Selected Journalism

Over the course of my career, I’ve published thousands of essays, features, investigative reports, books reviews, and more. Here are some highlights from the past five years, covering my core topics. 

“How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Own Happiness?,” Greater Good (essay): Social conditions and inequality affect well-being. So, why do we keep insisting “happiness is a choice”? This essay triggered a tremendous amount of social-media discussion among psychologists. “As a well-being researcher, I am 100% here for this article by Jeremy Adam Smith,” wrote Dr. Susan Maury. “A CRITICAL READ for anyone in the positive psychology or well-being fields,” wrote Chase Mielke, author of The Burnout Cure.

“How San Francisco Paved the Way for California to Embrace Bilingual Education,” San Francisco Public Press (explanatory and investigative report): When Californians voted for English-only classes in 1998, the city expanded its language offerings — and our investigation finds that, almost two decades later, San Francisco is outperforming other districts when it comes to educating immigrant students. This package won our third John Swett Award for Media Excellence from the California Teachers Association.

“Choice Is Resegregating Public Schools: System intended to give parents educational options separates students by race, language, family income,” San Francisco Public Press (investigative report): “This story definitely made me say ‘wow’ a few times,” said one of the judges of the National Award for Education Reporting in investigative journalism. “An excellent piece.” The report also won awards from the California Teachers Association and the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists.

“Public Schools, Private Money: Parents ramp up fundraising, widening the rich-poor divide,” San Francisco Public Press (investigative report): The conversation generated by our blockbuster, data-driven project led to public-radio broadcasts on KQED, KALW, KPFA and KPCC, coverage in almost all local print media as well as The Washington Post and Education Week, and later calls for reform by public-school parents and board members of the San Francisco Unified School District. It won awards from the California Teachers Association and from both the National and Northern California Society of Professional Journalists.

“San Francisco lets students own up to misdeeds rather than face expulsion,” Center for Public Integrity (investigative report): Bucking a national trend, racial disparities in expulsions and suspensions fell in San Francisco public schools. Why? The answer might lie with its restorative justice program. This story pass won the 2011 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

“How the Science of ‘Blue Lies’ May Explain Trump’s Support,” Scientific American (essay): “This is simultaneously the most useful, and most terrifying, thing I have read on political psychology in ages,” tweeted Laura McInerney, Guardian columnist and editor of the U.K. Schools Week.

“Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns?” Scientific American (essay): Research suggests it’s largely because they’re anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market and beset by racial fears. This article was a blockbuster when it appeared, and was widely discussed in many media. I was a guest to discuss the piece on several National Public Radio and Pacifica programs.

“Can the Science of Purpose Help Explain White Supremacy?” Pacific Standard (feature): A sense of purpose makes us physically and psychologically stronger. But what happens when achieving your purpose comes at the expense of someone else? “You need to read this,” said Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me.

More Journalism

“How We’re Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Health Issues,” Greater Good (feature, with Stephen Hinshaw)

“Can We Recover from the Trauma of the Trump Years?,” Greater Good (feature essay)

“11 Questions to Ask About COVID-19 Research,” Greater Good (feature, with Emiliana Simon-Thomas)

“11 Questions to Ask About COVID-19 Research,” Greater Good (feature, with Emiliana Simon-Thomas)

“How Inequality Keeps People from Voting,” Greater Good (explanatory journalism, with Teja Pattabhiraman)

“Teachers Strike for Meaning, Not Just Money” Greater Good (first-person journalism)

“What’s Driving Political Violence in America?,” Greater Good (feature, with Zaid Jilani)

“How to Find Your Purpose in Life,” Greater Good (science/service journalism)

“The Psychology of Taking the Knee,” Scientific American (essay, with Dacher Keltner)

“Teens need sext education,” San Francisco Chronicle (op-ed)

“Gender Equality Is in the Hands of Men,” New York Times (Room for Debate contribution)

“Paid Family Leave’s Secret Weapon: Men,” San Francisco Chronicle (op-ed)

“Can Sexting Increase Relationship Satisfaction? The research to date says yes—but only in certain conditions,” Greater Good

“The Subversive Power of the Kiss: A new wave of studies suggests that the rise of romantic kissing is linked to the changing roles of women,” Greater Good (feature)

“Is the Drive to Be Masculine Hurting Your Mental Health?” Greater Good

“What’s Good about Lying? New research reveals how we learn to lie for the benefit of other people,” Greater Good (feature)

“How to Talk with Boys about Trump’s Attitude Toward Women” Greater Good

“How Nature Helps Fathers Nurture,” Huffington Post (feature, co-authored with Summer Allen)

“Luke, I’m Your Dad: A father and son find common ground in the land of Wookiees, Jedi, Imperial Stormtroopers, and Ewoks. The Force, it turns out, may be mindfulness,” Mindful Magazine (personal essay)

“The Science of the Story: We know in our gut when we’re hearing a good story—and research is starting to explain why,” Greater Good (feature, based on a talk for the Berkeley Communications Conference)

“Six Habits of Highly Grateful People,” Utne Reader (science/service journalism)

“How Students Benefit from School Diversity,” Greater Good (feature)

“Zuckerberg’s Donation is a Gift, but At What Price?” San Francisco Chronicle (op-ed)

“How to Stop the Racist in You,” Greater Good (essay, co-authored with Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton)

“Why Are We Afraid of Immigrants?” Pacific Standard (feature)