New research blows whistle on deceptive sporting behaviour

Oct 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- It's official – people are at their most deceptive not only when benefits outweigh the costs but when the risk of detection is low, according to a UQ study.

A School of Biological Sciences research team have used the practice of diving – pretending to be the victim of foul play – in soccer in order to "milk" penalties as the basis for a study of deceptive behaviour and the mechanisms that can be used to control it.

PhD student Gwendolyn David, along with her supervisor Dr Robbie Wilson and other UQ colleagues, explored the behaviour of soccer and referees in the context of animal-signalling theory.

Their study was recently published in the prestigious open-access journal PLOS One.

"Theory predicts that deceptive behaviour should occur only when the prospective benefits outweigh the costs and when the risk of detection is low," says Ms David.

"So we expected that deception would be driven by the potential pay-offs and would be limited by punishment."

Ms David undertook a play-by-play examination of 60 matches across six high-profile professional leagues to see when and where players faked fouls, and when they were likely to get away with it (or not).

She found that – as predicted – diving occurred most often when the potential pay-off was greater, namely, in the offensive side of the field and when two teams had tied scores.

But the most exciting result came from looking between the leagues.

"We found that players dived more often in leagues where referees were more likely to reward dives with a free kick or penalty," says Dr Wilson.

This means that when referees don't detect or punish diving, then dives are more common.

"The most effective means of controlling deception, whether it's a footballer or an animal, is via punishment. But, of the more than 2800 falls we observed and the 169 dives, we never once saw a diving player punished," says Ms David.

"Our results clearly show that reducing deception in sports like soccer is largely up to the referee and governing bodies. Players will try to deceive referees when the benefits are high, but better detection and administration of punishment may help reduce its prevalence," Dr Wilson said.

"Some progressive professional leagues, such as the Australian A-League and American MLS, have already started handing down punishments for players found guilty of diving. This is the best way to decrease the incentive for diving."

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

Related Stories

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it

Jul 01, 2011

Scientists have shown that soccer players with superior ability in areas such as passing accuracy or sprint speed do not necessarily achieve better overall performance on the pitch.

Red card for faking footballers

Sep 16, 2009

A new study by Dr Paul Morris from the University of Portsmouth could help referees know when a top player has genuinely been fouled or taken a dive.

Faking it on the soccer field

Jul 13, 2011

As the U.S. women prepare for a showdown with France in Wednesday's semifinal of the World Cup of soccer, a research group has reported two tantalizing tendencies in the game. Top female soccer players aren't ...

No injury spike in Bantam bodychecking

Jun 20, 2011

A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology researcher Dr. Carolyn Emery and colleagues has shown that when bodychecking is introduced into Bantam ice ho ...

Recommended for you

Computer games give a boost to English

15 hours ago

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

20 hours ago

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

Healthy working environment is a salvation

22 hours ago

Contract workers in Norway often face the worst and most unpredictable working conditions. But good management and support from colleagues makes these workers more robust.

Why marvellous isn't awesome any more

22 hours ago

Using the Spoken British National Corpus 2014, a very large collection of recordings of real-life, informal, spoken interactions between speakers of British English from across the United Kingdom, Cambridge ...

User comments : 0