Tversky on Basketball

Stuart Buck puts Amos Tversky's and Thomas Gilovich's timeless hot hands article (here is a follow-up also by Tversky and Gilovich and discussing the same data in Chance) back in play at Stuart's great The Buck Stops Here web log.

Stuart says of a 17 in a row three-point streak he once shot:

Perhaps you could say that it was chance that all of those factors came together at that moment -- but still, if I had been in a game right then, my teammates would have been wise to pass the ball my way, Tversky notwithstanding.

And, that is precisely what Tversky is saying is not true.

My take on it:

  1. People who believe in hot hands think that they can see Stuart's 17 3-point streak in progress and pass it to you. The most basic point Tversky et al are making is that that is not true in a statistical sense. No previous shot's success or failure better predicts the next over a player's overall success or failure.

  2. Tversky et al are not making any comment on hot hands as a feeling you might get or even as a cause of anything in particular. It is possible that "hot hands" exists but is counter-acted exactly by some other phenomena.

  3. Tversky (and Kahneman) are interested in how people make decisions and judgments under uncertainty. Subjective evaluation of probabilities is one of their focuses. (see 1).

This article always provokes good discussion, so let's have at it!

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