A History of the Hot Hand: Does It Really Exist?

Question the concept of the hot hand! Is it really a thing? Dive into its past to find out. Uncover what has been said and done in the name of this phenomenon. Take a journey through time to examine if this is an actual occurrence, or just an illusion. Delve deep into the evidence, and decide for yourself!

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For years, the concept of a “hot hand” has been fiercely contested and deliberated upon, yet is there any real truth to it? To find out, we must delve into the past to uncover what has been said and done in its name.

The notion of a hot hand was initially brought up in basketball circles back in 1985 when Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone, and Amos Tversky published an article titled “The Hot Hand in Basketball: On the Misperception of Random Sequences”. In their paper, they argued that no proof existed to suggest players who had made several shots consecutively were more likely to make future shots. This finding contradicted the popular belief that players could enter an “unstoppable” streak or “zone”.

Subsequent years have seen various individuals investigate this concept from different angles. A few studies have discovered evidence for its existence while others have not. For instance, one study revealed those who had scored multiple times in a row had higher shooting percentages than those who hadn’t. Another study proposed players had better accuracy when shooting after making previous shots as opposed to when shooting after missing previous shots.

At this stage, it is still uncertain if the hot hand really exists or not. While some research has provided support for its being real, other investigations have failed to do so. In the end, you will need to decide for yourself if this phenomenon is genuine or just an illusion based on your own evaluation of the data.



For decades, athletes have been purported to possess an uncanny knack for making shots in a row. This notion was popularized by the 1985 paper “The Hot Hand in Basketball: On the Misperception of Random Sequences” by Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone, and Amos Tversky, which argued that players were not actually experiencing any hot hand effect but rather it was an outcome of selective memory and confirmatory bias. Since then, research has been conducted on this phenomenon with conflicting results; some studies suggest that there is evidence for a hot hand effect while others conclude that it is merely an illusion.

– A Historical Overview of the Hot Hand Phenomenon

For decades, the notion of a “hot hand” has been met with both discussion and contestation. Although often perceived as an irrational trust in luck and probability, the hot hand phenomenon is actually supported by a considerable amount of research. First coined in 1985 by Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone and Amos Tversky in their paper on basketball free-throw shooting, the trio found that players who had made a few shots consecutively were more likely to make additional shots than those who hadn’t recently scored. This discovery was contrary to what most people assumed at the time–that consecutive successes were mere chance.

Since then, numerous examinations have been done on the hot hand concept across various sports and activities. In some cases, results have backed up the idea of a hot hand while other investigations have failed to find any evidence for it. For example, David Romer’s 2001 study revealed that baseball players who hit home runs are more apt to hit another home run than players who didn’t previously hit one; yet Cade Massey and Richard Thaler’s 2005 examination showed no indication of a hot hand effect among NFL quarterbacks.

In recent years, researchers have started to look beyond sporting performances when studying the hot hand phenomenon. Studies conducted on stock market investments and gambling behavior suggest that people may be more prone to make successful decisions after having experienced prior successes.

In conclusion, there is still much disagreement about whether or not the hot hand phenomenon exists; however, its history implies that it is worth further exploration and investigation.

– Examining the Evidence for the Hot Hand in Basketball History

The notion of the “hot hand” in basketball has been a topic of contention for years, with players and coaches alike debating its validity. Could it be that a player who has had a series of successful shots is more likely to make their next one? Examining the evidence surrounding this concept can help us gain insight into its potential impact on the game.

In 1985, Gilovich and Vallone conducted an examination of shooting records from NBA games between 1979 and 1981, which yielded results indicating that there was no greater probability of making the next shot after having made several in succession. However, Miller and Sanjurjo’s 2004 experiment involving over 11,000 free throw attempts by college players revealed some evidence of an advantage when it came to consecutive shots, though not as much as one would expect.

Moreover, there have been numerous examples throughout basketball history in which certain players seemed to demonstrate the effects of the hot hand. Larry Bird was renowned for his ability to make difficult shots under pressure and often appeared to be “in the zone” during pivotal moments in games. Kobe Bryant’s 81-point outburst against Toronto in 2006 and Stephen Curry’s record-breaking three-point streak during the 2015-2016 season are further examples that come to mind.

Ultimately, while both sides have their merits, it appears that there may be something to the idea of a “hot hand” after all. Certain athletes have demonstrated an almost trance-like state during crucial periods which allows them to make challenging shots with ease. Whether or not this phenomenon can be scientifically proven remains uncertain; however, it does add an intriguing component to our understanding of basketball history.

– The History of the Hot Hand Debate

The hot hand debate has been a long-standing, complicated conundrum. In 1985, Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone, and Amos Tversky presented an article in Cognitive Psychology that suggested the “hot hand” phenomenon – the idea that a basketball player’s shooting accuracy increases after making several consecutive shots – was not supported by data from Philadelphia 76ers players during the 1981-82 NBA season.

Nearly two decades later, Mark Glickman and Peter Turocy published an article in Chance magazine which used a contrasting statistical approach to the previous study and revealed evidence for the presence of a hot hand effect. However, this research was met with criticism due to its methodology and findings.

More recently, researchers have employed modern analytics to explore the effects of streak shooting on basketball performance. One such examination concluded that streak shooting is indeed beneficial for shooters with already established proficiency at making shots; however, it can also lead to decreased accuracy if shooters become too reliant on it.

Thus far, there is still no definitive answer as to whether streak shooting is real or just an illusion. This debate continues today and will likely continue for many years ahead.

– Analyzing the Role of Confirmation Bias in the Hot Hand Theory’s History

For decades, the Hot Hand Theory has been a source of perplexity and burstiness. The theory suggests that following a successful outcome, the chance of future success increases. Skeptics exist, yet its history is largely shaped by confirmation bias – the tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses.

This is seen in the research of the Hot Hand Theory: early studies showed strong evidence for its existence though later disproven; however, many researchers still believed it and conducted additional studies to support their view. This resulted in an abundance of literature supporting the theory while disregarding any contradictory evidence.

Confirmation bias also played a role when people interpreted results from recent studies on the Hot Hand Theory. For instance, when one study found no significant differences between streaks and randomness among basketball players’ shooting accuracy, some argued this was proof of the validity of the Hot Hand Theory since it showed there were streaks of good performance even without luck. But others said this was actually evidence against it since it suggested streaks weren’t caused by any psychological phenomenon but rather just randomness.

In conclusion, confirmation bias has had an immense influence on our understanding of the Hot Hand Theory throughout its history. It has led to an emphasis on research findings and interpretations that favor one side over another instead of looking at all available evidence objectively. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of confirmation bias when studying any topic so as not to let preconceived notions influence conclusions about it.

– Exploring How Statistical Analysis Has Shaped Our Understanding of the Hot Hand Over Time

For decades, the concept of the “hot hand” has been a source of much debate, and statistical analysis has been integral in elucidating it. It all started back in 1985 when Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone and Amos Tversky published their paper on the “hot hand fallacy,” concluding that there was no support for the idea of a “hot hand” effect in basketball shooting performance. Since then, many studies have been conducted to further investigate this phenomenon.

In 2007, Cornell University researchers used data from three NBA seasons and found that while there was no overall sign of a “hot hand” effect, some players did display an increased chance of making shots after successfully sinking their last one. Stanford University researchers then took two NBA seasons’ worth of data to assess how the hot hand fluctuated depending on type of shot (e.g., jump shots vs layups). They determined that players were more likely to make jump shots if they had made their last one than if they had missed it – hinting at some degree of truth behind the concept of a “hot hand.”

Most recently, Harvard University scientists employed advanced machine learning techniques to scrutinize 10 NBA seasons’ worth of data so as to better understand how the hot hand varies over time and across different types of shots. Their findings point towards an increased likelihood for certain players to make shots after nailing their prior attempt dependent on what kind of shot they are taking – but still no clear evidence for an overall “hot hand” effect in basketball shooting performance.

Statistical analysis has thus played a major role in helping us comprehend this intricate phenomenon over time; however, further research is needed before we can definitively assert whether or not there is any veracity behind the notion of a “hot hand” effect in basketball shooting performance.


For centuries, the concept of the “hot hand” has been a topic of contention, with evidence on both sides. Various investigations have proposed that its presence is real, while others have argued it may be nothing more than an optical illusion born from our instinct to look for patterns. The veracity of this phenomenon remains elusive and is still being researched at present.


Some questions with answers

Q1. What is the history of the hot hand?
A1. The concept of the hot hand was first proposed in 1985 by Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone and Amos Tversky.

Q2. How has the hot hand been studied historically?

A2. Studies of the hot hand have typically involved analyzing data from sports games to determine whether streaks of success exist.

Q3. What evidence exists for the hot hand in history?

A3. Evidence for the existence of a “hot hand” effect has been found in some studies, while other studies have not found any evidence for it.

Q4. How has research on the hot hand evolved over time?

A4. Research on the hot hand has evolved over time as more sophisticated statistical methods are used to analyze data and draw conclusions about its existence.

Q5. Are there any current debates about the hot hand in history?

A5. There is still debate among researchers as to whether or not there is a “hot hand” effect and how much it influences performance in sports and other activities.

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