Incentives guide human behavior by altering the level of external motivation. We apply the idea of loss aversion from prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) to the point reward systems in soccer and investigate the controversial impact of the three-point rule on reducing the fraction of draws in this sport. Making use of the Poisson nature of goal scoring, we compared empirical results with theoretically deduced draw ratios from 24 countries encompassing 20 seasons each (N = 118.148 matches). The rule change yielded a slight reduction in the ratio of draws, but despite adverse incentives, still 18% more matches ended drawn than expected, t(23) = 11.04, p < .001, d = 2.25, consistent with prospect theory assertions. Alternative point systems that manipulated incentives for losses yielded reductions at or below statistical expectation. This provides support for the deduced concept of how arbitrary aims, such as the reduction of draws in the world’s soccer leagues, could be more effectively accomplished than currently attempted.
Dennis Riedl is with the Institute of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Münster, Münster, Germany. Andreas Heuer is with the Institute of Theoretical Physical Chemistry, University of Münster, Münster, Germany. Bernd Strauss is with the Institute of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.