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

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

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