World-Cup Science: Referees More Likely to Call Right-to-Left Fouls

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David Madison/CORBIS

World Cup officials, listen up. A new study says that your eyes may be playing tricks on you.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has unveiled a new study regarding soccer referees’ susceptibility to direction of motion. In an instance similar to reading words on a page, the Penn study found that officials were more likely to call a foul when seeing a right-to-left-attack, versus the mirror-image left-to-right.

“There could be an unfair advantage if one team goes into halftime with a lead and the referees switch to a right diagonal system in the second half, favoring both defenses,” said lead researcher Alexander Kranjec, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in the Neurology Department, in a statement.

The study notes that referees are encouraged to man the field diagonally to maximize efficiency in spotting calls. But the results suggest that even with that route, the naked eye has its pitfalls.

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