Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks

29 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2008  

Michael Bar Eli

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ofer H. Azar

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management

Ilana Ritov

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - School of Education

Yael Keidar-Levin

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Galit Schein

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

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 and Miller, 1986) 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.

Keywords: Decision Making, Uncertainty, Choice Behavior, Sport Psychology, Behavioral Economics

JEL Classification: D81, C93, A12

Suggested Citation

Bar Eli, Michael and Azar, Ofer H. and Ritov, Ilana and Keidar-Levin, Yael and Schein, Galit, Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks. Journal of Economic Psychology, Vol. 28, No. 5, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1091662

Michael Bar Eli

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

P.O. Box 653
Beer-Sheva 84105
Israel

Ofer H. Azar (Contact Author)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 653
Beer-Sheva, 84105
Israel
+972 8 6472675 (Phone)
+972 8 6477691 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.oferazar.com

Ilana Ritov

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - School of Education ( email )

Mt. Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel
+972 2 652 9929 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~msiritov/ilana_ritov.htm

Yael Keidar-Levin

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105
Israel

Galit Schein

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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