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The Boston Globe


Uncommon Knowledge

How the hot hand delusion messes with the game

And other surprising insights from the social sciences

The hot hand delusion

Here’s some advice for NBA coaches: If one of your players is on a hot streak, tell him to cool off. An analysis of consecutive shots in the 2010-2011 NBA season finds that players who had just scored during regular play (not a free throw), especially from longer range, were more likely to take the next shot for their team. However, that follow-up shot was riskier, as it was more likely to be taken from longer range, and was therefore more likely to miss. Of course, it’s possible that the opposing team puts up a stronger defense against players who’ve just scored, but this would only reinforce advice to briefly keep the ball away from these players.

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