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May 09, 2014 11:54 AM EDT

Male. Female Athletes Respond Better To Women Psychologists

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Male and female athletes respond better to women psychologists, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom found that when listening to the voices of sports psychologists, athletes rate women psychologists more positively than male ones.

"These findings challenge the historically prevalent view that male psychologists are more successful and show that gender equality has made progress in sport," Rebecca Mitchell, leader of the study, said in a statement. "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."

For the study, researchers asked 117 participants (59 women, 58 men -- most aged between 18 and 35) who regularly took part in sports 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.

Researchers found 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.

"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," Mitchell said. "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."

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