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

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  • Bar-Eli, Michael
  • Azar, Ofer H.
  • Ritov, Ilana
  • Keidar-Levin, Yael
  • Schein, Galit

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.
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Suggested Citation

  • Bar-Eli, Michael & Azar, Ofer H. & Ritov, Ilana & Keidar-Levin, Yael & Schein, Galit, 2007. "Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 606-621, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:28:y:2007:i:5:p:606-621
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pieters, Rik & Zeelenberg, Marcel, 2005. "On bad decisions and deciding badly: When intention-behavior inconsistency is regrettable," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 18-30, May.
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    JEL classification:

    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines

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