Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A sinister bias in calling football (soccer) fouls

I came across this interesting bit from Kranjec et al. just after watching the football world cup game (Spain vs. the Netherlands) with my family and friends this past sunday.  The authors suggest that a perceptual bias associated with left to right reading might predispose referees to call fouls more frequently for right to left moving events than for right to left moving events.  Thus referees standing across from each other might call a play differently.
Distinguishing between a fair and unfair tackle in soccer can be difficult. For referees, choosing to call a foul often requires a decision despite some level of ambiguity. We were interested in whether a well documented perceptual-motor bias associated with reading direction influenced foul judgments. Prior studies have shown that readers of left-to-right languages tend to think of prototypical events as unfolding concordantly, from left-to-right in space. It follows that events moving from right-to-left should be perceived as atypical and relatively debased. In an experiment using a go/no-go task and photographs taken from real games, participants made more foul calls for pictures depicting left-moving events compared to pictures depicting right-moving events. These data suggest that two referees watching the same play from distinct vantage points may be differentially predisposed to call a foul.

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