In a new study, both male and female athletes rated the voices of female sports psychologists more positively than male voices. The research was recently presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference.
“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,” said Rebecca Mitchell of Leeds Metropolitan University.
“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.”
For the study, Mitchell recruited 59 female athletes and 58 male athletes, mostly between the ages of 18 and 35. The participants were asked to listen to four different voices: a high-pitched male voice, a low-pitched male voice, a high-pitched female voice, and a low-pitched female voice.
After the participants listened to all four voices, they were asked to rate each speaker on his or her sports knowledge, personality traits, the likelihood of the participant seeking his or her services of a psychologist, and their effectiveness.
After the responses were analyzed, it was found that the participants rated the two female voices higher for all four factors.
The low-pitched female voice was rated as having the most sports knowledge, was perceived as being the most effective psychologist and was rated as the one whose services they 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 athletes rated the voices.
According to the American Psychological Society, sports psychologists help professional and amateur athletes overcome problems, enhance their performance, and achieve their goals. For example, an athlete might seek help from a sports psychologist if he or she becomes anxious or loses focus during a game. Other players might need help communicating with their teammates or controlling their tempers.
Source: British Psychological Society