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Big score for the hot hand

Volleyball players’ scoring streaks get statistically fired up

By
4:24pm, January 12, 2012

Volleyball players have taken a stand — make that a leap — for the existence of that statistically elusive feat known as the hot hand.

Not only do top volleyball strikers go on scoring runs that can’t be chalked up to chance, but players and coaches notice when a player is on a hot streak and funnel the ball his or her way, say psychologist Markus Raab of German Sport University Cologne and his colleagues, who studied the hot-hand phenomenon by analyzing playoff game data from a German volleyball league.

That strategy usually works, because players who on average score on a high percentage of shots tend to get hot hands. So getting them the ball during a scoring streak boosts a team’s score, the researchers will report in an upcoming Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. This tactic backfires if a player with a low scoring average develops a hot hand and draws shots away from better scorers, the scientists hold.

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