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Winning streaks in sports and the misperception of momentum

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CONTRIBUTORS:
  Author Vergin, R. C.
JOURNAL:
  Journal of Sport Behavior (JSB), 23(2), 181 - 197.
YEAR: 2000
PUB TYPE: Journal Article
SUBJECT(S): sport; psychological-momentum; perception; winning; baseball; basketball; professional
DISCIPLINE: No discipline assigned
HTTP: https://secure.sportquest.com/su.cfm?articleno=S-657020&title=S-657020
LANGUAGE: English
PUB ID: 103-343-666 (Last edited on 2011/03/15 19:22:05 GMT-6)
SPONSOR(S):
 
ABSTRACT:
There is an almost universal belief by athletes, sports fans and media observers that momentum is an important force in sports contests. Terms such as winning streaks, the hot hand in basketball shooting, and batting slumps in baseball are part of the lexicon of sports and are examples of perceived momentum. Prior research has demonstrated that athletes perceive that momentum exists, but evidence of the effect of momentum on performance within individual athletic contests has proved elusive. This research extends that exploration by looking for momentum over a season. Actual winning and losing streaks for the 28 major league baseball teams and the 29 National Basketball Association teams were compared to streaks that would have occurred under the assumption that game outcome is independent of the outcome of the most recent previous games. The chi-square goodness-of-fit test showed a very close fit of actual streaks to expected streaks under the independence assumption, with none of the ten chi-square probabilities approaching the customary .05 significance level. Also, the Wald-Wolfowitz runs test for randomness produced only 5 team season observations out of 86 with significance levels = < .05. The results suggest that sports participants and observers place an unjustified importance on momentum as a causal factor in outcomes of sport contests.
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