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 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.

Academic CV

Google Scholar Citations

 Researchgate profile


Recent Posts

Happy New Year!

I have been quite remiss in sending out new notices. It has been a relatively quiet time while I worked hard on a large writing project that is now nearing completion, but I wanted to send out a brief note before the change of the year.  There are a few things happening early next year that I will be able to reveal soon, but for now, here are a few loose ends from the end of 2018.

Me with Train and Lobster (R)
Janyce Boynton

Back in November, I published a new Skeptical Inquirer column on the Maine collage artist Janyce Boynton, who has a remarkable history. Some years ago Janyce was a speech therapist who began using the discredited communication technique Facilitated Communication. Today she is a leading advocate for abolishing its use. A version of this article will also appear in the March/April issue of the print version of Skeptical Inquirer.


downloadI was recently quoted in an article in Romper7 Superstitions That Are Actually Based In Truth.” I think what they mean is that at one time these superstitions had some sort of rational basis but have lived on past their useful time. The classic example is the “three on a match” superstition. It is considered bad luck to light three cigarettes on the same match, a belief that stems from the foxholes of World War I. Leaving a match lit too long could give an enemy sniper a v1good target, but the belief continued long after WWI. Three On A Match also became a popular 1932 movie starring Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, and Bette Davis. Naturally, something bad happens….


As the end of 2018 approached, my publisher Oxford University Press asked me to write a brief statement about what I thought was the biggest event in psychology this year. They posted the piece on their Facebook page, but because not everyone is on Facebook, I have provided a screenshot of it here. 

Screenshot 2018-12-30 09.02.19


That’s my last missive of 2018. I hope that 2019 brings health and great happiness to you and yours. See you next year. 

SV

  1. My new Time magazine article Leave a reply
  2. The book is here!! & Crystals Leave a reply
  3. Autism Wars, Netflix/Vox “Explainer,” and Tarot Cards Leave a reply
  4. Astrology, Horror Movies, & the Media Leave a reply
  5. Friday the 13th & Obesity Leave a reply
  6. Going Broke 2 & Changelings Leave a reply
  7. RBG, Experts, & Another Mass Shooting Leave a reply
  8. William James and the Psychics Leave a reply
  9. Superstitious Rituals & French Statistics Leave a reply