Is It a Fallacy to Believe in the Hot Hand in the NBA Three-Point Contest?

IGIER Working Paper No. 548

27 Pages Posted: 30 May 2015 Last revised: 18 Jun 2015

See all articles by Joshua B. Miller

Joshua B. Miller

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics

Adam Sanjurjo

Universidad de Alicante - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico

Date Written: June 11, 2015

Abstract

The hot hand fallacy refers to a belief in the atypical clustering of successes in sequential outcomes when there is none. It has long been considered a massive and widespread cognitive illusion with important implications in economics and finance. The strongest evidence in support of the fallacy remains that from the canonical domain of basketball, where the widespread belief in the existence of hot hand shooting, among expert players and coaches, has been found to have no evidential basis (Gilovich, Vallone, and Tversky 1985). A prominent exhibit of the fallacy is Koehler and Conley (2003)'s study of the NBA Three-Point Contest (1994-1997), a setting which is viewed as ideal for a test of the hot hand (Thaler and Sunstein 2008). In this setting, despite the well-known beliefs of players, coaches, and fans alike, Koehler and Conley find no evidence of hot hand shooting. In the present study, we collect 29 years of shooting data from television broadcasts of the NBA Three-Point Contest (1986-2015), and apply a statistical approach developed in Miller and Sanjurjo (2014), which is more powered, contains an improved set of statistical measures, and corrects for a substantial downward bias in previous estimates of the hot hand effect. In contrast with previous studies, but consistent with Miller and Sanjurjo (2014)'s recent finding of substantial hot hand shooting in all previous controlled shooting studies (including that from the original study of Gilovich, Vallone, and Tversky), we find substantial evidence of hot hand shooting in the NBA Three-Point Contest. This leaves little doubt that the hot hand not only exists, but actually occurs regularly. Thus, belief in the hot hand, in principle, is not a fallacy.

Keywords: Hot Hand Fallacy; Hot Hand Effect

JEL Classification: C12, C14, C93, D03

Suggested Citation

Miller, Joshua B. and Sanjurjo, Adam, Is It a Fallacy to Believe in the Hot Hand in the NBA Three-Point Contest? (June 11, 2015). IGIER Working Paper No. 548. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2611987 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2611987

Joshua B. Miller (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Department of Economics ( email )

111 Barry St.
Melbourne, VIC, 3053
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://joshua-benjamin-miller.com

Adam Sanjurjo

Universidad de Alicante - Departamento de Fundamentos del Análisis Económico ( email )

Campus de San Vicente
Alicante, 03690
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/adamangelsanjurjo/

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