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Soccer Goalies

August 3, 2011

Soccer goalies tend to dive toward the right when their team is behind.



The science of soccer…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

During a soccer game penalty shoot-out, each kick pits one player against the goalkeeper, who has to decide in a split-second where to leap to make the save.

MARIEKE ROSKES (University of Amsterdam):

They don’t really have time to think about it. So they rely on their intuition or their experience.


A new study by psychologist Marieke Roskes and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam showed an interesting pattern in how these goalies reacted. The researchers watched every penalty shoot-out in every World Cup from 1982 to 2010. They found that goalies tended to dive right when their team was behind.


They do that because when animals and also humans try to get positive outcomes, this exercises the left side of the brain. And because the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, they get the urge to move towards the right.


Roskes says they’re interested in studying these natural biases to see how they can be overcome. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.