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Researchers say soccer study could show human, animal tendency to go right

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Anyone who has played sports competitively knows how important it is to have an edge against your opponent. New psychological research may give athletes just that: an advantage.

The penalty shootout. The last moments of a soccer match that determine the winner and the loser.

Penalty kicks are often the most stressful and emotional part of a match. The US women's loss in the World Cup final last month is proof. But could this loss have been prevented if goalkeeper Hope Solo knew she had a tendency to go right when her team was down?

According to a group of psychologists from the University of Amsterdam, goalkeepers are twice more likely to dive right when their team is down. When the team is up or tied, the goalie will equally dive left or right.

The researchers think this tendency to go right likely could extend to other sports that involve quick decision making during pressure.

The researchers did not look at American football highlights for their research, but they based it off of more than 200 World Cup shootouts.

We presented the research findings to former MLS goalkeeper and UNCW Men's Soccer coach Aiden Heaney. He thinks the study is interesting, but doesn't think he'll start coaching the research.

"I think there is more to it than that," Heaney said. "I think if I were coaching my goal keepers and start saying, 'Hey, go to your left when we're down,' I think the odds are still pretty high."

Heaney says the information, though, can be used by either side and thinks in the end it all depends on the athletes.

"The striker and goalkeeper, they both have the data," Heaney said. "At the end of the day the hardest penalty taker to read is the one changes up from game to game which way they go."

The study goes on to say that humans and some animals unconsciously position themselves to the right when they get close to something they really want. People lean their heads to the right when kissing; and dogs will wag their tail to the right when their master approaches.

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