Perceptions of Psychological Momentum in Basketball


Psychological momentum (PM) and the hot hand are related concepts describing people’s beliefs regarding streaks of superior performance. This study examined the susceptibility of perceptions of PM to changes in the streakiness of otherwise equivalent series. Fifty-five male participants (31 basketballers and 24 control) completed a ‘hot-cognition’ experiment where they rated individual and team momentum and assessed the likelihood of a future shot’s success after watching sequences of basketball shots. The experimental manipulation of the order of shots strongly affected participants’ ratings of momentum and, less strongly, the probability they assigned to the future shot (i.e. the hot hand effect). Basketballers showed stronger reactions to manipulations of order than the controls, which could be attributed to greater investment in the task. The results demonstrate the importance of distinguishing between PM and the hot hand and also provide a valuable extension of prior work showing such effects into more realistic scenarios.

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