When the Mets’ Daniel Murphy steps into the batter’s box Tuesday night in the World Series, nearly everyone will regard him as unusually likely to hit a home run. He has homered in six of his last 25 at-bats, and has seven homers in the postseason. He is locked in, on a hot streak, en fuego.
Everyone, that is, except the social scientists who for more than a generation have dismissed all of this as a grand illusion. A body of research dating to the mid-1980s purports to show that professional athletes do not get hot. Performance tends to be fairly stable; results vary by chance; and fans, players and commentators are experiencing the same kind of illusion as children who see rabbits in clouds.
But now there is new evidence that our eyes are right and the experts are wrong.
A number of recent studies find that athletes really do experience temporary bursts of…