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 and Time magazine.

My personal essays have appeared online at Medium, ObserverTabletThe Good Men Project, and The Huffington Post and in print 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)

Why I Hate the Beach,” Medium, August 16, 2019.

Racism and Guns,” Medium, June 17, 2019.

The Gift of Applause,” Medium, April 12, 2018.

Miss Jean Louise, Stand Up,” The Coffeelicious, January 26, 2018.

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 (Web archive).

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

We Stand Up for this Child,” the Providence Journal, May 8, 2011.

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.

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)

Are Atheists Sadder But Wiser,” Skeptical Inquirer, December 10, 2019.

In Praise of the Crutch-Makers,” Skeptical Inquirer, May 8, 2019.

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

My New Book & Your Unvaccinated Uncle

Summer is over, and the glorious season of autumn is blooming here in New England. I hope that, wherever you are, you are happy and healthy. I have just two items to report.

First, I can now announce that I have a new book arriving next spring from Oxford University Press: The Uses of Delusion: Why It’s Not Always Rational to Be Rational. After spending much of my career championing logic, reason, and science, I’ve come to a slightly more nuanced view. Without question, most of the time we should be driven by reason, but there are times when the path of reason is not the best path. Many people do things that don’t strictly make sense, and yet these actions help them achieve their personal goals and navigate the social world. That’s what this book is about.

The Uses of Delusion was the most pleasurable of all my books to write so far, and it is filled with stories and personal anecdotes to illustrate the main points. It will not appear until April or May, but it’s available for pre-order now. I already have one book talk scheduled, for the Stonington (CT) Free Library on August 24, 2022. You can be certain I will remind you about this and other opportunities to hear about the book as they emerge.

My latest “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer magazine is called “Why Your Uncle Isn’t Going to Get Vaccinated.” All of us here in the US know someone who—six months after the vaccines have been widely available—still resists getting the shot. Meanwhile the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus rages. At this point, it seems unlikely these people can be convinced to get vaccinated, and in this article, I provide some possible explanations for a decision that seems more than a little crazy to the rest of us.

That’s it for now!

SV

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