Gambler's Fallacy

Other Names

Monte Carlo fallacy, hot hand

Description

When you believe that independent probability events will affect each other.

There are two opposite versions of this fallacy. The first version is where you assume that averages will balance out - for example expecting to get heads in a coin toss because you just got tails five times in a row. The second version is where you expect that averages will resist balancing out - for example thinking you are on a "streak" and your luck will continue.

Sales professionals sometimes speak of the "law of averages" and say that every time you get a no, it brings you closer to a yes, but this is not an accurate view of probability, nor is it a real law that exists.

Example

A gambler who believes that his luck will turn good because he has lost so many times in a row, or a basketball player who has sunk a few baskets and believes that he is now on a hot streak and more likely to sink his next shots.

Famous Examples

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