When listening to the voices of a sport psychologist, both male and female athletes rate women psychologists more positively than male ones.

This is the finding of a study by Rebecca Mitchell from Leeds Metropolitan University presented as part of a poster presentation session at the British Psychological Society's annual conference today, Friday 9 May 2014, hosted at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

In her study, Rebecca Mitchell asked 117 participants (59 women, 58 men - most aged between 18 and 35) who regularly took part in sport 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.

The participants 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.

Reponses from the 93 participants who answered all the questions were analysed. This showed that the two females voices were rated higher for all four factors.

The low-pitched voice perceived to have the most sports knowledge, to be most effective psychologist and to be 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 participants rated the voices.

Rebecca Mitchell said: "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."