The right side? under time pressure, approach motivation leads to right-oriented bias

Marieke Roskes*, Daniel Sligte, Shaul Shalvi, Carsten K W De Dreu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Approach motivation, a focus on achieving positive outcomes, is related to relative left-hemispheric brain activation, which translates to a variety of right-oriented behavioral biases. In two studies, we found that approach-motivated individuals display a right-oriented bias, but only when they are forced to act quickly. In a task in which they had to divide lines into two equal parts, approach-motivated individuals bisected the line at a point farther to the right than avoidance-motivated individuals did, but only when they worked under high time pressure. In our analysis of all Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup penalty shoot-outs, we found that goalkeepers were two times more likely to dive to the right than to the left when their team was behind, a situation that we conjecture induces approach motivation. Because penalty takers shot toward the two sides of the goal equally often, the goalkeepers' right-oriented bias was dysfunctional, allowing more goals to be scored. Directional biases may facilitate group coordination but prove maladaptive in individual settings and interpersonal competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1407
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • approach
  • avoidance
  • brain
  • evolution theory
  • evolutionary psychology
  • football
  • goalkeepers
  • line bisection
  • motivation
  • right-oriented bias
  • soccer


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