Many fouls committed in football (called soccer in some countries) are ambiguous, and there is no objective way of determining who is the “true” perpetrator or the “true” victim. Consequently, fans as well as referees often rely on a variety of decision cues when judging such foul situations. Based on embodiment research, which links perceptions of height to concepts of strength, power, and aggression, we argue that height is going to be one of the decision cues used. As a result, people are more likely to attribute a foul in an ambiguous tackle situation to the taller of two players. We find consistent support for our hypothesis, not only in field data spanning the last seven UEFA Champions League and German Bundesliga seasons, as well as the last three FIFA World Cups, but also in two experimental studies. The resulting dilemma for refereeing in practice is discussed.

Additional Metadata
Keywords decision cue, decision making, dominance, information processing, power, refereeing
JEL Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior (jel L2), Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting (jel M), Business Administration: General (jel M10), Personnel Management (jel M12)
Publisher Erasmus Research Institute of Management
Sponsor Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).
Persistent URL
Series ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Journal ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management
van Quaquebeke, N, & Giessner, S.R. (2010). How Embodied Cognitions Affect Judgments: Height-Related Attribution Bias in Football Foul Calls (No. ERS-2010-006-ORG). ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from