Deux Leave a reply
  4. Feng Shui & Coming to the UK Leave a reply
  5. Friday the 13th Leave a reply
  6. Ending the Decade Leave a reply
  7. Brazil Recap & Adventures in Peer Review Leave a reply
  8. A Monument to Homeopathy and My Trip to Brazil Leave a reply
  9. Video of my recent talk Leave a reply