31 May 2012

“Been dominating NBA Jam since 1995.”

— J

Many of you have suffered my wrath in NBA Jam Tournament Edition.

Yes. I’m still dominating.

Well, for my thesis, I’m reading this book by Daniel Kahneman called Thinking, Fast and Slow—which is about how we tend to rely on our intuition to make sense of and structure what we see (System 1), even when it flies in the face of statistical proofs (System 2). He makes a bold statement about the time-tested truth of “He’s on fire!”
Some years later, Amos and his students Tom Gilovich and Robert Vallone caused a stir with their study of misperceptions of randomness in basketball. The ‘fact’ that players occasionally acquire a hot hand is generally accepted by players, coaches, and fans. The inference is irresistible: a player sinks three or four baskets in a row and you cannot help forming the causal judgement that this player is now hot, with a temporarily increased propensity to score. Players on both teams adapt to this judgment—teammates are more likely to pass to the hot scorer and the defense is more likely to double-team. Analysis of thousands of sequences of shots led to a disappointing conclusion: there is no such thing as a hot hand in professional basketball, either in shooting from the field or scoring from the foul line. Of course, some players are more accurate than others, but the sequence of successes and missed shots satisfies all tests of randomness. The hot hand is entirely in the eye of the beholders, who are consistently too quick to perceive order and causality in randomness. The hot hand is a massive and widespread cognitive illusion. 
The public reaction to this research is part of the story. The finding was picked up by the press because of its surprising conclusion, and the general response was disbelief. When the celebrated coach of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach, heard of Gilovich and his study, he responded, “Who is this guy? So he makes a study. I couldn’t care less.” The tendency to see patterns in randomness is overwhelming—certainly more impressive than a guy making a study” (116-117).
Alls I can say is that fool’s never seen me play NBA Jam.

(So last Christmas me bros and I hooked up 4 USB controllers and played classic Jam [emulated] on our parents’ big screen. There’s no place like home for the holidays.)


  1. That's your parent's big screen (on the chair)?

  2. Ha ha. Yes... Actually, no. I was too busy scoring to take pictures of that scene, so this was the next best thing.


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— J