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The Hot Hand Phenomenon

 

Explanations > Theories > The Hot Hand Phenomenon

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

The Hot Hand Phenomenon occurs where people believe that 'success breeds success' such that when a person succeeds at something then they are more likely to succeed in subsequent attempts, whereas the truth is that they are still governed by the laws of chanced.

Whilst there is some truth in this in that a person may be particularly fit or their confidence is boosted by an initial success, the 'Hot Hand' phenomenon goes past this where people make assumptions that are statistically inaccurate.

Xu and Harvey found, surprisingly, that winners were more likely to win and losers more likely to lose. This was because winners tended to follow risky bets with safer bets, while losers tended to follow losing bets with more risky bets.

The Hot Hand Phenomenon is also known as the Hot Hand Fallacy, and is sometimes contrasted with the Gambler's Fallacy, where reversals of fortune are assumed.

Research

Gilovich, Vallone, & Tversky questioned 100 basketball fans. 91% thought a player has a better chance of making a shot after having just made his last two or three shots than he does after having just missed his last two or three shots.

Given a player who makes 50% of his shots, these subjects thought that the shooting percentage would be 61% after having just made a shot 42% after having just missed a shot.

84% thought it important to pass the ball to someone who has just made several shots in a row.

A later statistical analysis of shots showed that these assessments were wildly inaccurate.

Example

A soccer player scores two goals. More of his team mates start passing him the ball more often in the assumption he is 'on the ball'.

So What?

Using it

Talk up how you (or others) are 'on form' as you encourage them to support you.

Defending

If a player (including you) seems hot, enjoy the skill but do not bet on the 'run' continuing.

See also

Social Facilitation, Representativeness Heuristic, Gambler's Fallacy

References

Gilovich, Vallone and Tversky (1985), Xu and Harvey (2014)

 

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