Exorcism, Race, & Guns

I have been busy writing lately. My June column for Skeptical Inquirer is “The New Wave of Exorcism.” Exorcism has been in the news lately, and in case you were wondering, 576px-Musée_des_Augustins_Toulouse_23lots of people still believe in demons and the devil. In the article, I discuss exorcism in the media and the American Psychiatric Association’s position on people who appear to be possessed by other entities.


On Medium, I wrote a short essay, “Racism and Guns,” that recounts an uncomfortable M9-pistoletconversation I had at a conference.


This Thursday, June 20 at 5:15pm, I will be giving a talk about my book “Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold on to Their Money” at the Stonington Free Libary as part of the “Thoughtful Thursday” series. This is a new edition of a book I first published in 2008, Thoughtful Thursday Juneand I am looking forward to talking about it in my little town. Details can be found at this link.


A final bit of personal news. This week I learned that I had been elected a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Fellow status is awarded to “APS members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service, and/or application.” I am delighted and deeply honored.


That’s all for now.

SV

Audio Course and Book Talk

My new audio course, The Science of Irrationality: How to Think Better, is out VyseS1_Web_Image_NEW.jpgfrom Learn25. In fifteen 25-minute-long lectures, I cover logical fallacies, baloney detection, conspiracy theories, self-control, behavioral economics, superstition, and more. The course is available on either CD or digital download, and it soon will be on Audible.com, as well.

“No scientist working today knows more about irrationality and how to overcome it than Stuart Vyse, whose research has peered into the mind to find out how thinking goes wrong.” – Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth


41sMvuCU9dL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAt 5:15 pm on June 20th, in my little town of Stonington, CT, I will give a talk on the subject of my book Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold on to Their Money. The talk will be held at the Stonington Free Library at 20 High Street and is free and open to the public. Thanks to Bank Square Books of Mystic, CT, copies of the book will be available for sale.  If you have questions, call 860-535-0658 or visit the library’s website. I hope to see you there.


Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

SV

The history of crutches

I broke a bone in my foot, and it sent me down a rabbit hole. The prospect of several arderneweeks on crutches inspired me to do some research on the history of crutches (they are very old), and the result was an article “In Praise of the Crutch-Makers.” I am grateful to Barry Karr, my editor at Skeptical Inquirer, for accepting an essay that is somewhat different from my usual “Behavior & Belief” column. Although the article is written in the past tense, I will be on sticks for a few weeks longer.


Meanwhile, the latest issue of the print version of Skeptical 60334283_2207209682649113_1784403248988291072_nInquirer is on newsstands now. My column for this issue is about the National Down Syndrome Society promoting the discredited therapy, Facilitated Communication (FC). A version of the article appeared online here.

This issue also includes an interesting article by Scott O. Lilienfeld, “Skepticism and the Persuasive Power of Conversion Stories.” Lilienfeld reviews research showing why conversion stories are so persuasive, and one of the examples he cites is Janyce Boynton, the former Facilitated Communication user who is now a leading advocate for eliminating FC. I wrote about Boynton’s story in my column last November.


That’s it for now. Enjoy the lovely spring weather!

SV

Michigan, My Audio Course, and Political Bias

Happy first day of Spring!


I’ve had a busy couple of months at the end of winter. On February 21, I was honored to give the keynote address for the conference of the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) at Eastern Michigan University n Ypsilanti, MI. The talk was entitled “Can the Experimental Analysis of Behavior Adapt to the Environment?” My message was not particularly encouraging, but the talk was well received.

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The dome of the Islamic Center of America

One of the treats of the Michigan trip was spending an evening with a former student, now a graduate student at the University of Michigan, who took me on a quick tour of Dearborn, Michigan, which has one of the largest Muslim communities in the country. We sampled some wonderful Yemeni food and visited the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America.  It was a wonderful experience to be in a place where women wearing hijab was commonplace and many varieties of middle eastern culture were everywhere on display. 


Soon after returning home from the BAAM conference, I headed down to Rockville, Maryland to record an audio course entitled “The Science of Irrationality: How to Think

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The Now You Know Media recording studio.

Better.” I delivered fifteen 25-minute-long lectures that were videotaped as I stood at a lectern in front of a very learned looking backdrop. The publisher of the course is Now You Know Media, and at some later date, they will decide whether to offer the course on DVD as a video course. In April, the course will be released as an audio course in all of the usual forms (CD, MP3, Audible, etc.). So, for any students who might be missing the sound of their old professor’s voice, this course will provide a good solution. In addition, you might learn something about how to be less irrational.


After returning from Maryland, I went back to writing my “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This month I took on a recent controversy in the psychological literature in an article called, “Who Are More Biased: Liberals or Conservatives?” A recent study by Peter Ditto of the University of California at Irvine in collaboration and several colleagues suggested that6261650491_0cd6c701bb_z conservatives and liberals are equally biased. This conclusion was immediately challenged by Jon Baron of the University of Pennsylvania and John Jost of New York University, who cited considerable research showing that conservatives are more rigid and supportive of the status quo than liberals. Much of that same research shows that liberals are more open to new experiences. All of which would point to liberals being less biased than conservatives. At the end of the article, I make a few comments about what is and isn’t useful about this line of research.


That’s all for now. Spring is officially here, and the days are getting longer. Enjoy the growing light and warmth.

SV

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. 

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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

My new Time magazine article

High Angle View Of Students Wearing Graduation Gown At UniversityJust a brief note to share some exciting news. I was recently asked to write an article for Time magazine as a tie-in to the new edition of my book, Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold on to Their MoneyThe article is entitled “How to Have Your Kid Go to College — But Not Go Broke,” and it includes a number of suggestions for getting a good education with little or no student loan debt. Screenshot 2018-10-04 13.51.32.png

The article went online on September 28th, and it also appears in the October 8th issue of the print magazine. The magazine has already been mailed to subscribers and should be on newsstands next week.


That’s all for now!

SV

The book is here!! & Crystals

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The wait is over. The fully updated post-Great Recession edition of Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can’t Hold on to Their Money is now available from online booksellers and at better bricks-and-mortar bookstores. I could not be more pleased with the all-new design of this large-format paperback. Authors care about things like paper quality, and the paper in this book is beautiful, as is the new cover design.

GB is also available for Kindles and in audiobook format. My first audiobook!

Welcome to the world little book!


Astrology, crystals, and all manner of New Agey things seem to be surging in popularity again. A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by a reporter for the ABC Good Morning America website for a story on the subject of crystals. These pretty rocks have lately become a fashion item, showing up on high-priced shoes and water bottles.

astara-shoes-crystals-ht-thg-180830_hpMain_16x9_992.jpgAs usual, I was called in as the token skeptic to throw water on the possibility that crystals have magical powers. I suppose we should be thankful that the author bothered to seek out a science-based point of view as a counterpoint to those making money on pseudoscientific claptrap. Many writers on these trendy subjects never do.


That’s all for now.

SV

Autism Wars, Netflix/Vox “Explainer,” and Tarot Cards

Here in New England, we have arrived at the dog days of summer—no offense to either dogs or Florence + The Machine. It is quite warm here as it is throughout the northern hemisphere. I hope you are all getting some time off and finding a cool place to spend it.


My most recent article for Skeptical Inquirer online is “Autism Wars: Science Strikes Back.” It outlines the latest controversies surrounding the pseudoscientific treatment methods Facilitated Communication (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). In

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Facilitated Communication

previous columns, I have outlined the reemergence of FC and the surging popularity of RPM. The good news, as outlined in this new article, is that the science-minded autism researchers are striking back and making some progress.


This has been my year for astrology and other forms of divination. I was interviewed for a Netflix/Vox series called the “Explained.” The episode was a very good introduction to the history of astrology. My contribution is quite brief and near the end of the episode. Screenshot 2018-08-08 17.14.44.png


Finally, I was quoted in a recent article, “Why millennials are looking for meaning in tarot cards,” in the British outlet the New Statesman. The reasons are very similar to the reasons for the apparent growing popularity of astrology. It is a nice article, but the author seems to both understand there is no evidence behind tarot card readings and still kind of believe in them. A common dilemma.


That’s it for now. Enjoy what’s left of summer, and try to stay cool during these dog days.

SV

Astrology, Horror Movies, & the Media

It has been quite a while since I last posted anything here, and things have started to pile up. I have published two columns on the Skeptical Inquirer website, and a couple of other things have happened. Here is a quick roundup.


There is some evidence that astrology is gaining popularity among millennials, who are more secular than previous generations but no less spiritual. In my May SI column, I offered some suggestions as to why this might download.jpgbe the case.

I wrote this article after being interviewed by a film crew for a Vox “explainer” on astrology that will appear on Netflix in August. So, May was my astrology month.


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Anthony Bourdain

In a single week in June we experienced the tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I used these events as the motivation for an article about the role of the media in copycat suicides and homicides. There is considerable research evidence suggesting that many lives could be saved if the media—particularly television and internet news sources—were to adopt some simple standards for reporting suicides and mass shootings. Unfortunately, there has been very little movement in this direction.


In the week before the arrival of the new scary movie, Hereditary, Cari Romm, a writer for The Cut, called to ask me why people go to horror movies. Why do people voluntarily pay money to be scared? I offered some thoughts based on the available research, and 14-horror.w710.h473-1.jpgthe resulting article was quite fun. Later I went to see Hereditary and was not particularly impressed. The movie disappeared very quickly from the local megaplex, so it appears that audiences, in general, may have agreed with me. Nonetheless, I recommend the article in The Cut.


Over the Memorial Day weekend and the week following, I was fortunate enough to take a vacation in southern California. I gave an invited address at the convention of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, which, if you are interested, you can read here, and I vacationed in San Diego, Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park, and Topanga Canyon. I leave you with my favorite self-portrait from that trip, taken at a waterside establishment called Burgers, Bait, & Beer on the south embarcadero in San Diego. One of my favorite stops on the trip.

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Until next time.

SV

Friday the 13th & Obesity

Happy Friday the 13th! Today I was lucky enough to be quoted in an article in the Toronto Star, and I participated in a discussion of superstition on BBC 5. If the audio of the interview becomes available, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a link to the Toronto Star article, “Superstitions Are a Control Issue.


My latest Behavior & Belief column for Skeptical Inquirer, “How Not to Combat Obesity,” downloadis up on the website. In this column, I investigate a USDA web page that once had some very useful information about the nutritional value of food purchased or consumed away from home. I think you will find the story interesting. A week after the column went up, new information came to light, so I appended a brief final chapter to the story.


That’s it for Friday the 13th. Have a wonderful weekend!

SV