LONDON, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- After a string of penalties aimed in the same direction, goalkeepers are more likely to dive in the opposite direction on the next penalty but kickers fail to exploit this pattern, a new research by British scientists has revealed.
The study, published in the scientific journal Current Biology, shows that penalty shoot-outs in international tournaments resemble a psychological game.
The researchers from University College London (UCL) studied penalty shoot-out videos from all World Cup and Euro finals tournaments between 1976 and 2012.
They found that goalkeepers’ dives to the left or the right were not related to the direction of the kick, suggesting that goalkeepers at this elite level make their decisions in advance, rather than reacting to each kick.
However, goalkeepers’ decisions were non-random in one crucial respect: when the kickers repeatedly kicked in the same direction on consecutive penalties, goalkeepers became more likely to dive in the opposite direction on the next penalty. After three consecutive shots in one direction, goalkeepers dive in the opposite direction for the next penalty around 69 percent of the time.
According to researchers, this demonstrates a crucial link between the habenula and motivated behavior, which may be the result of dopamine suppression.
“Complete randomness is generally the best strategy in competitive games,” lead author Erman Misirlisoy of the UCL said: “Because the goalkeeper displays the gambler’s fallacy, kickers could predict which way the goalkeeper is likely to dive on the next kick.”
He continued: “Surprisingly, though, we found that kickers failed to exploit this advantage.”