Whatever Happened to Theory Testing In Sport Psychology?

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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Daniel M. LandersArizona State University

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It is maintained that a balance among theory testing, applied research, and dissemination, though an ideal goal for sport psychology, is not being achieved because theory testing has not kept pace. To explain the rise and decline of theory testing in sport psychology a historical perspective was used. Whereas sport psychology from 1950-1965 was characterized by empiricism, from 1966-1976 it was characterized by a social analysis approach used to test single theories with novel tasks in a laboratory setting. In contrast to the earlier approaches, it is recommended that contemporary sport psychologists (a) use more meta-analyses to recheck the conclusions of past reviews, (b) become less reliant on a single research method or setting, (c) avoid premature commitments to a theory, and (d) become less enamored with statistically based null hypothesis testing. A number of suggestions are offered and examples provided to encourage, where appropriate, the use of “strong inference,” a more eclectic employment of research methods and settings as well as statistical techniques to determine the strength of observed relationships.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Daniel M. Landers, Department of Health and Physical Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287.

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