Science, Knowledge, and Sport Psychology

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 University of Illinois
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Two sport psychologies have emerged—academic sport psychology and practicing sport psychology—which presently are on diverging courses because of an unjustified belief in orthodox science as the primary source of knowledge. To support this contention, the basic assumptions of orthodox science are examined, with the doctrine of objectivity singled out as fallacious and especially harmful in that it attempts to remove the person from the process of knowing. Polanyi’s (1958) heuristic philosophy of knowledge, which places humans in the center of the process of knowing, is recommended as an alternative approach for the study of human behavior. This alternative approach reveals the inadequacy of the laboratory experiment which has been invented primarily to pursue the doctrine of objectivity. Next, the Degrees of Knowledge theory is proposed as an alternative way to view the reliability of knowledge. This view, within the heuristic paradigm, places great significance on experiential knowledge. Recommendations for an improved science of human behavior emphasizes the idiographic approach, introspective methods, and field studies. Also, recommendations are made for a more progressive approach to applied research, and the significance of knowledge synthesis from applied research. The two sport psychologies will converge when orthodox science and the doctrine of objectivity are replaced with the heuristic paradigm and its emphasis on experiential knowledge.

Rainer Martens is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physical Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

This paper was presented at the first annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology at Jekyll Island, Georgia, in October 1986.

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