In a generally good book review on “uncertainty and the limits of human reason,” William Easterly writes:
Failing to process uncertainty correctly, we attach too much importance to too small a number of observations. Basketball teams believe that players suddenly have a “hot hand” after they have made a string of baskets, so you should pass them the ball. Tversky showed that the hot hand was a myth—among many small samples of shooting attempts, there will randomly be some streaks. Instead of a hot hand, there was “regression to the mean”—players fall back down to their average shooting prowess after a streak. Likewise a “cold” player will move back up to his own average.
No no no. The funny thing is:
1. As Miller and Sanjurjo explain, the mistaken belief that there is no hot hand, is itself a result of people “attaching too much importance to too small a number of observations.”
2. This is not news to the Wall Street Journal! Ben Cohen reported on the hot hand over a year ago!
On the plus side, Easterly’s review did not mention himmicanes, power pose, the gay gene, the contagion of obesity, or the well-known non-finding of an increase in the death rate among middle-aged white men.
In all seriousness, the article is fine; it’s just interesting how misconceptions such the hot hand fallacy fallacy can persist and persist and persist.