Essays

I write for the general public on topics both professional and personal. My essays on psychology and science have appeared online at CNN, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Skeptical Inquirer, and The Huffington Post and in print in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

My personal essays have appeared online at Medium, ObserverTabletThe Good Men Project, and The Huffington Post and in print the the Hartford Courant, the Boston Herald, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the Providence Journal, where I was an occasional contributor from 2005-2012.

PERSONAL ESSAYS (SELECTED)

Strange Days,” Medium, October 3, 2017.

How We Talk to Each Other,” Medium, February 22, 2017.

Listen to the Weirdos on the Mall,” Medium, June 9, 2016.

Not Your Typical Disease Memoir,” Medium, May 17, 2016.

Don’t Ask, ‘How’s the Book Going?'” Medium, February 19, 2016.

How a Headache Saved My Life,” Observer, November 2, 2015.

An Introvert’s Guide to Eating and Drinking Out,” Medium, July 27, 2015.

You Fired Me,” Medium, July 6, 2015.

The Kindness of a Stranger,” Medium, June 15, 2015.

An Introvert’s Guide to the Coffeehouse Workspace,” Medium, May 29, 2015.

An Introvert’s Guide to Greeting Strangers, Vague Acquaintances, and Friends,” Medium, April 23, 2015.

Layman’s Terms,” Tablet, January 12, 2012.

A Mere ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ Might’ve Helped,” the Providence Journal, August 13, 2011. (pdf)

He Did the Best He Could,” the Providence Journal, May 6, 2010. (pdf)

John Gardner’s Lesson About Teaching,” the Providence Journal, February 19, 2007.

The Hidden Brightness of the Dark Season,” the Providence Journal, November 27, 2006.(pdf)

In Praise of Cheap and Local Eats” the Providence Journal, April 18, 2006.

The Other Sacred Places,” the Hartford Courant, August 9, 2005.(pdf)

On Selling ”Letter from Birmingham Jail,”” the Providence Journal, June 14, 2006.(pdf)

NPR Made Me Hip to My Kids,” the Providence Journal, November 28, 2003.(pdf)

PROFESSIONAL/SCIENCE ESSAYS (SELECTED)

How to Have Your Kid Go to College—But Not Go Broke,” Time, October 8, 2018.

Do Superstitious Rituals Work?” Skeptical Inquirer, December 8, 2017.

Statistiquement significat: les critères sont-ils suffisamment exigeants?” Science et pseudo-sciences n°323 – janvier / mars 2018. [pdf]  This a French translation of my article “Moving Science’s Statistical Goalposts,” which was published the Skeptical Inquirer, both online and in the November/December, 2017 issue of the print magazine.

Before Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, There Was Dan Q. Posin,” Skeptical Inquirer, November/December, 2017.

P-Hacker Confessions: Daryl Bem and Me,” Skeptical Inquirer, June 13, 2017.

Good News for Grouches: Happiness is Overrated,” Skeptical Inquirer, March 7, 2016.

“Guns: Feeling Safe ≠ Being Safe,” Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, 40(2), March/April, 27-30.

Nudging People to Save the Planet,” Skeptical Inquirer, January 29, 2016.

Psychology’s CAM Controversy,” Skeptical Inquirer, November 23, 2015.

Welcome to the Season of Conspiracy Theories.” Skeptical Inquirer, October 8, 2015.

Neuro-Pseudoscience,” Skeptical Inquirer, July 29, 2015.

Facilitated Communication: The Fad that Will Not Die,” Skeptical Inquirer, May 11, 2015.

How Superstition Works,” The Atlantic, October 22, 2013 (excerpt of Believing in Magic).

Can Believing in Luck Actually Make You Lucky?” Huffington Post, February 2, 2013.

Why We Fear Friday the 13th,” CNN Religion blog, May 13, 2011.

Our Love-Hate Relationship with Plastic,” the Providence Journal, April 23, 2008.(pdf)

Recent Posts

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.

Screenshot 2019-03-20 17.17.07

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

Screenshot 2019-03-20 17.15.22

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

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