“He’s on a hot streak!” shouts the basketball play-by-play man. But the fact is, according to research uncovered by AxonPotential.com, the player just happens to be good enough to make consecutive shots.
In 1985, cognitive psychologists Amos Taversky and Thomas Gilovich examined the shooting performance of the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Cornell University’s men’s basketball team. They sought to discover whether a player’s previous shot had any predictive effect on his or her next shot. Despite basketball fans’ and players’ widespread belief in hot streaks, the researchers found no support for the concept.
“The researchers found no evidence for hot streaks beyond the random chance that a player with a given shooting percentage will sometimes hit [a few] shots in a row,” says AxonPotential.com. “Players were no more likely to make a shot after having hit three in a row than they were after having missed three in a row, or in any other situation, either.”
Researchers did, however, determine the reason why we think hot streaks exist. “We humans are really terrible at detecting randomness, and we love to try to see patterns where none actually exist, especially when we can fabricate a story that tells us something that we want to hear,” says AxonPotential.com. They compare the phenomenon to gamblers staying at the blackjack table after winning a few hands.
The psychological phenomenon—self-fulfilling prophecy—would seem to explain why players believe in hot streaks. The self-fulfilling prophecy means that athletes who predict they will perform well are more likely to, and vice versa. It makes sense that basketball players who hit three shots in a row believe they are more likely to hit their next shot. Unfortunately for hot shooters—and fortunately for cold shooters—the next shot bears no relationship to the previous shot.
So, what does this mean for you? Practice. Practice. Practice. Look past good luck and presumed hot streaks; instead work on practicing your shot through good old fashion repetition. That’s the only way you’ll acquire the level of ability necessary to sink multiple shots in a row.
Once you’re in the game, don’t hesitate to take the shot! Some young basketball players are hesitant to take a wide open jumper, especially after missing a few shots in a row. Now that you know there’s no such thing as a hot or cold streak, perhaps you’ll feel more confident to call for the ball on the three-point line with the game on the line.