John, Lester, and the story of the hot hand fallacy

Click Here To Meet John

Click Here To Meet Lester

Click Here for an introduction to the John and Lester stories

Lester has a hunch. It first came to him earlier in the day, when, while passing through the reception of the office, he saw the bouncer try to throw a small sheet of paper into the bin across the hall. The first shot went in, and so, for the second shot the bouncer looked over to his colleague and bet him five pounds that he would score a second time. He missed, losing five pounds from his own pocket but giving Lester the seed of an idea that would begin to grow larger and larger as the day moved forward. After seeing the bouncer, Lester got into the lift, he gets in, and pressess the button that designates the tenth floor. The lift travels up for one floor, and then stops, opening the doors at the first floor, the floor which incidentally, Jessica is stood waiting, as Jessica too, needs to use the lift to get to the tenth floor.

Lester: You have a coffee

Jessica: Two coffee’s, and neither one of them is mine

Lester: You have two coffees, and neither one of them isn’t yours?

Jessica: This one has milk, this one has sugar, but the two of them together both are for management

Lester: You know if you went round this entire office, and told every single person that a goat dancing was the real reason that we today have coffee, I guarantee that not one person would say they believe you

Jessica: Wait, was the sugar in the one on my left or the one on my right?

Lester: One person might say no, the other might say maybe, but not one of them would wholeheartedly agree.

Jessica: I could just put one more sugar in this one, and leave this one the same, that way if someone were to test me they wouldn’t really know the difference

Lester: But I’d bet they’d believe you if you told them it was a dog

The lift stops at the third floor.

Jessica: It wasn’t one goat, it was three.

Lift Voice: Floor Three, please allow space for the incoming passengers

The two lift doors open, and there standing is Tommy, Lester’s intern. He walks into the lift, and goes over to stand the left hand side of Lester

Tommy looks over towards Jessica

Tommy: You lied to me

Jessica: I did not lie to you. Lying would be saying one thing, knowing that the opposite is true. “Not knowing” would be saying one thing, and not knowing whether it is true. There is a difference

Tommy: When a child tells his mother that he got an A in his test when he actually got a B. That’s a lie. When one mid level employee says to another mid level employee that he likes the work he’s been doing. That’s a like. And when you told me that downstairs they were serving free coffee, yeah that too, was a lie. Meaning that you are a (Emphasis) li — ar

Jessica: Not knowing is like not doing, you can’t get into trouble if something bad still ends up happening.

Tommy: You know who doesn’t lie? The lady at the coffee counter. You know how I know that? Because when I asked her for a free coffee, she called security.

Jessica: Trouble! Exactly. You got into trouble. And since I didn’t know you would get into trouble, I can’t be held responsible for it happening

Tommy: Knowledge does not preclude responsibility, reality precludes responsibility, and you and I and everybody in this elevator knows that, because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be so scared of getting fired every time we send an email or fax

Jessica: You get scared when you send an email?

Tommy: Everybody gets scared when they send an email. Because we all know that when you send an email into a void that is the company network, this small, little, tiny monster called “Fear of embarrassment” crawls onto your shoulder to say “Proof read” Because we don’t want to be stood there saying “Oh i’m sorry I put your instead of you’re, I didn’t KNOW the difference”!!!.

Jessica: You don’t know the difference between your and you’re

Tommy: It was an hypothetical example

The lift has now moved up four floors, coming to halt at on the fifth floor of the building. The doors to the lift open, and there standing are five men, each wearing a suit, with two of them holding a briefcase. They walk into the lift, positioning themselves around the various spaces available, meaning that Lester, Jessica and Tommy are left with very little room.

Lester: I’m sensing tension

Jessica: Sensing tension? He’s broadcasting tension so the entire elevator can listen

Tommy: Oh, I’m sorry. Earth to Jessica, Earth to Jessica, you lied to Tommy

Lester: Okay, what happened.

Tommy: Nothing Happened.

Jessica: Well, something happened. But I was not responsible for it

Tommy: She uses the word responsible, but I think we’re learning that she doesn’t quite know why she’s using it.

Lester: I don’t know why she’s using it, that’s why I asked. What happened?

The lift stops at the seventh floor, but nobody is standing at the doorway. The lift doors close, and the lift doors continue to move upwards.

Jessica: I told Tommy that the coffee house was serving free coffee, which was true for me when I bought it. It was also true for the two guys before me and the one guy who drank after

Lester (Looks to Tommy): That’s what happened?

Tommy: That’s not what happened. That’s what Jessica says happened, which we’ve already determined is not what happened at all

Lester: So what happened?

Tommy: She bought two coffee’s, told me she got them for free, so she could give one coffee to the senior partner in accounting, and the other to the manager in HR, while I went off in search of free coffee to give away.

Jessica: Do you know if the manager in HR likes sugar by the way?

Lester: You’re getting upset because she bought a coffee for her manager? Everybody buys the coffee for the managers. It’s the only way people get promoted around here.

Tommy: Getting Promoted. That’s it. You wanted to get promoted so you sent me on a fool’s errand so that at the end of the summer you’re the one that gets the job.

Jessica: I got a free coffee, and so did the three guys before me, and the one guy after. When I told you, I did not know that me getting a free coffee did not mean that you would also get one too. If I’d known, trust me, I would’ve said.

Lester: He doesn’t like sugar. John does.

Tommy: It doesn’t matter. Jessica can just tell him that the coffee doesn’t have sugar, and it is instead him that’s in the wrong for saying his coffee tastes sweet!

Man in suit standing in the elevator: I like sugar

Jessica: Here

Jessica hands him the coffee.

Jessica: Great. Now I have one coffee with two sugars in to serve to one of two managers that both don’t like sugar

The elevator stops at the 9th floor. John is standing there waiting for the elevator. He walks in, and stands next to Lester

Lester: Eight people now waiting in this elevator, and you stop it to travel just one floor

John: I was on the floor, the lift came. You do the math.

Lester: Okay, eight people using the lift as it’s supposed to be used plus one lazy bast..

John: I was tired okay. I’ve had a long day

Lester: It’s 10:00 am on a Monday

John: Morning. I’ve had a long morning

Jessica: Coffee?

John takes the coffee from Jessica

John: Does this have sugar? Lester has sugar. I hate sugar in my coffee

Man in elevator: I’ll have it

Jessica: Didn’t you just have one

Man in elevator: No that was him (Points to second man in elevator)

Lester rubs his hand against his face

Lester (Whispering): Why do you all wear the same goddam suit?

The four of them leave the elevator, and begin to walk along the hall. Lester realises he forgot to pick up his keys from the receptionist, meaning he needs to turn back and return to the lift. He calls the lift, and inside is a small boy wearing a school uniform. Lester gets into the lift, and stands next to young boy.

Lester: You’re a child

The boy looks up towards Lester

Lester: Why are you here?

Boy: My dad works here

Lester: Which floor was he on? The 11th?

Boy: No

Lester: 12th?

Boy: No

Lester: What about 13, 14, 15 or 16, the answer still no?
Boy: Yes

Lester: You’re dad works above the 16th floor?

Boy: Oh yeah

Lester: So, what’s your name?

Boy: He won’t want to know that you met me

Lester: Okay

The lift stops at the first floor, and the boy and Lester get out. Lester walks towards reception, and there he has an idea, but only after seeing a young man get out and grab a coffee from the counter. He sees the bouncer talking once again to his colleague, and the paper ball still lying there next to the bin. He looks at the receptionist, and as she sees him she holds out his keys in her hand. He walks over smiling.

Receptionist: You know, part of me just knew you’d forget

Lester: Really, why’s that

Receptionist: You forgot yesterday, I just kinda figured.


Based On: Tversky, Amos and Thomas Gilovich. “The “Hot Hand”: Statistical Reality Or Cognitive Illusion?”. CHANCE 2.4 (1989): 31–34. Web