Measurement Error and the Hot Hand

The American Statistician, 66(1), 2012

17 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2011 Last revised: 27 Aug 2012

See all articles by Daniel F. Stone

Daniel F. Stone

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics

Date Written: February 1, 2012


This paper shows the first autocorrelation of basketball shot results is a highly biased and inconsistent estimator of the first autocorrelation of the ex ante probabilities the shots are made. Shot result autocorrelation is close to zero even when shot probability autocorrelation is close to one. The bias is caused by what is equivalent to a severe measurement error problem. The results imply that the widespread belief among players and fans in the hot hand is not necessarily a cognitive fallacy.

Keywords: hot hand, overinference, measurement error, basketball

JEL Classification: D3, D83, L83

Suggested Citation

Stone, Daniel F., Measurement Error and the Hot Hand (February 1, 2012). The American Statistician, 66(1), 2012, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel F. Stone (Contact Author)

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics ( email )

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