The conventional risky choice framing experiments, introduced by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1981, informed us that how options are framed affects our willingness to take risks. Even though participants were provided with logically consistent answers to the same problem, the majority of those given a positively framed version responded differently than those given a negatively framed one. The authors explained this finding through their 'prospect theory' and use it as an example of our propensity to be loss averse. The findings dealt a blow to the axioms of the textbook model of consumer choice, confirming that how our options are presented affects our attitude toward risk. Since then a wide range of framing experiments have been conducted to measure the effects of everything from framing tax payments and financial returns, all the way to testing the importance of framing on beef and toaster sales!
This got me thinking about the penalty shootout in football, the incentives faced by footballers and the heartache it can create. John Terry's slip in Moscow and Nicolas Anelka’s miss, Gareth Southgate’s mishap in 96' and, of course for Irish fan’s, Daniel Timofte's 1990 penalty all come to mind as gut-wrenching moments for one individual but delight for others.
While we cannot overcome the problem (that there's always going to be some disappointment) as shootout is a zero-sum game where one team must win and another must lose, perhaps, with an adjustment to the task we can remove the burden of responsibility from one player to win or lose a shootout, taking an awful lot of anguish away.
The problem, as I can see it, is that at present the shootout is framed to create losers. The burden of expectation is placed on the player to score from 12 yards, something which is deemed a task every player should have the ability to perform. If however the task was altered so that it was difficult to achieve and framed so the burden of expectation was not on the player we could create winners.
I've had this conversation with my brother before and we've tried to think of innovative mechanisms to resolve a tie by framing the task so that 'winners' instead of 'losers' are created. Perhaps making players attempt to hit the crossbar from the half way line or beat the keeper from 25 yards out would ensure that instead of one player going home with the burden of responsibility, someone will have the delight that they achieved a very difficult task that was above the expectations placed on them.
Then again, maybe we cannot get rid of this burden of expectation and that changing the structure would merely shift this onus to the goalkeeper. Perhaps the pressure to perform is reciprocal and its really a matter of how we frame the competition and then distribute the expectations!