The hot hand fallacy and the gambler's fallacy: two faces of subjective randomness?

Mem Cognit. 2004 Dec;32(8):1369-78. doi: 10.3758/bf03206327.


The representativeness heuristic has been invoked to explain two opposing expectations--that random sequences will exhibit positive recency (the hot hand fallacy) and that they will exhibit negative recency (the gambler's fallacy). We propose alternative accounts for these two expectations: (1) The hot hand fallacy arises from the experience of characteristic positive recency in serial fluctuations in human performance. (2) The gambler's fallacy results from the experience of characteristic negative recency in sequences of natural events, akin to sampling without replacement. Experiment 1 demonstrates negative recency in subjects' expectations for random binary outcomes from a roulette game, simultaneously with positive recency in expectations for another statistically identical sequence-the successes and failures of their predictions for the random outcomes. These findings fit our proposal but are problematic for the representativeness account. Experiment 2 demonstrates that sequence recency influences attributions that human performance or chance generated the sequence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation*
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Time Factors