The hot hand fallacy fallacy rears its ugly ugly head

Funny how repeating the word “fallacy” reverses the meaning, but repeating the word “ugly” just intensifies it . . .

Anyway, Josh Miller points us to this article by what must be the last person on the planet to write uncritically about the so-called “hot hand fallacy.” It’s in the blog of the Society for Personal and Social Psychology:

More than three decades ago, Tom Gilovich, Robert Vallone, and Amos Tversky showed that players, coaches, and fans alike believe that successes in sports are often clumped together. But Gilovich and his team showed that there simply is no such thing as the hot hand in basketball. . . .

Shoot . . . they should’ve done some googling:

– The wikipedia entry for the hot hand starts as follows:

The “hot hand” (also known as the “hot hand phenomenon” or “hot hand fallacy”) is the purported phenomenon that a person who experiences a successful outcome has a greater chance of success in further attempts. The concept is often applied to sports and skill-based tasks in general and originates from basketball, whereas a shooter is allegedly more likely to score if their previous attempts were successful, i.e. while having “hot hands”. While previous success at a task can indeed change the psychological attitude and subsequent success rate of a player, researchers for many years did not find evidence for a “hot hand” in practice, dismissing it as fallacious. However, later research questioned whether the belief is indeed a fallacy. Recent studies using modern statistical analysis show there is evidence for the “hot hand” in some sporting activities.

– Continuing on the first page of the google search for *hot hand fallacy*, we do find some uncritical statements of the so-called fallacy, but we also find this explainer from Jason Collins and this Scientific American article from Miller and Sanjurjo, “Momentum Isn’t Magic—Vindicating the Hot Hand with the Mathematics of Streaks.”

The hot hand argument is subtle—indeed, I got it wrong myself in a published paper (see pages 636-637 here), so I don’t fault the author of the above post for getting things wrong. Too bad he didn’t google it, though, just to get some other perspectives.

Unfortunately, the blog of the Society for Personal and Social Psychology does not seem to allow for comments, so no room there for anyone to make a correction. On the plus side, they do include us in their blogroll! So there’s that.

As the saying goes, the future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed. The Society for Personal and Social Psychology seems to be stuck in 1985 on this one, with Run DMC on the beatbox, the Cosby Show on TV, Oliver North sending weapons to the Ayatollah, and New Coke in every 7-11 in the country.