Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2012, 34, 61-82
© 2012 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Philip Furley and Daniel Memmert are with Institute of Cognitive and Team / Racket Sport Research,
German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany. Matt Dicks is with the Faculty of Human Move-
ment Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer:
The Influence of Dominant
and Submissive Body Language
on the Impression Formation
and Expectancy of Success
of Soccer Players
Philip Furley,1 Matt Dicks,2 and Daniel Memmert1
1German Sport University Cologne; 2VU University Amsterdam
In the present article, we investigate the effects of specic nonverbal behaviors
signaling dominance and submissiveness on impression formation and outcome
expectation in the soccer penalty kick situation. In Experiment 1, results indicated
that penalty takers with dominant body language are perceived more positively
by soccer goalkeepers and players and are expected to perform better than play-
ers with a submissive body language. This effect was similar for both video and
point-light displays. Moreover, in contrast to previous studies, we found no effect
of clothing (red vs. white) in the video condition. In Experiment 2, we used the
implicit association test to demonstrate that dominant body language is implicitly
associated with a positive soccer player schema whereas submissive body language
is implicitly associated with a negative soccer player schema. The implications
of our ndings are discussed with reference to future implications for theory and
research in the study of person perception in sport.
Keywords: penalty, person perception, point-light, implicit association test, social
When viewing televised coverage of sport events, it is noticeable to hear
commentators frequently refer to the body language of competing players while
also speculating on the level of condence of those performers. For example, one
often hears the following statements: “You can tell that the player has given up,”
“From looking at their body language one suspects they’ve lost their self-belief,”
or “The team look buoyant and really high on condence.” If we consider that
such changes in the body language, or nonverbal behaviors, of sportspeople may
also be recognized by the teammates and opponents engaged in the game, then
62 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
understanding on the performance consequences of body language should provide
an important and interesting avenue for sport research. It is highly plausible that
body language inuences the impressions sportspeople form of each other and the
subsequent expectations of sporting success (cf. Greenlees, Bradley, Thelwell &
Holder, 2005a; Greenlees, Buscombe, Thelwell, Holder, & Rimmer, 2005b).
Nonverbal Behaviors and Impression Formation in Sports
Given that instances of impression formation are replete across many different
instances of our daily lives (for a review, see Freeman & Ambady, 2011), it is
surprising that until fairly recently, researchers have widely neglected to examine
nonverbal behaviors within sport contexts. To address this shortcoming, Greenlees
and colleagues (e.g., Greenlees, et al., 2005a; Greenlees, et al., 2005b; Green-
lees, Leyland, Thelwell, & Filby, 2008) conducted a series of important studies
demonstrating that pre-performance nonverbal behaviors do indeed have a major
impact on athletes’ impression formations, which, in turn, inuence their expected
performance outcome. For example, Greenlees et al. (2005a) reported that tennis
players formed initial impressions of their opponents while warming up based on
the body language of the opponent, which further affected their condence in beat-
ing that opponent. Following the initial work of Greenlees and colleagues, the role
of nonverbal behaviors and their inuence on person perception has received more
attention in sport psychology research. For example, van der Kamp and Masters
(2008) demonstrated that the nonverbal posture adopted by a goalkeeper inuences
the penalty taker’s perception of the goalkeeper’s size and subsequent shooting
behavior (see also Masters, Poolton, & van der Kamp, 2010). Moreover, Moll,
Jordet, and Pepping (2010) have provided evidence suggesting that not only the
pre-performance nonverbal behaviors, but also certain celebratory post-performance
nonverbal behaviors (e.g., raising both arms above the head) of penalty takers have
potentially positive effects on teammates during penalty shootouts.
In sum, there has been an increasing number of studies examining the role
of both pre- and post-performance nonverbal behaviors in sport contexts demon-
strating the important role that such facets of behavior have on performance. In
one study that is of particular importance to the present article, Greenlees et al.
(2008) examined the impact of two different pre-performance factors—point of
gaze and clothing color—on the impressions formed by goalkeepers of outeld
players during the penalty kick situation in soccer. Results demonstrated that
penalty takers displaying 90% gaze—looking at the goalkeeper for 90% of their
pre-performance time before penalty run-up—were judged as being more likely
to execute accurate penalty kicks in comparison with penalty takers displaying
only 10% gaze. Moreover, penalty takers wearing red clothing were associated
with more positive impressions in comparison with white clothing. However, the
goalkeepers’ expectancy of success in saving penalty kicks was only affected by
clothing color when considered in tandem with penalty taker gaze. Specically,
clothing color had no effect for the 90% gaze condition, whereas, in the 10% gaze
condition, goalkeepers expected to have greater success against players in the white
uniform in comparison with those in red clothing.
Greenlees et al. (2008) speculated that the clothing effects may be culturally
inuenced given that, in English soccer, the most successful teams have typically
worn red (see Attrill, Gresty, Hill & Barton, 2008) and the English national team,
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 63
which has a white “home” uniform, has a particularly poor record in penalty
shootouts (Jordet, 2009). Interestingly, however, ndings elsewhere have also
demonstrated the benecial effects of red clothing in sport. For example, Hill and
Barton (2005) observed that Olympic martial arts competitors wearing red were
more likely to be successful compared with athletes wearing blue (see also Felt-
man & Elliot, 2011). Hill and Barton explained their nding from an evolutionary
perspective, arguing that the color red is a testosterone-dependent, sexually selected
signal of quality and dominance. Such an explanation has been contested elsewhere
(Elliot, Maier, Binser, Friedman & Pekrun, 2009; Hagemann, Strauss & Leißing,
2008; Rowe, Harris, & Roberts, 2005) by pointing out alternative mechanisms to
explain the effects of the color red in achievement contexts. Taken together, the
unequivocal explanations and ndings regarding the effect of red clothing suggest
that further research is warranted to gain a better understanding of the potential
effects of clothing color on impression formation.
In the current study we aim to build on the previous work of Greenlees and
colleagues by investigating the effects of pre-performance nonverbal behavior
and clothing color in the penalty kick situation. We further examine the clothing
color effect found by Greenlees et al. (2008) with a sample of German goalkeep-
ers, who might not hold the aforementioned culturally specic color associations.
Moreover, we introduce a point-light (Johansson, 1973) control condition in which
no clothing was observable and so surface features (e.g., clothing, hair style, facial
features) were kept constant to concentrate specically on the manipulation of cues
pertaining to body language. Point-light videos have been used within ecologically
motivated studies of person perception (see Marsh, Richardson, Baron, & Schmidt,
2006, for a review), demonstrating that humans are capable of accurately perceiv-
ing the actions of other people through observation of their kinematics alone (see
Blake & Shiffrar, 2007, for a recent review). Thus, the ndings from Greenlees et
al. (2008) may not have been caused by the penalty takers’ gaze direction per se
but instead from biological head and body motions that specied dominant and
submissive nonverbal behaviors (Carney, Hall, & Smith LeBeau, 2005; Carney,
Cuddy, & Yap, 2010). Such rationalization seems plausible in consideration of
evolutionary accounts of the function of nonverbal behavior, which is proposed to
have evolved in order for animals to communicate emotional information with one
another (Tracy & Robins, 2008; Darwin, 1872/2009; Ekman, 2003). Evolutionary
accounts of nonverbal behavior propose that social animals are equipped with the
ability to reliably produce and perceive nonverbal behavior—such as emotional
signals—to communicate important social information (Tracy & Robins, 2008).
For example, evidence from evolutionary psychology suggests that the nonverbal
expression of dominance and submissiveness has evolved in social animals for t-
ness reasons to quickly and efciently signal information about rank and status (de
Waal, 1998; Darwin, 1872/2009). Thus, in potentially confrontational situations,
sending submissive signals communicates one’s recognition of inferiority to the
stronger and thereby means the avoidance of conict.
Nonverbal behavior and Schema-Driven Person Perception
The ndings of Greenlees and colleagues (for a review, see Greenlees, 2007)
have largely been explained within the theoretical framework of schema-driven
impression formation (Fiske, Lin, & Neuberg, 1999; Fiske & Taylor, 1991). The
64 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
of schema-driven theories is that people, for reasons of efciency, use
cues (e.g., physical appearance, posture, gesture, and clothing) from early instances
of social interaction to classify a person into a certain category or person schema
(Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Person schemas are dened as an individual’s knowledge of
attributes of a specic type of person and the relationships among these attributes.
For example, the results of Greenlees et al. (2008) indicated that the combination of
90% gaze and red uniform triggered a “good” person (i.e., soccer player) schema,
while the 10% gaze and white uniform triggered a “bad” penalty taker schema. More-
over, according to Fiske and Taylor (1991), person schemas include evaluations and
judgments of the characteristics of the type of person. In this respect, social schema
theory proposes that when people see or think about another person, a mental person
schema is activated, which in turn has the potential for various cognitive, affective,
and behavioral outcomes. This argumentation is supported by research demonstrating
generalization effects leaping from momentary observations to enduring dispositions
and expectations (Harker & Keltner, 2001; Knutson, 1996; Montepare & Dobish,
2003). In this respect, Asch (1946) demonstrated in a seminal study that attractive
individuals are generally thought of as possessing more favorable personalities.
A further posit of social schema theory is that the mere exposure to an image
of another person can trigger—by association—the categorization of that person
to a specic schema leading to generalization effects that go beyond the informa-
tion that is actually available (Harker & Keltner, 2001; Knutson, 1996; Montepare
& Dobish, 2003). According to Bruner (1957), the main purpose of categorizing
stimuli is to predict features of that stimulus. In this regard, a frequently used
instrument within social psychology to examine such assumptions is the implicit
association test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). The IAT assesses
strengths of associations between mental concepts and certain evaluative attributes
by comparing reaction times in computer-based categorization tasks. Comparable to
the suggestion of Bruner (1957), the simple idea of the IAT is that concepts that are
associated by some feature should be easier to group together than concepts that are
not associated. In support of such ideas, the IAT has recently proven to be a useful
tool for assessing constructs such as implicit stereotypes or person schemas (e.g.,
Greenwald, Pickrell, & Farnham, 2002; Rudman & Ashmore, 2007). Moreover, and
of relevance to the sport domain, the IAT has been successfully adapted to measure
implicit components of an exerciser’s self-schema (Banting, Dimmock, & Lay, 2009).
The Present Research
Based on the review of literature presented above, we conducted two separate
experiments with the combined aim of developing understanding of the applica-
bility of person schemas for the study of impression formation in sport. To build
upon the earlier work of Greenlees et al. (2008), we studied the effect of penalty
taker nonverbal behaviors on impression formation and outcome expectations of
goalkeepers for the penalty kick situation in soccer. In Experiment 1, we studied
the effects of gaze levels—90% gaze or 10% gaze—and clothing color—red,
white, or no color (i.e., point-light display)—on goalkeeper impression formation
and consequent expectancies of success. Following the ndings of Greenlees and
colleagues, and in line with the evolutionary argumentation concerning the color
red (Hill & Barton, 2005), we expected that red jerseys would increase the effect
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 65
of dominant nonverbal behavior on impression formation compared with white
jerseys. If, on the other hand, the cultural explanation offered by Greenlees et al.
(2008) accounted for the effect, then one may not nd this effect among German
goalkeepers. Although no research exists demonstrating an association between
jersey color and soccer performance in Germany, it may be possible that the color
white is associated with successful penalty-taking performance because the German
national team has predominantly worn white and has been highly successful in
major penalty shootouts (Jordet, 2009).
The control (i.e., point-light) condition, which removes both gaze and cloth-
ing characteristics from the display, was implemented to investigate the effect of
providing goalkeepers with only the kinematic information of penalty takers for the
formation of impressions. Thus, inclusion of this condition enabled examination of
whether the biological motion information relating to dominant and submissive non-
verbal behavior is sufcient for instances of person perception (Marsh et al., 2006).
In Experiment 2, we introduced the IAT as a means of examining schema-driven
person perception in sport contexts to test whether the nonverbal behavior of an
athlete leads to categorizing that person into a specic person schema. In line with
social schema theory, which states that the mere exposure to an image of another
person can trigger—by association—the categorization of that person into a specic
schema, we expected that nonverbal behaviors signaling dominance are automati-
cally associated with a good soccer player schema, whereas submissive nonverbal
behaviors are automatically associated with a negative soccer player schema.
Experiment 1: Dominant and Submissive Nonverbal
Behaviors During Penalty Kicks
Male soccer goalkeepers (n = 22; Mage = 24.3 years; SD = 3.4 years), who had
been playing for an average of 14 years at an amateur to semiprofessional level in
Germany, took part in the study. Neither age- nor expertise-related differences were
evident within the group. Informed consent was obtained from every participant
before commencing the experiment. The study was carried out in accordance with
the Helsinki Declaration of 1975.
Two sets of stimuli were created for Experiment 1: regular video footage of the
penalty preparation and point-light footage of the penalty preparation. Both sets of
stimuli were created using the same four actors, who had extensive soccer playing
Video Stimuli. The video stimuli were prepared following the procedures of
Greenlees et al. (2008). All footage was lmed with a tripod-mounted Canon
HG21 digital video camera from a distance of exactly 11 m, and set to a height of
1.85 m. The lming took place on a standard-sized soccer pitch with the camera
66 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
positioned on the goal line. Actors received the same instructions on how to prepare
the penalty kick when being lmed. They were instructed to start the preparation
of the penalty from a predened spot holding the ball in front of their stomach, 2
m behind the penalty spot. Each clip involved the actor approaching the penalty
spot, placing the ball, walking back to a predened mark—2.5 m back and 1 m to
the left of the goal, representing a typical run-up for a right-footed player—and
nally commencing the run-up. All players practiced this procedure several times
to ensure that it was approximately the same for each player.
Nonverbal Behavior Manipulation. Nonverbal behavior was manipulated in
accordance with procedures used by Greenlees et al. (2005a, 2005b, 2008) and
Carney et al. (2005). In the dominant body language condition, the actors were asked
to (i) stand and walk with an erect posture that involved pulling the shoulders back
and pushing the chest out; (ii) slightly spread the limbs from the torso to occupy
more space; (iii) hold the head up with the chin parallel to the ground so that their
eyes were looking directly at the camera; and (iv) to look directly at the camera
for 90% of the time. For the negative, submissive body language condition, the
actors were asked to (i) adopt a slouched posture with the head and chin pointing
down; (ii) limbs touching the torso and thereby minimizing the occupied space by
collapsing the body inward; (iii) shoulders hanging to the front; and (iv) the eyes
looking down for 90% of time and only briey glancing at the goalkeeper/camera.
Color Manipulation. As per standard soccer attire, the uniforms included knee-
length socks, shorts, and a short-sleeve top. The uniforms—either completely white
or completely red—were both manufactured specically for soccer—as opposed to
generic sportswear—and were selected as they were absent of any visible badges,
logos, or branding that could be associated with specic soccer teams.
Point-Light Stimuli. The only difference between the point-light condition and
the video condition was that the lming for the point-light videos took place in a
sports hall with ambient light removed. Two halogen spotlights, mounted on a tripod,
were positioned in front of the camera directed at the actor preparing the penalty
kick run-up. In the point-light condition, the actors wore black tight-tting clothes
and headwear. Reective tape was placed on the clothes (Figure 1) following the
procedure of Atkinson, Dittrich, Gemmel, and Young (2004). The reason we choose
strips over points of light was that these are better visible from different angles
and thereby allow the actors more freedom of movement without the reection
disappearing when creating the point-light videos (Atkinson et al., 2004).
Stimuli Selection. Each actor was lmed in the two different body language
conditions three times, and then two independent raters selected one video from
each condition that was—except for the experimental manipulation—most similar,
as described in the following. The independent raters were asked to rate each video
on two 7-point Likert scales assessing the body language of the actors as not at all
dominant (1) or very dominant (7), and not at all submissive (1) and very submissive
(7). For every actor, the video clip with the largest rated difference between the
dominant and submissive Likert scale was selected. The average difference for
the clips selected for the dominant condition was 4.3 and 4.6 for the submissive
condition. No differences between the point-light (mean difference, 4.5) and video
conditions (mean difference, 4.4) were evident. This ensured that the 16 videos (i.e.,
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 67
four actors lmed in two body language conditions and two presentation conditions
[point-light and video] used as the experimental stimuli) differed only according to
the experimental manipulation. Hence, body language and presentation mode were
manipulated within subjects and clothing color was manipulated between subjects.
Thus, every participant viewed point-light videos and, depending on which group they
were in, either only penalty takers dressed in white or in red. The software E-Prime
2.0 Professional (Psychological Software Tools, 2007) was used to present the stimuli
and collect the judgments on a 19-inch computer screen placed 60 cm away from the
subjects. Every participant viewed 16 videos in a random order—8 point-light videos
and 8 regular videos—including all actors in both nonverbal behavior conditions.
After every video, participants rated the player on several computer-generated
11-point digital semantic differential scales (Greenlees et al., 2005a, 2005b, 2008).
To give their ratings, participants had to move a mouse cursor from the middle of
Figure 1 — Single frames from the point-light and video stimuli showing dominant (left
panel) and submissive (right panel) body language.
68 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
the scale toward either end of the scale and provide their rating by clicking the left
mouse button. The E-prime software transformed the ratings into a value (with 3
decimals) between 0 reecting the left end of the scale and 1 reecting the right
end of the scale. The used scales were continuous, ranging from 0.000 to 1.000
and were visually presented as 11 points to assist participants in providing a clear
indication of their ratings. All of the following measures were computerized ver-
sions of the measures used by Greenlees et al. (2008) and were distributed in the
order outlined below.
Perception of Target Player. The rst seven measures provided data on the
perceived impressions toward the target penalty taker. The dimensions were (i) not
assertive – assertive; (ii) noncompetitive – competitive; (iii) novice – experienced;
(iv) uncondent – condent; (v) on edge – composed; (vi) not focused – focused;
and (vii) tense – relaxed. Scores for each of the seven perception of target scales
were summed to give a measure of the impression formed for the target player
(from 0 to 7), with low scores indicating less-positive impressions.
Power of Penalty. Participants rated their expectancy of the power of the penalty
kick along the dimensions very weak – very powerful, with low scores reecting
Accuracy of Penalty. Participants rated their expectancy of the accuracy of the
penalty kick along the dimensions very inaccurate – very accurate, with low scores
reecting inaccurate penalties.
Expectancy of Success. The last ve items assessed how condent participants
were that they would save at least 1 out of 5, 2 out of 5, 3 out of 5, 4 out of ve,
and 5 out of 5 penalties along the dimensions very sure – not at all sure. A single
expectancy of success score was computed from the ve items: every single score
was multiplied by the amount of saves they expected in the question and added
together at the end. This was done so that a higher certainty of ve saves would
have a greater weight than one save, thus reecting the outcome expectations of
the participants. The scores potentially ranged from 0 to 15.
Participants were instructed that they had to rate soccer penalty takers based solely
on the pre-performance penalty footage that was presented to them in the video
or point-light displays. Before commencing the experiment, participants lled out
a questionnaire gathering demographic data. Every participant was tested indi-
vidually on a standard 17-inch notebook. Participants rst performed two practice
trials—one video and one point-light video—to familiarize themselves with the
procedure before viewing the 16 experimental clips, which were presented in
random order. After completing the experiment, participants were informed about
the purpose of the study.
We calculated a mixed-design MANOVA with repeated measures on the within-
subject independent variable body language (dominant vs. submissive) and presen-
tation mode (point-light vs. video) and the between-subject independent variable
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 69
jersey color (red vs. white) in which all dependent variables were treated as a
general index of the overall impression formed of the target player. We followed
up the MANOVA with a series of equivalent univariate ANOVAs to examine the
effect on the single dependent variables of player perception, outcome expectation,
perceived penalty taking accuracy and power (cf. Greenlees et al., 2008). Where
the assumption of sphericity was violated, the p-values were computed using the
conservative Greenhouse–Geisser method with corrected degrees of freedom.
The Cronbach alpha coefcient for the person perception scale was good (α = .89).
The descriptive statistics of Experiment 1 are presented in Table 1. The 2 (dominant
vs. submissive body language) × 2 (point-light vs. video) × 2 (red vs. white jersey
color) MANOVA using Pillai’s trace revealed a signicant main effect of body
language on overall impression formation, V = .605, F(4, 17) = 6.509, p = .002,
η2p = .605, power = .99. This result demonstrates that irrespective of presentation
mode or jersey color, the display of a dominant body language appears to trigger a
positive athlete schema and results in an overall positive impression of the penalty
taker. The MANOVA revealed no other signicant main effects: color, V = .146,
F(4, 17) = 0.728, p = .585, η2p = .146, power = .23; presentation mode, V = .305,
F(4, 17) = 1.866, p = .163, η2p = .305, power = .56; or interactions.
A follow-up ANOVA on perception of the target player revealed a main effect
of body language, F(1, 20) = 21.253, p = .0001, η2p = .515, power = .99, indicating
that, irrespective of the presentation mode, goalkeepers had a more positive impres-
sion of players demonstrating a dominant body language compared with players
showing a submissive body language. No other main effects, jersey color, F(1, 20)
= 1.702, p = .207, η2p = .078, power = .25; presentation mode, F(1, 20) = .595, p
= .449, η2p = .029, power = .12); or interactions were evident. Thus, in contrast to
the previous ndings of Greenlees et al. (2008), but in support of the suggestion of
cultural differences, the present results indicated that penalty takers dressed in red
soccer clothing were not perceived more positively than players dressed in white
or indeed, the neutral point-light condition, by experienced goalkeepers.
The follow-up ANOVA on condence in saving penalties against the target
player again showed a main effect for body language, F(1, 20) = 8.070, p = .01,
η2p = .287, power = .79, indicating that goalkeepers had greater condence in
the likelihood of saving penalties against the target player if he demonstrated a
submissive body language. Penalty taker submissive body language seems to be
interpreted by the goalkeepers as a sign of insecurity and weakness, which leads
the goalkeepers to feeling more condent in the likelihood of saving penalties. The
main effect of presentation mode was signicant, F(1, 20) = 5.058, p = .036, η2p =
.202, power = .59, indicating higher scores for the point-light condition. It is pos-
sible that the dynamic information revealed in the point-light condition provides
a clearer expression of the body language of the penalty takers that is otherwise
weakened by the contextual (e.g., clothing) effects in the respective video displays.
Again, no differences were evident between the different jersey colors, F(1, 20) =
0.920, p = .349, η2p = .044, power = .16.
A further follow-up ANOVA on the dependent variable expected penalty
accuracy did not reveal any main effects, jersey color, F(1, 20) = 2.299, p = .145,
Table 1 Goalkeepers’ Mean Ratings of Soccer Penalty Takers as a Function of Viewing Condition, Body
Language, and Jersey Color
Dominant Body Language Submissive Body Language Dominant
Body LanguageRed White Red White
Perception of Target 4.11 .89 4.27 .84 3.42 .54 3.60 .70 4.48 .58 3.46 1.06
Expectancy of Success 6.91 2.48 7.99 1.63 7.94 3.01 8.10 1.50 7.66 2.6 9.01 2.1
Penalty Accuracy .53 .21 .58 .21 .47 .11 .49 .08 .61 .17 .54 .19
Penalty Power .67 .15 .67 .14 .59 .13 .60 .16 .63 .15 .58 .20
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 71
η2p = .103, power = .31; presentation mode, F(1, 20) = 2.432, p = .135, η2p = .108,
power = .33; or interactions. This time, the effect of body language only approached
signicance, F(1, 20) = 3.187, p = .089, η2p = .137, power = .41. The ANOVA on
expected shot power did reveal a main effect of body language, F(1, 20) = 4.952, p
= .038, η2p = .198, power = .58, indicating that goalkeepers expected more powerful
shots from players demonstrating a dominant body language. No other main effects,
jersey color, F(1, 20) = 0.027, p = .87 0, η2p = .001, power = .17; presentation mode,
F(1, 20) = 1.019, p = .325, η2p = .048, power = .33; or interactions were evident.
To corroborate the body language ndings and the somewhat surprising results
concerning jersey color among goalkeepers, we ran the same experiment with
a control group of German outeld soccer players with no previous competitive
penalty-saving experience. The domain specic experience of goalkeepers may
have biased or preceded the impression formation results revealed in our analysis
(e.g., see Cañal-Bruland & Schmidt, 2009). However, it is also plausible that the
expectancies of success of outeld players in penalty shootout scenarios are under-
pinned by the same mediating mechanisms as goalkeepers. That is, the condence
of success of penalty takers may be decreased or buoyed relative to the observation
of opposing players revealing demonstrative signs of dominant or submissive body
language (Moll et al., 2010). Except for the participants (male outeld players [n
= 30; M = 23.8; SD = 2.4]; amateur to semiprofessional level in Germany) and the
expectancy of success measure (“how sure are you that the target player will score
1 out of 5, 2 out of 5, 3 out of 5, 4 out of ve, and 5 out of 5 penalties”), everything
was exactly the same as in the goalkeeper study.
The pattern of results was almost identical (Table 2) to those obtained with
goalkeepers, and a mixed MANOVA with the additional between-group indepen-
dent variable (goalkeepers/players) did not reveal any between-group main effects
or interactions (all p > .8). The 2 (dominant vs. submissive body language) × 2
(point-light vs. video) × 2 (red vs. white jersey color) MANOVA using Pillai’s
trace revealed only a signicant main effect of body language on overall impres-
sion formation, V = .414, F(4, 25) = 4.421, p = .008, η2p = .414, power = .96. The
follow-up ANOVAs again revealed only signicant main effects for body language
on the perception of target player scales, F(1, 28) = 7.695, p = .01, η2p = .216,
power = .78; on the outcome expectation scales, F(1, 28) = 15.924, p = .0001, η2p
= .363, power = .98; on the expected penalty-taking accuracy, F(1, 28) = 6.526,
p = .016, η2p = .189, power =.70; and on expected shot power, F(1, 29) = 6.331,
p = .018, η2p = .184, power = .70. Thus, our results are supportive of the ndings
of Moll et al. (2010) that nonverbal behaviors of penalty takers have potentially
important effects on the performance of outeld players during penalty shootouts.
On the whole, the results obtained in Experiment 1 are supportive of the claim that
nonverbal behaviors are an important early cue in the soccer penalty situation, which
triggers particular person schemas and thus inuences the impression formation
process of soccer players. Furthermore, in contrast to previous ndings (Greenlees
Table 2 Player’s Mean Ratings of Soccer Penalty Takers as a Function of Viewing Condition, Body Language,
and Jersey Color
Dominant Body Language Submissive Body Language Dominant
Body LanguageRed White Red White
Perception of Target 3.70 .91 4.33 1.04 3.75 .54 3.42 1.21 4.28 .83 3.74 .87
Expectancy of Success 6.32 2.56 8.22 1.35 6.21 2.15 6.38 1.85 7.70 2.1 7.03 2.3
Penalty Accuracy .47 .22 .58 .20 .54 .16 .64 .12 .59 .15 .49 .19
Penalty Power .64 .14 .63 .16 .58 .14 .54 .16 .63 .11 .56 .20
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 73
et al., 2008) and other person perception studies (Feltman & Elliot, 2011), in the
present experiment, body language was the only factor inuencing impression
formation whereas the clothing color of the players did not impact on the impres-
sions of goalkeepers. Previously, Greenlees and colleagues (2008) have suggested
that their results may be explained by cultural and/or sport-specic associations
in contrast to innate factors (Hill & Barton, 2005). Thus, it seems feasible that the
English participants in the study of Greenlees et al. (2008) associated red with suc-
cessful soccer performance and white with poor penalty-kick performances by the
English National team (Jordet, 2009). Interestingly, such suggestion was indirectly
supported by the results in the present experiment, as clothing color did not have
any effect on impression formation with a subset of German participants. Most
notably, the playing strip of the German National team is white and the German
team has an unprecedented record of success in penalty shootouts (Jordet, 2009).
However, if cultural effects do have an overriding inuence on impression forma-
tion, then perhaps one would have expected us to observe a signicant effect for
white clothing in the present experiment. Clearly, future research is warranted in
this area to gain further understanding on the relationship between cultural differ-
ences and person perception in sport contexts. Indeed, such research has important
implications if one also factors in the role that cultural stereotypes might play in
impression formation (e.g., Stone, Perry, & Darley, 1997).
Finally, the comparison between the point-light and the video condition dem-
onstrated that nonverbal behaviors reecting dominance and submissiveness are
judged in a similar manner despite the absence of contextual clothing and gaze.
In all three displays, the information that participants appeared to base their judg-
ments on was the movement kinematics of the actors. This nding is in line with
ecological accounts of person perception that have argued that accurate perceptual
judgments are predicated on the dynamics of motion specied within the movement
kinematics of another person (Runeson & Frykholm, 1983; for a review, see Marsh
et al., 2006). Moreover, previous studies have also demonstrated that observers have
no trouble judging the emotional implications of behaviors shown in point-light
displays (Clarke et al., 2005).
In sum, the results show that dominant and submissive nonverbal behaviors
inuence impression formation and outcome expectation of soccer players—even
in the absence of gaze and color cues—as they appear to trigger associated person
schemas as hypothesized. In Experiment 2, we attempted to test this assumption
more directly by measuring the automatic associations between submissive and
dominant nonverbal behaviors and attributes characterizing either a “bad soccer
player” or a “good soccer player.” In line with the argumentation of Greenlees (2007)
that nonverbal behavior has the potential to implicitly activate a corresponding
athlete schema, we hypothesized that dominant nonverbal behavior would auto-
matically trigger a positive athlete schema whereas submissive nonverbal behavior
would automatically trigger a negative athlete schema.
Experiment 2: Implicit Association Test
A limitation to the design used in Experiment 1 and the studies conducted by
Greenlees and colleagues (e.g., 2008) is the dependency of different ratings, given
one after the other, for one and the same presentation. That is, the results do not
74 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
provide sufcient evidence for the assumption that certain nonverbal behaviors
trigger a certain athlete schema and may instead demonstrate a person’s need
to avoid cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Specically, it would be odd if
participants formed a negative impression of a target player and then subsequently
rated the player as being more likely to score a penalty. Therefore, to address this
limitation and to test whether the pattern of results found in Experiment 1 can be
explained further within the schema/category–driven theory of impression formation
(Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Kunda, 1999), we used the IAT (Greenwald et al., 1998).
In Experiment 2, we aimed to measure the implicit association between nonverbal
behaviors signaling dominance or submissiveness and attributes associated with a
“good” or “bad” soccer player.
The IAT rests on the premise that it should be easier to make the same behav-
ioral response (a key press) to concepts that are strongly associated to one another
compared with concepts that are only weakly, or not associated (Greenwald et al.,
1998). The simple idea of the IAT is that concepts that are associated by some
feature should be easier to put together than concepts that are not associated and
has therefore recently been shown to be a useful tool for assessing constructs such
as implicit stereotypes or person schemas (e.g., Greenwald, Pickrell, & Farnham,
2002; Rudman & Ashmore, 2007). Following initial research in the eld of sport that
has successfully used the IAT to measure the implicit component of an exerciser’s
self-schema (Banting et al., 2009), we aimed to further the application of the IAT
by testing whether certain nonverbal behaviors implicitly trigger particular athlete
schemas. If nonverbal behavior signaling dominance is automatically associated
with a positive athlete schema and nonverbal behavior signaling submissiveness
with a negative athlete schema as we argue above, then this should be measurable
with the IAT. Specically, it should be easier to categorize pictures displaying
dominant nonverbal behavior and attributes associated with a “good soccer player”
with one key press and pictures displaying submissive nonverbal behavior and
attributes associated with a “bad soccer player” with another key. On the other
hand, it should be harder to categorize dominant nonverbal behavior and “bad
soccer player” with one key and submissive nonverbal behavior and “good soccer
player” with another key.
Male soccer players (n = 32; M = 27.4; SD = 18.1), who had been playing for an
average of 6 years at an amateur level in Germany, took part in the study. Neither
age- nor expertise-related differences were evident within the group. Informed
consent was obtained from every participant before commencing the experiment.
The study was carried out in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975.
Materials and Stimuli
Figure 2 gives an illustration of the IAT used in Experiment 2. To investigate whether
a dominant body language is implicitly associated with a schema of a “good soccer
player,” we paired the target concept of body language with an attribute dimension
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 75
of good vs. bad soccer players, as is standard procedure when using the IAT. For
the initial target concept discrimination (Figure 2, second column), we created
six different images from the point-light videos used in Experiment 1 showing
a dominant body language and six images showing a submissive body language.
All 12 images clearly depicted either a dominant or a submissive body language
as veried by two independent raters. For the associated attribute discrimination,
two independent soccer experts (both in possession of the second highest UEFA
coaching license) rated a list of adjectives as being associated with a good soccer
player or with a bad soccer player. Following the expert ratings, we produced a list
of 12 attributes, of which 6 were associated with a good soccer player and 6 with
a bad soccer player (see third column of the last row in Figure 2).
All participants were seated individually in front of a standard 19-inch desktop
computer and provided all their responses via a computer keyboard. Participants
were informed that the experiment involved a simple reaction time test and were
blind to the actual purpose of the experiment. The procedure used was identical
to that of Greenwald et al. (1998, see also Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003 for
further detail on the IAT procedure) and is illustrated in Figure 2. The IAT con-
sisted of ve blocks of trials with the rst experimental block (Block 3) combining
the stimuli from the concept category—for example, positive image of penalty
taker—with the attribute category—for example, the attribute “quick”—(Figure
2, 3rd column), whereas the second experimental block (Block 5) reversed this
combination (Figure 2, 5th column). Blocks 1, 2, and 4 were practice blocks in
which participants could learn the associations between the different stimuli and the
respective keys. Depending on the experimental condition, the rst experimental
block was either congruent concerning our hypothesis (i.e., dominant nonverbal
behavior paired with good player attributes, and submissive paired with bad player
attributes) and the second experimental trial incongruent (i.e., dominant nonverbal
behavior paired with bad player attributes, and submissive paired with good player
attributes), whereas in the other experimental condition we switched this order to
exclude potential order effects. In addition, the order of Blocks 2 and 4 were changed
according to the experimental condition to match the attribute categorization of the
subsequent experimental Blocks 3 and 5. If the target categories of body language
are differentially associated with the attribute dimension (good vs. bad player)
as hypothesized, then participants will respond faster for the congruent block in
comparison with the incongruent block.
Results and Discussion
Figure 3 displays the mean latencies between the congruent block of the IAT (M =
893.38; SD = 187.37) and the incongruent block (M = 1505.03; SD = 622.92). A
mixed design ANOVA on the reaction times of participants with repeated measures
on the within-subject factor congruency (congruent: dominant nonverbal behavior
and positive player attributes and submissive and bad player attributes vs. incongru-
ent: dominant nonverbal behavior and negative player attributes and submissive
nonverbal behavior and positive player attributes) and the between-subject factor
Figure 2 — Schematic description and illustration of the implicit association test (IAT with the sequence order congruent before incongruent) used in
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 77
sequence order (congruent before incongruent vs. incongruent before congruent)
revealed only a signicant main effect for congruency, F(1, 30) = 30.924, p = .0001,
η2p = .50 8, powe r = . 99. Both the mai n effec t fo r se quen ce o rde r (p = . 728 , η2p = .004,
power = .20) and the interaction between congruency and sequence order (p = .130,
η2p = .075, power = .60) failed to reach signicance. That is, reaction times did not
signicantly differ irrespective of whether incongruent presentation manipulations
preceded congruent presentation manipulations or vice versa. Follow-up depen-
dent t tests revealed large effect sizes for both the congruent-before-incongruent
condition, t(16) = –4.912, p = .0001, two-tailed, d =1.33, power = .99, and the
incongruent-before-congruent condition, t(14) = –3.704, p = .002, two-tailed, d
=1.40, power = .97. An additional ANOVA on reaction times with repeated measures
on the within-subject factors congruency (congruent vs . incongruent) and stimulus
material (body language image vs. player attributes) revealed only a main effect for
congruency, F(1, 31) = 28.653, p = .0001, η2p = .480, power = .99, indicating that
the IAT effect was evident for both player attributes (congruent: M = 872.37, SD
= 142.66 vs. incongruent: M = 1537.97, SD = 760.02) and body language images
(congruent: M = 91 4.3 9, SD = 310 .79 vs. incongruent: M = 1472 .08 , SD = 6 46. 47) .
The IAT procedure used in Experiment 2 demonstrates a strong automatic
association between body language and soccer skill. For example, participants
responded signicantly faster when pairing attributes associated with good soccer
players with pictures showing a dominant body language (congruent) in comparison
with pairing positive attributes with pictures showing a submissive body language
(incongruent). This nding supports the argument of Greenlees (2007), who sug-
gested that a dominant body language is automatically associated with a good
soccer player schema. To our knowledge, this was the rst study to provide direct
evidence for this assumption. Thus, the result from Experiment 2 is supportive of
social schema theory by showing that certain nonverbal behaviors are automatically
associated with further information, which is linked to certain athlete schemas.
The general pattern of results found across the experiments is in line with person
schema accounts of nonverbal behaviors, indicating that dominant and submissive
facets of behavior are automatically associated with certain athlete schemas and
outcomes. In Experiment 1, results indicated that penalty takers who displayed a
dominant body language were perceived more positively and were expected to per-
form better than penalty takers showing a submissive body language by both soccer
goalkeepers and players. This effect was evident both for video and point-light
displays of the soccer penalty situation, indicating that these nonverbal behaviors
are potentially used to signal dominance (e.g., condence) or submissiveness (e.g.,
anxiety) in sport. In this respect, the actual gaze behavior of penalty takers may
not be as important in forming impressions as initially reported by Greenlees and
colleagues (2008). Rather, the biological motion information that depicts looking
behavior may be sufcient for guiding our perception of others, as only this infor-
mation was present in the point-light condition. A large body of research motivated
from an ecological perspective has highlighted the accuracy of human perception
based on the biological motion information contained within point-light displays
(Marsh et al., 2006). Even though the ecological approach has been inuential in
Figure 3 — Mean latency results from Sequences 3 and 5 of Experiment 2. Error bars represent standard errors.
Nonverbal Behavior in Soccer 79
improving understanding in the sports visual anticipation literature (e.g., van der
Kamp, Rivas, van Doorn, & Savelsbergh, 2008), to date, only a small number of
researchers have studied person perception in sport from an ecological perspective
(e.g., Weast, Shockley, & Riley, 2011). Thus, as an alternative to schema accounts
of person perception, a fruitful avenue for future research may be to examine person
perception from an ecological perspective.
In Experiment 2, we directly tested the assumption that nonverbal behavior has
the potential of implicitly triggering an athlete schema (Greenlees, 2007). The results
of the IAT demonstrated that the depicted dominant body language is implicitly
associated with a positive soccer player schema, whereas submissive body language
is implicitly associated with a negative soccer player schema. This result is in line
with previous ndings in social psychology demonstrating generalization effects
leaping from momentary observations to enduring dispositions and expectations
(Harker & Keltner, 2001; Knutson, 1996; Montepare & Dobish, 2003). In combina-
tion with Experiment 1, the results are supportive of schema-driven accounts of social
cognition (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Nevertheless, Freeman and Ambady (2011) have
argued that neither solely schema/category-driven nor solely data-driven impression
formation perspectives are sufcient in explaining person perception in everyday
contexts. Instead, they propose that person perception should also be regarded as
a constant interaction among high-level categories, stereotypes, and the low-level
processing of facial and bodily cues. While the ndings from the current study may
be interpreted as providing support for person schema approaches (e.g., Greenlees,
2007), much work is needed to advance current theoretical and empirical under-
standing. For example, it has recently been questioned whether conned laboratory
experiments that use questionnaire measures adequately capture the behaviors that
many social psychology empiricists are aiming to understand (Baumeister, Vohs, &
Funder, 2007). Thus, in line with advances made in other areas of sport psychology
research (e.g., Dicks, Button & Davids, 2010), attempts should be made to study
behavior using actual sport settings to gain further understanding on the role that
nonverbal behaviors have on impression formation and sport performance.
In Experiment 1, results indicated that, in contrast to previous work, we found
no support for the assumption that clothing color inuences person perception in
sport (Feltman & Elliot, 2011; Greenlees et al., 2008). In contrast to Greenlees et
al. (2008), we manipulated jersey color between subjects, which might account
for the nonsignicant effect of jersey color. Therefore, red might only lead to
more positive impressions when it can be directly compared with other colors
as in a within-subject design. However, an interesting nding that supported an
earlier suggestion of Greenlees and colleagues is that cultural and/or sport-specic
associations might explain the different results between the respective studies.
Specically, the German participants might have associated the white uniforms in
the videos with the successful penalty taking performance of the German national
team (Jordet, 2009). Whereas such cultural interpretation is speculative in regards
to the present analysis, it does appear to be a particularly promising research avenue
for the future, not least because of the literature that has demonstrated the effects
of cultural background on various facets of person perception, including facial
judgments (Anzures, Ge, Wang, Itakura, & Lee, 2010).
As we did not assess actual sporting performance, the implications on sporting
performance remain speculative. Moll et al. (2010) have provided initial evidence
80 Furley, Dicks, and Memmert
that demonstrates that certain post-performance nonverbal behaviors of penalty
takers actually affect the performance of goalkeepers, and in consideration of
previous work, it seems plausible that the pattern of results obtained here might
inuence an athlete’s performance in sport. For example, research has shown
that activated schemas can induce immediate affective reactions, such as anxiety,
irritation, and concern (Dijker, 1987). Greenlees (2007) argued that classifying an
opponent based on their nonverbal behavior might lead to either positive or negative
emotions, which, in turn, have the potential to inuence performance. Moreover,
the observation of specic nonverbal behaviors such as dominance or submissive-
ness may in turn inuence a soccer goalkeeper’s own perceived competence in
successfully competing against the penalty taker. Evidence from investigations
on self-efcacy theory (see Bandura, 2001 for a recent review) demonstrates that
expectancy of success beliefs can potentially inuence performance in sport set-
tings (Feltz, Short, & Sullivan, 2008).
In summary, this article adds to the growing body of literature that demonstrates
the importance of studying nonverbal behavior in sport situations, demonstrating that
nonverbal behaviors are readily interpreted, leading to the attribution of dispositional
judgments and outcome expectations. Taken together, these results have important
practical implications for athletes, coaches, and applied practitioners. Coaches and
practitioners should assist athletes in the development of positive self-presentation
techniques, especially in situations of high stress or when the opponent seems to
have the momentum on their side to potentially induce a desired impression of
oneself to an opposing player.
Special thanks go to Bente Wegner and Thomas Müller for helping with the data collection in
this study. The contributions from the second author were made while he was supported by a
grant (number 446-10-128) from the NWO Netherlands Organisation for Scientic Research.
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Revision accepted: May 16, 2011
Manuscript submitted: September 24, 2011