That’s So Random: Why We Persist in Seeing Streaks

The New York Times:

From time to time, athletes get on a streak. Suddenly, the basketball goes through the net every time, or a batter gets a hit in every game. This blissful condition is often known as the hot hand, and players have come to believe it is real — so much so that they have made it a part of their strategy for winning games.

“On offense, if someone else has a hot hand, I constantly lay the ball on him,”wrote the N.B.A. legend Walt Frazier in his 1974 memoir, “Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball & Cool.”

In the 1980s, Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell University, and his colleagues did a study of the hot hand. They confirmed that the vast majority of basketball players believed in it. The audiences at basketball games were also convinced. But then Dr. Gilovich and his colleagues analyzed the hot hand statistically, and it fell apart.

The hot hand was, they concluded, an illusion caused “by a general misconception of chance.”

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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