A new study found the high-pitched female voice of sport psychologists are rated more positively then male voices, according to a report in Science Daily.
Rebecca Mitchell of Leeds Metropolitan University presented a study to the British Psychological Society’s annual conference on Friday. The event was hosted by the International Convention Center, Birmingham, England.
She studied 117 individuals who participated in sports consisting of 59 women and 58 men between the ages of 18-35.
The participants listened to four different voices: a high-pitch male voice, low-pitch male voice, a high-pitch female voice and a low-pitch female voice.
The volunteers were asked to “listen to all four and then 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,” she said in the report.
The two female voices were rated highest by respondents in the four areas examined by the researcher.
While the low-pitched voice was deemed to have more sports knowledge, the female voice was perceived more positively in terms of personality.
Mitchell concluded about her discoveries, “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."
This research comes on the heels of years of studies on the specifics of effective sports psychology including gender characteristics and qualities.
How effective is psychology in sport?
Gaining trust, professionalism, and flexibility are at the forefront of effective sports psychology interventions, all of which are associated closely with females.
In 2010, the “Journal of Language and Social Psychology” published findings by Marilyn Boltz professor of psychology at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. She explored gender, speech patterns and deception. “We found that people perceive women to lie less than men…,” she said.
Furthermore, trustworthiness depends not just on the words you use, but on who you are, i.e. credibility, and how you say them. Women appear to have an advantage over men in this category as Mitchell’s research has shown.
As far back as 1987, researchers Orlick and Partington noted that the best sports psychologists had a particular set of personal qualities, experiences and effective interpersonal skills. Knowledge of a particular sport played an important part as well.
Other researchers in the last ten years referred to personal qualities such as empathy and trustworthiness together with spontaneity and authenticity for successful counseling in sports psychology.
A good sports psychologist is also described as having humility, courage, good judgment and integrity to ensure doing the right thing, which equates to good judgment.
The practitioners in a study by Fifer, Henschen, Gould and Ravizza (2008) state that initially, the “sport psychologist must pass the ‘good guy or gal’ test, whereby coaches and athletes will be quick to judge whether they are down to earth and respectful.”
The competitive environment endemic in professional sports can be volatile and challenging. It’s a culture creating elite sports’ figures who are idolized and expected to perform at a high level. Investments in counseling for athletes by professional athletic organizations can enhance performance, so finding the best psychologist for a particular athlete is a worthy investment.
Finally, the sports psychologist needs to be equal to the task and possess qualities such as resilience, commitment, presence, authenticity and empathy. Since the female voice is rated more “positively” than the male voice in counseling, the assumption is they possess the qualities most coveted by athletes. Trustworthiness and empathy are two of the main characteristics optimally communicated when delivered by a female voice.