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Surprised by the Hot Hand Fallacy? A Truth in the Law of Small Numbers

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Document pages: 49 pages

Abstract: We prove that a subtle but substantial bias exists in a common measure of theconditional dependence of present outcomes on streaks of past outcomes insequential data. The magnitude of this streak selection bias generallydecreases as the sequence gets longer, but increases in streak length, andremains substantial for a range of sequence lengths often used in empiricalwork. We observe that the canonical study in the influential hot hand fallacyliterature, along with replications, are vulnerable to the bias. Uponcorrecting for the bias we find that the long-standing conclusions of thecanonical study are reversed.

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