Benefit of Women Psychologists in Sports

Both men and women athletes respond better to female psychologists than they do to male practitioners according to new research.

Leeds Metropolitan University’s Rebecca Mitchell carried out the study presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in 2014. During the study, 117 participants (59 women, 58 men — most aged between 18 and 35), who regularly took part in sport activities, were asked to listen to different voices. There were four voices: a high-pitch male voice, a low-pitch male voice, a high-pitch female voice and a low-pitch female voice. They were then told to rate each speaker on their sports knowledge, personality, effectiveness and how likely they would be to seek their services.

93 participants fully completed the study. All participants consistently rated the female voices higher than the male samples. The low-pitched female was highlighted as particularly effective and knowledgeable. The low-pitched voice perceived to have the most sports knowledge, to be the most effective psychologist and to be the one whose services participants were most likely to seek. The high-pitched female voice was seen most positively in terms of personality. There were no significant differences in the way that the male and female participants rated the voices.

According to Rebecca Mitchell,

“These findings challenge the historically prevalent view that male psychologists are more successful and show that gender equality has made progress in sport. It may be that the participants did not want to appear prejudiced against female psychologists, but that too is an indication of the progress that has been made. It is well known that the first impression a sport psychologist makes on an athlete is important, and the psychologist’s voice is certainly part of that. Psychologists may need to be more aware of how they sound if they are to foster a good relationship with an athlete from the start.”

It may be hard for some men to connect with another man even in the context of psychotherapy, but everyone has an ideal compassionate mother figure. Perhaps this research may be true when treating addicts also, at least in the beginning stages of recovery. Future studies will provide more intriguing data to consider.

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