Gambler's fallacy, hot hand belief, and the time of patterns Academic Article uri icon


  • The gambler's fallacy and the hot hand belief have been classified as two exemplars of human misperceptions of random sequential events. This article examines the times of pattern occurrences where a fair or biased coin is tossed repeatedly. We demonstrate that, due to different pattern composition, two different statistics (mean time and waiting time) can arise from the same independent Bernoulli trials. When the coin is fair, the mean time is equal for all patterns of the same length but the waiting time is the longest for streak patterns. When the coin is biased, both mean time and waiting time change more rapidly with the probability of heads for a streak pattern than for a non-streak pattern. These facts might provide a new insight for understanding why people view streak patterns as rare and remarkable. The statistics of waiting time may not justify the prediction by the gambler's fallacy, but paying attention to streaks in the hot hand belief appears to be meaningful in detecting the changes in the underlying process.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Sun, Y., & Wang, H.

complete list of authors

  • Sun, Yanlong||Wang, Hongbin

publication date

  • April 2010