Toward Culturally Competent Research and Practice in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Tatiana Ryba, Aarhus University, Denmark

Theme: Social and cultural diversity

Program ID: SYM-26

Presentation: October 5, 2013 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Room: Jasperwood


The multicultural landscape of contemporary sport, with increasing numbers of immigrant and transnational athletes, exercisers, coaches, and sport psychology professionals, sets a challenge to rethink sport and exercise psychology research and practice through a culturally reflexive lens. As articulated in the recent ISSP Position Stand, a shift to culturally competent sport and exercise psychology implies: (a) recognizing hidden ethnocentric philosophical assumptions permeating much of the current theory, research and practice, (b) transitioning to professional ethics in which difference is seen as not inherent and fixed but as relational and fluid, and (c) focusing on meaning (instead of cause) as reflected in theoretical and methodological assumptions of cross-cultural and cultural research, and cultural praxis. Cultural competence starts with considering athletes, exercisers, coaches and sport psychology professionals as cultural beings with their idiosyncratic, but always contextually contained experiences. Many sport psychology professionals are intuitive or naive cultural or cross-cultural researchers lacking awareness of how all aspects of their projects are culturally infused. A culturally competent research project can be designed as a cross-cultural psychology study, a cultural psychology study, and/or cultural praxis. When an etic perspective on culture (i.e., culture as external entity or independent variable) is used, the project can be classified as a cross-cultural even if it does not include a comparison of participants from different cultures. When an emic perspective on culture (i.e., of a cultural insider inseparable from the context) is employed, the project aligns more closely with cultural psychology. Finally, a project that blends theory/research, practice, and lived culture can be classified as cultural praxis project. Therefore, researchers and practitioners are recommended to position their projects in relevant contexts, philosophical, methodological, and applied landscapes, as well as to reflect on how their own cultural background trickles into their research and practice.

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