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Managing vulnerabilities in practitioner decision-making within sport psychology services: responding to the evidence base

Smith, Dave ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3711-4381 and Keegan, Richard (2022) Managing vulnerabilities in practitioner decision-making within sport psychology services: responding to the evidence base. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. ISSN 1041-3200

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Abstract

This position paper examines decision-making in sport psychology practitioners from a dual processing perspective. Based on the work of Kahneman and Tversky, we draw upon cognitive and social psychology research to explore key decision-making vulnerabilities in the context of the sport psychology practitioner. We examine the influence of classic heuristics and biases, exploring issues such as: an exclusive focus on the inside view; tunnel vision; focusing on disposition as opposed to situation; the sport environment as a complex adaptive system; formulas for success; phase transitions; and conflating skill and luck. When considering how to combat such decision-making vulnerabilities, we explore a ‘counterintuitive’ approach developed by Mauboussin to mitigating these, and explain how sport psychology practitioners can apply such strategies. We suggest counterweight strategies, including: raising awareness of how biases and heuristics may be affecting our decision-making; diversifying our perspectives; proactively seeking critical feedback from diverse sources; creating useful checklists; and performing ‘pre-mortems’. Likewise, we explore strategies for future research on decision-making in sport psychology practitioners.  Lay summary: This position paper draws on research from social, cognitive and sport psychology to explore key decision-making vulnerabilities in the context of the sport psychology practitioner. We provide evidence-based suggestions to mitigate these vulnerabilities, and strategies for how practitioners can apply these ideas in their practice.Implications for Practice A dual-processing approach has considerable potential for highlighting, and mitigating against, key decision-making vulnerabilities in sport psychology practitioners The systematic use of evidence-based strategies could greatly enhance decision-making quality in practitioners.

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