Monday, September 10, 2007

You might as well....JUMP!

Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks

Michael Bar-Eli, Ofer Azar, Ilana Ritov, Yael Keidar-Levin & Galit Schein
Journal of Economic Psychology, forthcoming

In soccer penalty kicks, goalkeepers choose their action before they can
clearly observe the kick direction. An analysis of 286 penalty kicks in top
leagues and championships worldwide shows that given the probability
distribution of kick direction, the optimal strategy for goalkeepers is to
stay in the goal's center. Goalkeepers, however, almost always jump right or
left. We propose the following explanation for this behavior: because the
norm is to jump, norm theory (Kahneman, D., & Miller, D. T. (1986). Norm
theory: Comparing reality to its alternatives. Psychological Review, 93,
136-153.) implies that a goal scored yields worse feelings for the
goalkeeper following inaction (staying in the center) than following action
(jumping), leading to a bias for action. The omission bias, a bias in favor
of inaction, is reversed here because the norm here is reversed - to act
rather than to choose inaction. The claim that jumping is the norm is
supported by a second study, a survey conducted with 32 top professional
goalkeepers. The seemingly biased decision making is particularly striking
since the goalkeepers have huge incentives to make correct decisions, and it
is a decision they encounter frequently. Finally, we discuss several
implications of the action/omission bias for economics and management.

Disturbing. You hire a new CEO, or a new Dean for that matter, and they have to....go out and change something! Doesn't matter if it works pretty well already, the "goal" (soccer joke) is take action. That way, no one can say, "You didn't even do anything!"

The problem is that many times nothing is the best thing to do. Just stand there in the center, and try to reach out and block things that come right at you.

(Nod to KL, who is on a roll)


PeeDub said...

Frustrated that I can't read the article.

As a goalkeeper, I'm unconvinced that the best strategy is to stay in the center. I'd like to see their reasoning. I can often block a center shot with my feet even if I have lunged to the left or the right. Isn't it better to cover two bases at the same time?

PeeDub said...

As an afterthough, though I respect both goalkeepers *and* economists, the thought of economists attempting to analyze goalkeeping doesn't inspire the greatest confidence ...

Angus said...

Hi Peedub: here is a link to a freely available version of the paper:

mungowitz is SO elitist. but as cool hand Luke famously said "sometimes nothing can be a really cool hand".

Rocky McPaperscissors said...

Great new strategic approach to goal-keeping: stand in the center all day and watch the kicks whiz past you on the right and left!

The only "bias" I can regularly discern is Kahneman-Tverskyites' bias toward find bias where none exists. This one is the all-time champ to date. Thanks for the belly laugh.