The Right-Oriented Bias in Soccer Penalty Shootouts

Simcha Avugos, Ofer H. Azar, Eran Sher, Nadav Gavish, Michael Bar-Eli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Previous studies suggest that approach motivation (a focus on achieving positive outcomes) is related to relative left-hemispheric brain activation, which results in a variety of right-oriented behavioral biases. It has been argued that during FIFA World Cup penalty shootouts, soccer goalkeepers whose team was behind and therefore had approach motivation, dived right more often than left. The present study elaborates on the previous studies in several ways. First, we collected a larger dataset with more penalty kicks from penalty shootouts in top worldwide competitions. Second, we analyze several issues about the behavior of kickers and goalkeepers that were not analyzed before. Third, we use a different methodology to determine the direction of the kicks (right, middle or left), which does not rely on subjective perception of human judges for this classification. Our analysis shows no statistically significant relationship between the game situation (which team leads in the shootout) and the goalie's side choice. Kickers showed a small tendency to shoot to the right side of goalkeepers. Goalkeepers whose team was behind were much more likely to dive right than left, which makes sense given the kickers' behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101546
JournalJournal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Decision making in sports
  • Penalty shootout
  • Right-oriented bias
  • Soccer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Social Sciences


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