Hapoel Jerusalem vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Warning to basketball players! A new study of NBA players has found that trying to repeat a successful three-pointer is more likely to be a missed shot. On the other hand, trying again after missing is more likely to end with a score.
RELATED:Hit a three-pointer? Think twice before shooting again
While this may debunk the myth of the so-called “hot hand,” it shows that success reinforces risk taking and that can be manifested not only on the basketball court, but also in the stock market and battlefield.
“What we learned is that it is not always a good idea to follow your intuition,” Yonatan Loewenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “We typically infer our future from our very recent experience and this is true sometimes, but not always.”
Loewenstein and graduate student Tal Neiman examined more than 200,000 attempted shots from nearly 300 leading players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the 2007-8 and 2008-9 regular seasons. They also examined more than 15,000 attempted shots by 41 leader players in the Women’s National Basketball Association from the same seasons.
They wanted to test the conventional wisdom that a player who scores one
or more three-pointers is more likely to make the next shot from beyond
the arc and enjoy a scoring streak. “There was an idea that if you make
three shots then you’re sure to make a fourth,” said Loewenstein, from
the university’s department of neurobiology. .
What the team found was that the professional basketball players it
studied behaved like lab animals who learned from reinforcement. A
successful three-point shot provided players with positive reinforcement
to attempt additional three-point shots later in the game, he said.
“What we concluded is that these players chase random fluctuations in
outcome of the action. And as a result they sometimes taking risks they
wouldn’t if it wasn’t for their recent history,” he said.
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The research specifically cites Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers,
saying that he followed a successful three point shot with another 53 percent
of the time. On the other hand, if he missed a three pointer he only
attempted another long shot 14% of the time. Bryant and other players,
the research found, waited more time to take their next three-point shot
after missing one than after scoring one.
In other words, if a player makes a three-pointer, which is
statistically about 30% of the time, then they are prone to try it again
shortly afterwards. On the other hand, if they missed it, they are more
cautious about giving it another shot, thus missing opportunities.
“The ones who miss only make an [another] attempt when they are really
sure, and as a result they miss opportunities. But when they do make an
attempt they are more likely to make it because they are more cautious,”
Loewenstein said their study examined the behavior of the players and
showed how it was impacted according to past actions and consequences.
The findings were published in the latest journal Nature Communications.
Loewenstein said standard models of reinforcement learning used to
explain behavior of rats, mice and moneys can be applied to basketball
“It is similar to what you see in animal studies,” he said.
“Learning from reinforcement may not improve performance, and may even
damage it, if it’s not based on an accurate model of the world,” said
Loewenstein. “This affects everyone's behavior. Stock brokers make
investments according to past market performance, and commanders make
military moves based on the results of past battles. Awareness of the
limitations of this kind of learning can improve [people's]
decision-making processes - as well as those of basketball players.”
“You can envision a situation where you took a risk and you were lucky
and so you try again even though you could have lost all your money
taking this,” he added.
These were the best, the best in the world and even though they are the
best these mechanism of learning interfered with the performance, he
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