12 –Hot Hands, Cold Hands & Performance Streaks

I tackle what has been one of the most interesting and contentious issues in sports psychology: hot and cold streaks in performance. Does the hot hand exist? What is the best way to get out a slump? Is an athlete’s ability to perform under pressure influenced by the streak they are on?
What Grinds My Gears: Interviewing fails
Download link

Key Points

  • It is important when discussing this topic to clearly define what you are talking about
  • A “performance streak” is an extended period of time when the same performance outcome is happening over and over e.g., “hot streak”=series of good outcomes, “cold streak/slump”=series of bad outcomes. No one would argue that these don’t occur in sports. Such streaks are what we would expect to do random fluctuations in performance
  • The “hot hand” is the belief that when a player is on a hot streak something changes so that the probability of them producing a good outcome on the next play rises above their normal level.
  • The bulk of research demonstrates that the “hot hand” does not exist e.g., a player is no more likely to make a shot after hitting 3 in a row as compared to when they miss 3 in a row
  • Despite this fans, coaches and athletes strongly belied in it
  • Cold streaks are likely fundamentally different than hot streaks in that the former is likely to induce the athlete to try something different to “break the slump”
  • Recent evidence suggests that in some cases a cold streak can resulting in an athlete turning their attention inwards and focus on skill execution. If this does occur, it will most likely change the probability of a skilled performer being successful on the next outcome (for the worse) because it will disrupt automaticity
  • The key to getting out of a slump seems to be to keep doing the same thing and wait for the good outcomes to return
  • How an athlete performs in a high pressure situation seems to be related to the streak there are on before it occurs
  • Putting an athlete on a cold streak into a high pressure situation may act as a “slump breaker”


More information:
My Research Gate Page (pdfs of my articles)
My ASU Web page
Podcast Facebook page (videos, pics, etc)
Twitter: @Shakeywaits
Email: robgray@asu.edu

The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action
The Agrarians – We Run Hot, We Run Cold
Reigning Sound – You Got Me Humming
Mondo Topless – Break the Ice
Milgrom – Hot
Six Star General – Cold
via freemusicarchive.org and jamendo.com