The "Hot Hand" Vindicated

Mungowitz posts a link to an interesting paper vindicating the fact (rather obvious to anyone who has played sports!) that some times you are more "on" than others. Money quote:

"We argue that this difference is attributable to endogenous defensive responses: basketball presents sufficient opportunity for defensive responses to equate shooting probabilities across players whereas baseball does not."

Yup: one thing masking the hot hand, in the way the original "debunking" was done, is that in basketball the defense quickly sees that a player is hot, and adjusts to defend them better. In baseball, only one player is "up" at a time, so you really can't shift extra defense to that player, and here the "hot hand" shows up robustly.

2 comments:

  1. The defensive response objection is explicitly dealt with by Tversky, who offers three responses. First: "[T]he lack of evidence for streak shooting could be attributed to the contaminating effects of shot selection and defensive strategy... This argument, however, does not explain why players and fans erroneously believe that the probability of a hit is greater following a hit than following a miss, nor can it account for the tendency of knowledgeable observers to classify random sequences as instances of streak shooting."

    Second, Tversky looked a free throws (where defensive response was not possible) and still found no hot hand effect (some later studies have found contrary results).

    Third, Tversky conducted a controlled experiment testing players' ability to predict if they would make their next shot and found they were unable to do so.

    So wherever you come down on the issue, it's not like this was a consideration that wasn't dealt with in the original hot hand literature.

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  2. Yikes! I don't know what to do about this except post a confession: Gene when I saw this I flipped out, because I was sure you had (a few years ago) denied that hot hands existed. I remembered arguing with you about it.

    So I went to bust you on it, and then remembered that it was the other way around, that you were saying hot hands existed despite the econometric work of some guys. And I was arguing that you didn't understand what they did.

    So that's weird.

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