New research by psychologists at the University of Amsterdam suggests that goalkeepers are biased to dive to the right during penalty-kick shootouts.
The study found that during penalty shootouts, goalies will dive to the right side 71 percent of the time when their team is down, but not when they're tied or ahead. (In those cases, goalies dive almost equally to the left and to the right.)
Marieke Roskes, Daniel Sligte, Shaul Shalvi and Carsten De Dreu said their hypothesis arose from a discussion they had with each other at a bar one Friday evening. On the following Monday, they started examining the evidence. They looked at penalty kicks in shootouts in the men's World Cup from 1982 onward and found 204. When teams were tied, they found that goalkeepers dived left and right equally. But when their teams were down, the psychologists found goalkeepers were more than twice as likely to dive right as dive left.
There's a scientific explanation for this -- and it doesn't have anything to do with being left-handed or right-handed. Among humans, dogs and some other animals, individuals unconsciously move to the right when they approach something they really want. Lovers tend to lean their heads to the right when they kiss; dogs wag their tails to the right when their masters approach.