To do or not to do?

March 3, 2008 BY danariely

The NYT just reported a paper by a few of my friends about soccer. The basic analysis is that during penalty kicks, goalies should stay in the middle more often than they currently do. The question, of course, is why do they so often jump to one side or the other, when it might be better to stay in the middle.

There might be many reasons for this but one thing that I am curious about is whether one reason is that not doing anything just seems wrong to the goalies. Imagine for example a highly paid stock broker that is trading on a day where there is not much news — would that broker feel the need to trade a lot just to justify his salary to himself and maybe to others? Wold he feel guilty just sitting and doing nothing (even when this is the right thing to do) and as a consequence over-trade?

I am not sure if the “idle hands” intuition is correct, but it does sound like an idea that deserves an experiment. Maybe an experiment where we pay some subjects a small amount of money for trading and others get much more money, and we see if the amount that they get changes their need to trade — even when there is no real reason to trade . . . Anyone want to predict the results?