Does the “hot hand” exist? New evidence says yes

A famous paper from the 1980’s  seemed to disprove the common idea that an athlete can develop a “hot hand”.  Gillovich, Vallone, and Tversky studied the 76ers and showed that – even if a player had made a bunch of shots in a row – the chance that he would make his next shot was still equivalent to his overall shooting percentage.

But now a Harvard team comes around to show that one of their key assumptions did not hold up.  Players actually take more difficult shots and face tougher defense when they’ve made a few shots.  They claim that there is indeed a small “hot hand” effect (1-2% increase in shooting percentage), but this effect is masked by increased shot difficulty and increased defense.

If getting hot makes you take worse shots, then the lesson for hoopsters is still the same: Play as if the hot-hand does not exist.

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