Are ‘Hot Hands’ in Sports a Real Thing?

The New York Times:

Winning streaks in sports may be more than just magical thinking, several new studies suggest.

Whether you call them winning streaks, “hot hands” or being “in the zone,” most sports fans believe that players, and teams, tend to go on tears. Case in point: Nate Robinson’s almost single-handed evisceration of the Miami Heat on Monday night. (Yes, I am a Bulls fan.)

But our faith in hot hands is challenged by a rich and well-regarded body of science over the past 30 years, much of it focused on basketball, that tells us our belief is mostly fallacious.

But if winning streaks have some rational basis, then by inference so would losing streaks, which makes the latest of the new studies, of basketball game play, particularly noteworthy. In that analysis, published last month in the journal Psychological Science, Yigal Attali, who holds a doctorate in cognitive psychology, scrutinized all available shooting statistics from the 2010-11 N.B.A. season.

He found that a player who drained one shot was more likely than chance would suggest to take the team’s next shot — and also more likely than chance would suggest to miss it.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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