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The Prevalence of Pseudoscientific Ideas and Neuromyths Among Sports Coaches

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There has been an exponential growth in research examining the neurological basis of human cognition and learning. Little is known, however, about the extent to which sports coaches are aware of these advances. Consequently, the aim of the present study was to examine the prevalence of pseudoscientific ideas among British and Irish sports coaches. In total, 545 coaches from the United Kingdom and Ireland completed a measure that included questions about how evidence-based theories of the brain might enhance coaching and learning, how they were exposed to these different theories, and their awareness of neuromyths. Results revealed that the coaches believed that an enhanced understanding of the brain helped with their planning and delivery of sports sessions. Goal-setting was the most frequently used strategy. Interestingly, 41.6% of the coaches agreed with statements that promoted neuromyths. The most prevalent neuromyth was "individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, or kinesthetic)", which 62% of coaches believed. It is apparent that a relatively large percentage of coaches base aspects of their coaching practice on neuromyths and other pseudoscientific ideas. Strategies for addressing this situation are briefly discussed and include changing the content of coach education programs.
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ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 02 May 2018
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00641
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Edited by:
Laura Mandolesi,
Università degli Studi di Napoli
Parthenope, Italy
Reviewed by:
Simone Montuori,
Università degli Studi di Napoli
Parthenope, Italy
Laura Catherine Healy,
Nottingham Trent University,
United Kingdom
*Correspondence:
Adam R. Nicholls
a.nicholls@hull.ac.uk
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Movement Science and Sport
Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 07 November 2017
Accepted: 16 April 2018
Published: 02 May 2018
Citation:
Bailey RP, Madigan DJ, Cope E and
Nicholls AR (2018) The Prevalence of
Pseudoscientific Ideas and
Neuromyths Among Sports Coaches.
Front. Psychol. 9:641.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00641
The Prevalence of Pseudoscientific
Ideas and Neuromyths Among Sports
Coaches
Richard P. Bailey 1, Daniel J. Madigan 2, Ed Cope 3and Adam R. Nicholls 3
*
1International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, Berlin, Germany, 2School of Sport, York St. John University,
York, United Kingdom, 3School of Life Sciences, University of Hull, Kingston upon Hull, United Kingdom
There has been an exponential growth in research examining the neurological basis of
human cognition and learning. Little is known, however, about the extent to which sports
coaches are aware of these advances. Consequently, the aim of the present study was to
examine the prevalence of pseudoscientific ideas among British and Irish sports coaches.
In total, 545 coaches from the United Kingdom and Ireland completed a measure that
included questions about how evidence-based theories of the brain might enhance
coaching and learning, how they were exposed to these different theories, and their
awareness of neuromyths. Results revealed that the coaches believed that an enhanced
understanding of the brain helped with their planning and delivery of sports sessions.
Goal-setting was the most frequently used strategy. Interestingly, 41.6% of the coaches
agreed with statements that promoted neuromyths. The most prevalent neuromyth was
“individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style
(e.g., auditory, visual, or kinesthetic),” which 62% of coaches believed. It is apparent
that a relatively large percentage of coaches base aspects of their coaching practice on
neuromyths and other pseudoscientific ideas. Strategies for addressing this situation are
briefly discussed and include changing the content of coach education programs.
Keywords: learning styles, neuro-linguistic programming, guided discovery, brain Gym, Myers-Briggs Type
Inventory (MBTI), growth mindset, action types approach
INTRODUCTION
Recent years have seen the development of new research methods that have led to remarkable
progress in the understanding of the neurological basis of human cognition and learning. For
example, in 2011, fewer than 750 published scientific articles used findings from functional
magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the human brain. By the beginning of 2017, there were
32,500 fMRI studies reported in the PubMed database. fMRI and other imaging techniques enable
researchers to look inside the living brain, create images that locate regions of activity associated
with specific cognitive tasks, as well as reveal structural differences among individual brains
(Passingham and Rowe, 2015). Our understanding of the biochemistry of the brain, intra-cellular
recording, pharmacological interventions, and other technologies have developed at an accelerated
pace (Pokorski, 2015). Combined with psychological research, these studies have greatly improved
our understanding of the basic processes that underlie capabilities such as attention, memory, and
social interaction (Mareschal et al., 2014; Immordino-Yang, 2016). Understandably, these advances
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
have sparked a great deal of interest in the possibility of
improving applied fields such as education by using this
body of research (OECD, 2007; Serpati and Loughan, 2012).
Consequently, there has been an accelerated growth in studies
from neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and researchers in
associated fields that have sought to apply developing insights
about the brain, although many judge the current state and status
of this work to be in its infancy (Bruer, 2016; Meeusen et al.,
2017). At the same, a new industry has emerged that mimics
many of the superficial aspects of genuine neuroscience, such as
frequent use of the prefixes “neuro” and “psycho,” but that often
fail to adhere to the basic tenets of scientific practice, including
fair testing, peer review, and accommodating existing findings
(Pigliucci and Boudry, 2013; Bailey, 2017). To date, there has not
been any research into the infiltration of such pseudoscientific
ideas and practices in the field of sports coaching, although
anecdotal evidence suggests that they are ubiquitous.
Pseudoscientific Ideas in Professional and
Applied Contexts
Historically, the relationship between practical contexts and
empirical science has been an uncomfortable one (e.g., Carnine,
2000; Fulford, 2008). There is a broad consensus within many
practical contexts (e.g., coaching, sports psychology, education)
that these areas should be informed by evidence, but there
appears to be much less agreement about what this means in
practice. As in other areas of applied science, there exists a
perennial risk of the intrusion of dubious claims and practices
(Lilienfeld et al., 2012; Pennycook et al., 2015), which may limit
the effectiveness of applied practice and increase the risk of harm
to those who experience them. This risk is particularly evident
when those claims are couched in the language of neuroscience
(Weisberg et al., 2008). Labels like “bad science” (Goldacre,
2009), “voodoo science” (Park, 2002), and most commonly
“pseudoscience” (Lilienfeld et al., 2003) are typically used to
refer to ideas or practices that seek to resemble real science,
but which fail to follow its guiding principles. Many writers
have sought to demarcate “real” science from pseudoscience
in a wide range of fields, including clinical psychology (Tavris,
2014), social work (Thyer and Pignotti, 2016), and health care
(Singh and Ernst, 2008). Yet, despite concerns regarding the
proliferation of pseudoscientific ideas and practices, not much
is known about their prevalence among professionals who draw
upon ideas related to learning in their work (Dekker et al., 2012),
among which sports coaches could be included (Jones, 2006).
The most substantial work in this area has been in school
education, where studies in different countries have shown wide
scale acceptance of questionable ideas and practices among
teachers (e.g., Dekker et al., 2012; Gleichgerrcht et al., 2015; Pei
et al., 2015). These ideas range from “neuromyths” (OECD, 2007)
that have entered popular discourse, such as the idea that people
only use 10% of their brains and that there are distinct “left-brain”
and “right-brain” thinkers (Della Sala, 1999). Furthermore, so-
called “brain-based” educational programs based on misapplied
neuro-scientific research (Hyatt, 2007), and discredited theories
of learning and cognitive functioning (Willingham, 2009), are
often presented as the outcomes of cutting-edge neuroscientific
research (Bailey, 2017).
This current paper reports on the first study of the prevalence
of pseudoscientific ideas regarding the brain and learning among
sports coaches. Coaches form an interesting group to consider
in this regard for several reasons. First, sport coaching is a
“young” academic discipline, and it draws liberally from cognate
disciplines, such as psychology, teacher education, and the
sport sciences (Gilbert and Trudel, 2004). It is interesting to
discover whether some of the questionable ideas appearing
in these more established fields also appear in an emerging
field like sports coaching. Second, there have been numerous
calls for sports coaching to achieve the status of a profession,
with the concomitant expectation of the establishment of a
defensible body of knowledge (Stodter and Cushion, 2017), so
it is important to understand the current forms of knowledge
and understanding. Third, the calls for professionalization
have led to demands for “coach education” programs that
are rigorous and evidence-based (Piggott, 2015; Stodter and
Cushion, 2016), suggesting a particular focus on this area.
Finally, pressures of competitive success mean that many coaches
and their organizations are continually searching for new,
advantageous ideas to improve their players’ performances,
potentially increasing their vulnerability to pseudoscientific ideas
(Collins and Bailey, 2013).
Distinguishing Scientific and
Pseudoscientific Ideas—Five Examples
A potential challenge facing any discussion or measurement
of scientific and pseudoscientific theories is that the line of
demarcation is often difficult to draw (Bailey, 2017). The classic
attempt at drawing such as line was by the philosopher, Popper
(1934), but his formal theory of falsifications has generally been
rejected by philosophers of science for being too inclusive of non-
scientific ideas, and unable to defend against ad hoc criticisms
(Monton, 2013; Bailey, 2017). Most commentators, however,
continue to endorse its central tenets broadly, such as the central
importance of a critical approach, well-designed tests and a
suspicion of an over-reliance on confirming evidence (Lilienfeld,
2012). Moreover, there is a much greater degree of agreement
about what pseudoscience looks like (e.g., Lilienfeld et al., 2003;
Koertge, 2013; Bailey, 2017), including:
Unfalsifiability
Absence of self-correction
Overuse of ad hoc immunizing tactics designed to protect
theories from refutation
Absence of connectivity with other domains of knowledge
Use of unnecessarily unclear language
Over-reliance on anecdotes and testimonials at the expense of
systematic evidence
Evasion of genuine peer review
Emphasis on confirmation rather than refutation.
Learning Styles
By far the most researched neuromyth is learning styles, and
academic interest into this subject reflects its very widespread
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 2May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
acceptance in many countries (cf. Dekker et al., 2012). In fact, the
term learning styles embraces a varied set of claims, inventories,
and models for assessment (Coffield et al., 2004), but the most
common form of the theory promotes the “VAK” model in
which some people learn best by observing (“visual learners”),
some by listening (“auditory learners”), and some by doing and
moving (“kinesthetic learners”). A review of studies from the
UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, and China found that
more than 90% of teachers agreed that students learn better
when they receive information tailored to their preferred learning
styles (Howard-Jones, 2014). Despite its popularity, however,
there is no compelling evidence that matching formal instruction
to individual perceptual strengths and weaknesses is any more
effective than instruction, which is not multi-sensory specific
(Rohrer and Pashler, 2012).
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
NLP is a popular brain-based approach. As the name suggest,
NLP seeks to align itself to the neurosciences. Its claims that
eye movements give insight into thought processes, that certain
language patterns can influence others’ behavior, and that the
skills of experts can be learned with relative ease by identifying
and coding their unconscious thought processes, have bled into
sport psychology, teacher education, professional development,
talent identification, and other areas (e.g., Lazarus and Cohen,
2009). The scientific status of NLP is controversial, and this
is largely due to a disjunction between the often-ambitious
claims made on its behalf by advocates and the relative lack
of serious research in support of those claims (Norcross et al.,
2006; Witkowski, 2010). Carey et al. (2010) published what the
authors call a “systematic review” that was strongly supportive
of NLP claims. However, the authors failed to adhere to even
the most basic protocols for these reviews, such as explicit
inclusion/exclusion criteria and search strings, the use of multiple
databases, and independent validation. Also, it included non-peer
reviewed papers and essays, but contained little reference to the
critical scientific literature.
Brain-Based Approaches
Similarly, loose interpretations of the scientific method
have been observed in numerous so-called “brain-based”
approaches (Bailey, 2017). For example, the widely used Brain
Gym prescribes simple movements designed to improve the
integration of specific brain functions with body movements
(Dennison and Dennison, 1994). Lying behind Brain Gym’s
activities are three main theoretical hypotheses that have been
adapted from older theories: neurological re-patterning, cerebral
dominance, and perceptual–motor training. None of these
foundational principles, at least as they are interpreted in
Brain Gym, have empirical support (Hyatt, 2007; Bailey, 2017).
Scrutiny of advocacy literature gives rise to some concerns. The
most apparent is that very little of this literature is published in
peer-reviewed academic journals and appears in the in-house
“Brain Gym R
Journal,” which includes articles with quite
fundamental errors in methodology, such as misinterpreting
statistical significance, inappropriate control groups, and failing
to account for maturational effects (Bailey, 2017).
Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI)
MBTI (Myers and McCaulley, 1985) is a personality measure that
is based on the theory of psychological types of the psychoanalyst
Carl Jung (Barbuto, 1997). It was originally developed in the
1940s as a means for analyzing characters in literature, but was
later adapted to be a test for personnel selection. It is now
widely used in educational and business settings. For example,
the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which
manages the application process for British higher education,
invites potential applicants to “Find out what you’re like
and what you could do,” using a short assessment evidently
based on a short-form of MBTI (https://www.ucas.com/ucas/
16-18-choices/find-career-ideas/buzz-quiz; accessed 09/28/17).
The basic assumption of MBTI is that different vocations
favor different personality orientations, and that Jung’s theory
provides the theoretical structure to link personality and job
performance. It is generally regarded as a controversial approach,
and is not widely endorsed by academic researchers in the
field (Pittenger, 1993; Christiansen and Tett, 2013). Several
concerns have been raised about its use. A serious worry is
its reliance on Jung’s typology of personality, which has long
been discarded by psychological science (Domino and Domino,
2006). The ontological basis of the “types” used in the test is
questionable, as is its reliance on sets of binary distinctions
(such as “introverts”/“extroverts”). Jung himself thought that
these dualistic definitions were mistaken (or, at least, fictions;
Jung, 1921), but they were still used within the MBTI. There
is a large and conflicting body of research that examines the
validity of the test. Conventional psychometric analysis has often
produced negative or ambivalent results (e.g., Pittenger, 1993;
Bess and Harvey, 2002), and critics have raised doubts about
the instrument’s reliability and validity. Some studies have called
the instrument’s test-retest validity into question (Pittenger,
2005), and highlighted the absence of built-in scale to determine
inconsistency or exaggeration in responses, making it difficult
to judge when an individual is answering truthfully (Bess and
Harvey, 2002). Nevertheless, the MBTI continues to be widely
used in a variety of professional and nonprofessional contexts
(e.g., Pittenger, 2005; Rushton et al., 2007).
Action Type Approach (ATA)
Finally, the ATA is included in the list of questionable theories
for a different reason than the others: an apparent absence of
any scientific testing (Bailey, 2017). ATA seems to be a collection
of supposedly brain-based practices, including learning styles,
and movements reminiscent of Brain Gym. This model seeks
to provide insight into the training of athletes “to take it to the
next level,” by integrating “natural movement” (Action Types,
2013). As is common with such brain-based products, the claims
made on behalf of the Action Type Approach are impressive,
which might explain why it has been adopted by numerous
elite sports groups, including several international football clubs
(Action Types, 2013). Unfortunately, no research articles could
be found on this method, and requests to the creators and leading
advocates resulted in no other sources of research evidence. It
is acknowledged that the absence of evidence does not imply
evidence of absence, and the lack of peer reviewed study in this
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Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
case does not mean that the method is not efficacious. However,
the apparent lack of published studies raises some doubts about
the appropriateness of this strategies’ inclusion within evidence-
based sports coaching.
Summary and Aim
Other theories included in this study were judged to meet
the basic standards necessary for scientific theories. This is
not necessarily to suggest that they all embody high levels
of correlation and generality. In some cases, such as direct
instruction and demonstration, practices embody a substantial
amount of empirical support (Hattie, 2008). In others, such
as guided discovery and growth mindset, the evidence base
is less-strong or context-specific, but still these ideas broadly
reflect the criteria for scientific theories discussed above. Table 1
summarizes the ideas and practices included in the survey, and
judgments about their scientific credibility, tested against the
criteria for pseudoscientific theories suggested above. As such,
the aim of this study was to examine British and Irish sports
coaches’ beliefs and knowledge of pseudoscientific ideas about
learning and the brain. Essentially, the ideas examined in this
study fall into three broad categories: (1) Scientific (i.e., Direct
Instruction Demonstration, Goal-setting, Growth Mindset, and
Guided Discovery), (2) Mixed (i.e., Learning Styles and MBTI),
(3) Pseudoscience (i.e., ATA, Brain Gym, and NLP). The ideas
categorized as “scientific” were each judged to meet none of
the criteria identified to be associated with pseudoscientific. We
believed it was both fair and accurate to differentiate between
those ideas that met all of the criteria for pseudoscience, and
those that met only some of them (see Table 1). Numerous
commentators on this issue have argued that the distinction
between science and pseudoscience is rarely absolute (e.g.,
Lilienfeld et al., 2012; Monton, 2013), we felt it important
to acknowledge this in our analysis. So, while both sets of
ideas included in the latter two categories could be considered
pseudoscientific, we recognize and maintain a difference in terms
of degrees of correspondence to identified criteria.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants
The sample comprised 545 coaches from the United Kingdom
and Ireland (England, n=345; Ireland, n=112; Northern
Ireland, n=41; Scotland, n=31; Wales, n=16). Four-hundred-
and thirty-six coaches were male and 109 female. Coaches were
categorized as being: 18–24 (n=64), 25–34 (n=120), 35–44
(n=155), 45–54 (n=126), 55–64 (n=54), 65–74 (n=23) or
75 years and older (n=3). The coaches’ qualifications were: none
(n=27) Level 1 (n=77), Level 2 (n=184), Level 3 (n=152),
or Level 4 (n=79). Coaches were employed full-time (n=118),
part-time (n=164), volunteers (n=234), or other (n=29).
Coaches were involved in coaching in the following sports: soccer
(n=138), rugby union (n=67), Gaelic football (n=46), fencing
(n=39), swimming (n=26), golf (n=24), cricket (n=20),
hockey (n=20), hurling/camogie (n=19), athletics (n=18),
netball (n=15), martial arts (n=12), or others (e.g., tennis,
rugby league, basketball; n=101).
Procedure
Sports coaches were approached to participate in the research
project via social media. Messages were posted on Twitter and
Facebook with a link to the opening page of an online survey tool
(http://www.surveymonkey.net). The research was presented as a
study of coaches’ knowledge and understanding about learning,
coaching and the brain. Terms such as “pseudoscience” and
“neuromyth” were not mentioned in the information for coaches.
Those who chose to participate were invited to agree with
a statement of ethics (explaining consent, confidentiality and
anonymity), and followed a link to the online survey. Average
completion time was 30 min.
Measures
Participants provided background information about their
gender, age, and home country base, as is generally considered
standard in surveys of this kind (Gilovich et al., 2006). They were
TABLE 1 | Evaluation of brain-based and learning theories against characteristics of pseudoscientific theories (Lilienfeld et al., 2003; Koertge, 2013; Main sources: Bailey,
2017).
Unfalsifiab-
ility
Absence of
self-correction
Overuse of ad
hoc immunizing
tactics
Absence of
connectivity
Use of
obscurantist
language
Over-reliance on
anecdotes and
testimonials
Evasion of
peer review
Emphasis on
confirmation rather
than refutation
ATA ? ? ? Y Y Y Y ?
Brain Gym N ? Y Y Y Y Y Y
Demonstrations N N N N N N N N
Direct instruction N N N N N N N N
Goal-setting N N N N N N N N
Growth Mindset N N N N N N N N
Guided discovery N N N N N N N N
Learning Styles N Y N Y N Y N Y
MBTI N N ? Y N Y Y Y
NLP Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Y, Evidence of characteristic; N, Little or no evidence of characteristic; ?, Insufficient evidence.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
also asked to identify their main sport (as many coaches work in
more than 1 sport) their highest level of coaching qualification
(coaching qualifications in the UK and Ireland generally begin
at Level 1 and go up to Level 4, based on normatively assessed
statements of competence), and their employment status as a
coach.
Interest/Awareness of Neuroscience
Participants were then asked whether they “come across any of
the following ideas or practices in coach education/professional
development settings?” Participants responded to list that
included 10 different approaches (e.g., goal setting, learning
styles, direct instruction, NLP, guided discovery, brain gym,
demonstrations, MBTI, growth mindset, and ATA). The
compilation of the list of theories began with a survey of
empirical studies of evidence-based pedagogical theories (e.g.,
Hattie, 2008; Carter et al., 2012), and books on educational
neuroscience (Della Sala, 2007; Della Sala and Anderson, 2012;
Mareschal et al., 2014). The list of statements about the brain
and learning was based on a review of studies of prevalence
of “neuromyths” and pseudoscience in school education (e.g.,
Pickering and Howard-Jones, 2007; Dekker et al., 2012; Dündar
and Gündüz, 2016; Ferrero et al., 2016; see Table 2 for the
list of statements). Obviously irrelevant statements and theories
for the present study (e.g., those that with context- or subject-
specific aspects of schooling) were removed from the draft
lists. Members of a closed Facebook Coaching group (Coaching
Science), specialist coaching groups on Twitter and LinkedIn
were also invited to list “theories, ideas and practices” that they
had “experienced, read or heard about.” This resulted in the
addition of one more theory (i.e., Action Types Approach).
Working definitions of these theories are given in Appendix
1, along with indicative references consulted. Questions were
answered on a 6-Point Likert anchored at 1 “strongly agree” and
6 “strongly disagree.” Following this, participants were asked to
“Please indicate whether or not you use the following ideas or
practices in your coaching” The same 10 approaches that were
included in the previous question were used. Coaches responded
on 5-point Likert-type scale for each of the 10 approaches on a 5-
point Likert-Type Scale anchored at 1 “always use it” and 5 “never
use it.
Prevalence of Neuromyths and Knowledge About the
Brain
The participants were finally presented with a list of 14 statements
about learning and the brain (see Table 2). Six of these statements
were neuromyths, as defined by OECD (2002),Howard-Jones
(2014), and Dekker et al. (2012; e.g., “Individuals learn better
when they receive information in their preferred learning style
[e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic]” and “We only use 10% of
our brain”). The other statements were general assertions about
the brain (e.g., “Vigorous exercise can improve mental function”
and “We use our brains 24 h a day”). The presentation order of
myth and knowledge assertions was randomized. Answer options
were “incorrect,” “correct,” or “do not know.” We examined
the percentage of incorrect answers to neuromyth assertions
(where a higher percentage reflects more belief in myths) and the
percentage of correct responses to general assertions.
Data Analysis
First, the means and standard deviations for each of the key
variables were calculated. T-tests investigated gender differences
in beliefs in neuromyths and general assertions about the brain.
Next, multiple regression analyses quantified the relationships
between a series of predictors and the likelihood to believe
in neuromyths. The first regression included demographics
(gender, age, and coaching qualifications) and percentage of
general assertions answered correctly as predictors. The second
regression included attitudes toward using information about
the brain in relation to coaching as predictors. The third
regression included types of learning-based and brain-based
Ideas as predictors. Finally, two ANOVAs compared country
differences in both neuromyths and general assertions. As this
study was exploratory, we did not formulate specific hypotheses.
RESULTS
Interest/Awareness of Neuroscience
Overall, coaches agreed that a better understanding of the brain
helped with the following: the planning of sports coaching
sessions (M=1.75, SD =0.75; 1 =strongly agree, 5 =strongly
disagree); the delivery of sports coaching sessions (i.e., coaching;
M=1.62, SD =0.68); the assessment of players’/athletes
learning and development (M=1.50, SD =0.65). Coaches
reported receiving information about the role of the brain
from a range of sources, including: the media (20.0%), courses
delivered by sport organization/national governing body (44.2%),
conferences (38.9%), academic journals (54.1%), professional
journals (28.8%), books (60.7%), and commercial products or
programs (4.6%).
Coaches reported using the following learning-based and
brain-based ideas frequently: goal-setting (M=1.95, SD =0.87),
Learning Styles (M=2.63, SD =1.44), direct instruction
(M=2.23, SD =0.93), guided discovery (M=2.36, SD =1.22),
Brain Gym (M=2.41, SD =1.01), demonstrations (M=1.67,
SD =0.90), and growth mindset (M=2.86, SD =1.48). The
following psychological resources were used infrequently: neuro-
linguistic programming (NLP) (M=4.12, SD =1.16), Myers-
Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) (M=4.52, SD =0.89), action
types approach (ATA) (M=4.25, SD =1.17). Coaches’ exposure
to the Learning-based and Brain-based Ideas is presented in
Table 3 and includes coaches’ overall exposure, as well as specific
sources of this exposure.
Prevalence of Neuromyths
Table 2 presents the percentage of responses of agreement and
disagreement to each neuromyth. Overall, coaches agreed with
41.6% (SD =26.3%) of the statements promoting myths. The
most prevalent neuromyth was “Individuals learn better when
they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g.,
auditory, visual, or kinesthetic).” 62% of coaches believed this
neuromyth. The most successfully identified neuromyth was
“There are critical periods in childhood after which certain things
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Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
TABLE 2 | Percentage of correct and incorrect responses for each neuromyth and each general assertion about the brain.
Correct (C)/Incorrect (I) Agree (%) Disagree (%) Do not know (%)
NEUROMYTH
Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style
(e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic)
I 62.3 32.2 5.5
Differences in hemispheric dominance (left brain, right brain) can help explain
individual differences amongst learners
I 42.5 20.4 37.1
Short bouts of coordination exercises can improve integration of left and right
hemispheric brain function
I 50.5 5.0 44.2
Children are less attentive after consuming sugary drinks, and/or snacks I 54.9 16.9 28.2
There are critical periods in childhood after which certain things can no longer be
learned
I 16.6 65.7 17.7
We only use 10% of our brain I 22.6 43.4 34.0
GENERAL ASSERTION
Vigorous exercise can improve mental function C 5.7 81.0 13.3
Boys have bigger brains than girls C 60.0 6.5 33.6
The left and right hemisphere of the brain always work together C 37.3 18.5 44.3
We use our brains 24 h a day C 7.8 77.6 14.6
Extended rehearsal of some mental processes can change the shape and structure
of some parts of the brain
C 6.1 61.9 32.0
The brains of boys and girls develop at the same rate I 7.0 60.3 32.7
There are sensitive periods in childhood when it’s easier to learn things C 4.4 81.0 14.6
Learning occurs through modification of the brains’ neural connections C 2.8 65.9 31.4
N=545.
TABLE 3 | Coaches exposure to different learning-based and brain-based ideas.
Percentage that
have come
across these
ideas/practices
Core coaching
qualification courses
delivered by your sports
organization
Other courses run by
your sports
organization
Conferences run
by your sports
organization
Coaching courses
delivered by other
organizations
Other courses
delivered by
other
organizations
Other
conferences
Goal setting 91.9 57.7 26.1 25.7 32.5 33.5 17.0
Learning styles 88.8 56.8 21.3 18.6 25.8 33.7 14.5
Direct instruction 82.0 73.8 25.5 19.9 20.6 25.7 11.6
NLP 53.9 14.6 14.6 9.9 18.7 47.3 33.7
Guided 74.9 52.2 25.2 19.6 24.3 33.8 19.6
Brain gym 35.4 13.5 9.8 8.3 14.0 43.0 40.4
Demonstrations 87.9 82.3 33.6 24.4 28.6 28.4 15.2
MBTI 44.6 17.3 9.5 9.1 20.6 46.5 32.5
Growth 63.3 36.8 25.2 21.4 29.0 43.5 38.8
ATA 35.2 26.0 14.6 14.6 20.3 40.1 28.1
All values are percentages (%).
can no longer be learned,” which 65.7% of coaches identified.
Women on average (9.74%) agreed with more neuromyths than
men [t(533) =3.45, p<0.01].
The results of the multiple regression analyses are reported
in Tables 46. These analyses tested the variables that were
associated coaches believing in neuromyths (i.e., answering
incorrectly). Female coaches were more likely to agree with
neuromyths than male coaches. Coaches with a better knowledge
of the brain were more likely to believe neuromyths. The coaches
who agreed that understanding the brain could help with “The
assessment of players’/athletes’ learning and development” were
also more likely to believe in neuromyths, as were coaches who
frequently used the questionable techniques discussed earlier.
Those coaches who used learning styles less frequently and used
guided discovery more frequently were more likely to believe the
neuromyths.
Knowledge About the Brain
Coaches answered 56.6% (SD =19.9%) of the questions
pertaining to general assertions about the brain correctly. Table 2
shows percentages of correct and incorrect responses for each
question. The assertions most correctly identified were “Vigorous
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
TABLE 4 | Multiple regression predicting neuromyths from demographics and
general assertions.
Neuromyths
R2β
0.08***
Gender 0.14**
Age 0.04
Qualifications 0.09
% of assertions correct 0.22***
N=520. Female =1, Male =2, **p<0.01. ***p<0.001.
TABLE 5 | Multiple regression predicting neuromyths from attitudes to situations
that would be improved by an understanding of the brain.
Neuromyths
R2β
0.03**
The planning of sports coaching sessions 0.03
The delivery of sports coaching sessions
(i.e., coaching)
0.11
The assessment of players’/athletes’
learning and development
0.20**
N=519. Betas were reversed to enhance interpretation (i.e., a positive beta signifies a
positive relationship). **p<0.01.
exercise can improve mental function” and “There are sensitive
periods in childhood when it’s easier to learn things,” correctly
answered by 81.0% of coaches. Whereas the assertion least
correctly identified was “Boys have bigger brains than girls,
incorrectly answered by 60.0% of coaches. Moreover, no gender
differences were found for general assertions [t(525) =0.64,
p=0.52].
Differences Between Countries
An ANOVA comparing differences in the percentage of
neuromyths answered incorrectly between countries was
significant [F(5, 530) =4.33, p<0.01]. However, once the
alpha level had been adjusted based on a Bonferroni correction
(p<0.005; which was applied because of unequal group sizes and
multiple comparisons), no significant differences were found.
Furthermore, no country differences in general assumptions
were found [F(4, 522) =0.20, p=0.94].
DISCUSSION
This study is the first to examine the prevalence of
pseudoscientific ideas among British and Irish sports coaches.
We explored how evidence-based and non-evidence-based
ideas regarding learning and the brain were understood by
these coaches to enhance their practice. We also explored their
exposure to these different theories, and the knowledge of basic
neuroscientific information that might be relevant to their work.
Findings showed there is a strong support for the introduction
TABLE 6 | Multiple regression predicting neuromyths from use of learning-based
and brain-based ideas.
Neuromyths
R2β
0.27***
Goal-setting 0.07
Learning Styles 0.45***
Direct instruction 0.03
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) 0.01
Guided discovery 0.11*
Brain Gym 0.10
Demonstrations 0.05
Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) 0.01
Growth Mindset 0.06
Action Types Approach (ATA) 0.01
N=515. Betas were reversed to enhance interpretation (i.e., a positive beta signifies a
positive relationship). *p<0.05. ***p<0.001.
of brain-based information into sports coaching and coach
education. However, data reveal a relatively high prevalence of
“neuromyths” (41.6%). This figure is lower than had previously
been found in studies with school teachers (Pickering and
Howard-Jones, 2007; Dekker et al., 2012). Nevertheless, the
figure is substantial enough to warrant concern, because it is
likely that these beliefs will shape coaching philosophy and
practice. As with these earlier studies, the most commonly held
pseudoscientific belief was that “Individuals learn better when
they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g.,
auditory, visual, or kinesthetic),” which was held by 62% of the
sample.
The reason for the prevalence of questionable ideas among
coaches and teachers is not clear. The coaches in our study came
from a much more diverse range of educational backgrounds
than the teachers who took part in earlier research, and it
could be that teachers’ graduate education expose them to ideas
about the brain, but without sufficient depth to immunize them
against neuromyths. The finding that there is a correlation
between general knowledge about the brain and susceptibility
to neuromyths among trainee teachers (Dekker et al., 2012),
and that people with some neuroscientific knowledge (e.g., who
took an introductory cognitive neuroscience course work) are
vulnerable to questionable neuroscientific explanations as the
general public (Macdonald et al., 2017), offer some support for
this hypothesis. Coach education is much less centrally regulated
than teacher education in the UK and Ireland (Duffy et al.,
2013; North et al., 2016), and evidence presented in this study
shows that coaches rely upon a wide range of information
sources, including books, conferences, journals, the popular
press, and social networking sites. It might be the case that
the laissez-faire approach to professional development described
by the coaches in this study means that they are not well-
placed to make judgments regarding the scientific quality of the
sources of information they access. Experimental research has
shown that some people are especially vulnerable to the sort of
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
strategies employed by advocates of pseudoscience described in
this paper (Pennycook et al., 2015), and that people are more
likely to accept research findings when they are accompanied
by attractive brain images and brain-based explanations, even
when these are incorrect or irrelevant (McCabe and Castel, 2008;
Weisberg et al., 2008). Collins and Bailey (2013) claimed that
sports organizations are particularly vulnerable to “scienciness,
or “the illusion of scientific credibility and validity that provides
a degree of authority to otherwise dubious ideas” (p. 2). In the
context of research into learning and the brain, this suggests
that people with little or no neuroscientific education will be
inclined to make misjudgments of presented evidence, and will
find it difficult to recognize misconceptions about brain research
(Dekker et al., 2012). The popular media has been identified
in previous research as a source of over-simplified or over-
interpreted representations of the brain (OECD, 2002; Beck,
2010), and while this was not identified by the coaches as an
especially significant influence, it is likely that they were as
vulnerable to widely promulgated misconceptions as the rest of
the population.
Within the context of coach education, significant directions
of transfer are likely to be from experienced to inexperienced
practitioners, and coach educators to trainee coaches, and
through teaching materials endorsed by national governing
bodies for sport (Stoszkowski and Collins, 2016). Social media
and online blogs have also been identified as popular repositories
of information (Stoszkowski et al., 2017). Pseudoscientific beliefs
are likely to find hospitable environments in many of these
contexts, as they share many of the characteristics that have been
found to characterize “mimetically fit” cultural units (von Bülow,
2013). Findings from business psychology and social physics
suggested that, all other things being equal, ideas will be fitter
and spread more effectively if: they are attention-grabbing or
surprising; they appealed to personal interests; they are relatively
simple; they propose a simple X–Y causality; they provoke action
(Heath and Heath, 2008; Pentland, 2014). These characteristics
seem to capture many of the pseudoscientific beliefs surveyed
in this study. For example, the myth that people typically use
just 10% of their brains holds within it the promise of extra
ordinary improvements in cognitive functioning and physical
performance (once the necessary triggering mechanism has been
found). A similar appeal might attract people to programs
such as Brain Gym, which promises substantial improvement to
performance in a range of domains (Dennison and Dennison,
1994).
The notion that everyone has a dominant or preferred
learning style was found to be the most commonly held non-
evidence-based theory in this study, as it was in earlier surveys
with teachers (e.g., Dekker et al., 2012; Macdonald et al., 2017).
Perhaps this is because the idea relates to all four of the
characteristics of easily spread beliefs: it is based on a surprising,
but not entirely implausible model of brain organization; it is
psychologically attractive, both in terms of its claimed benefits
and because it resonates with the attribution of difficulties
with learning two variables largely outside of the individuals
control (such as inappropriate pedagogy); it offers a simple and
memorable framework; and it presents an intuitively appealing
course of action (adaptive learning and teaching strategies to
reflect the supposed preferred modalities). In addition, they are
explicitly brain-based and “sciency.”
The proliferation of pseudoscientific beliefs among countries
is cause for concern, as many of the ideas discussed in this study
directly relate to coach and participant learning. Misconceptions
about learning and the brain could, therefore, have a harmful
effect on participant outcomes. Pashler et al. (2009) argued
that teaching according to identified learning styles might not
just be theoretically ill-advised, but could be deleterious for
learning, because learners are guided away from non-preferred
modalities that are likely to facilitate greater cognitive load.
In addition, some pseudoscientific beliefs are packaged as
commercial programs, and the adoption directs time and funding
away from empirically supported alternatives (Carter et al., 2011).
One way of addressing this issue is through education.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation, and Development
(OECD, 2002) was one of the first agencies to draw attention to
the prevalence and potentially harmful influence of neuromyths,
and made a case for the inclusion of “brain research in education
and other contexts” (p. 258). This is a sentiment endorsed
by several commentators on this topic, whilst also stressing
the need for bidirectional collaborations between scientists and
professional groups (Ansari and Coch, 2006; Coltheart and
McArthur, 2012; Howard-Jones, 2014). However, enthusiasm for
greater education as a solution to the prevalence of pseudoscience
is tempered by the finding that teachers with more general
knowledge about the brain can become more likely to believe
questionable ideas (Macdonald et al., 2017). So, further research
into effective educational practices in this area it is vital. Insofar
as coach education is likely to be a part of the solution to
the problem of pseudoscientific beliefs and practices, there is a
need to enhance professional development and inter-disciplinary
scientist-practitioner partnerships to reduce miscommunications
in the future. The finding that coaches are eager to extend
their understanding of applied neuroscience is encouraging, and
suggests that they would be willing to engage with genuine
science, if presented in an accessible manner. Therefore, the
complex and challenging integration of neuroscience in sports
coaching is most likely to follow genuine collaborations between
practitioners and scientists. More generally, coach education
would be strengthened by encouraging the cultivation of a
healthy skepticism, which the popular science writer, Sagan
(1987) described as “an exquisite balance between two conflicting
needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are
served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new
ideas.” One method for doing this is to explicitly discuss the
distinction between science and pseudoscience (Lilienfeld et al.,
2012), perhaps using some of the more clear-cut examples of the
latter as case studies. As the first of its kind with sports coaches,
this study can be understood as a contribution to these endeavors.
A complementary approach is to address the organizations
that promote and implicitly endorse non-evidence-based
practices. From the perspective of the sports coaches in this
study, the most influential bodies are the National Governing
Bodies (NGB) that lead individual sports, and usually regulate
accreditation and training. This is a more intractable challenge,
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641
Bailey et al. Pseudoscientific Ideas Among Coaches
and whilst individuals within their organizations could foster
change, large-scale improvement would take a considerable
time, and might ultimately prove unsuccessful. Based on the
fact that almost every major NGB in the UK and Ireland receive
funds from central government, and that coaches are required
to attend NGB programs, it might be possible to make the
implementation of evidence-based practices a condition of
this funding. Aside from the likely improvement to coaching
performance (and, indirectly, sporting success), this step could
be justified on ethical grounds as forcing people to undertake
courses that include pseudoscience is morally indefensible. A
less draconian alternative would be to introduce an advisory
body for NGBs, somewhat similar to the UK’s National Institute
for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which could offer
evidence-based guidance on sports coaching (as well as other
aspects of sport participation and performance). Precisely
this proposal was made to the UK’s All Party Commission on
Physical Activity (2014) by the first author of this article, and
was accepted by the Commission as a formal recommendation.
Sadly, the Commission’s Final Report was rejected by the
national Government of the day.
Limitations and Future Directions
The present study has several limitations. First, data were
gathered from British and Irish sports coaches, and the
current state of coach education is sufficiently varied to mean
that international generalizations are unwise. For example,
compulsory coach education and accreditation is currently
far from universal, both in terms of statutory provision and
content (North et al., 2016). Consequently, further system-
specific and comparative studies are required for a more complete
picture. Second, the survey was administered online. This is
now a common practice (Biffignandi and Bethlehem, 2012).
Nevertheless, the recruitment strategy focused on countries who
accessed specialist social sports media sites. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that some participants were directed to the survey
by organizations, and others from posts to sports coaching
groups. Hence, the sample was probably over-selected for
individuals with existing interests in professional development
other groups may have been over-represented in the sample.
Third, an additional potential difficulty with online surveys is
that it is impossible to rule out the possibility that respondents
carry out research to help them answer certain questions. This
issue is especially relevant to the data reported in Table 2,
and consequently, these answers out to be accepted with
caution. This is not a limitation restricted to online surveys:
any non-supervised data-gathering tool suffers from the same
concern. Fourth, the survey results do not make it clear
when coaches were exposed to the different learning-based and
brain-based ideas, and it could have been many years ago,
and possibly before developments in coach education. Future
research with more representative samples of coaches and with
sub-populations (e.g., novice coaches, coach educators), and
qualitative data analysis, aim to address some of the limitations
of the present study. Finally, our sampling procedure may have
impacted upon the results. We used a convenience sampling
methodology via social media. As such, coaches who have an
interest or knowledge of the concepts we assessed in the present
study may have been more inclined to participate. Given this
was the first study to assess these variables among coaches,
we felt it was an entirely appropriate sampling procedure.
In the future, however, scholars could adopt a randomized
method.
In summary, this is the first study of the prevalence of
pseudoscientific beliefs amongst sports coaches. The study
provides a useful baseline for subsequent empirical studies of
their prevalence, content and dissemination, and insight into
the uptake of these beliefs in a relatively new field of study.
Findings show that sports coaches, like school teachers, can find
it difficult to distinguish between pseudoscience from genuine
scientific research. Questionable ideas and practices, like learning
styles, neurolinguistics programming, and Myers-Briggs are not
simply acquired by coaches through their own personal interest,
they are often actively promoted by sports organizations. So, this
situation requires changes at the level of both the content of
coach education programs, which ought to have secure evidence
base, and context of the national governing bodies, in which
pseudoscience is allowed to thrive.
ETHICS STATEMENT
This study was carried out in accordance with the
recommendations of the British Psychological Society with
written informed consent from all subjects. All subjects gave
written informed consent in accordance with the Declaration
of Helsinki. The protocol was approved by the School of Life
Sciences, University of Hulls ethics committee.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
RB conceptualized, collected data, and contributed towards
writing the paper, DM analyzed and contributed to writing, EC
contributed to writing, and AN contributed to data collection and
writing.
SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
The Supplementary Material for this article can be found
online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.
2018.00641/full#supplementary-material
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors declare that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
The reviewer, SM, and handling Editor declared their shared affiliation.
Copyright © 2018 Bailey, Madigan, Cope and Nicholls. This is an open-access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC
BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided
the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these
terms.
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 11 May 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 641

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... Over time, it has seen a variety of fashionable concepts presented as panaceas (e.g., growth mindset, grit, and 10,000 h). These concepts sometimes have empirical support (Duckworth et al., 2007;Yeager and Dweck, 2012), but often oversimplified, whilst others do not (e.g., MBTI personality profiling and learning styles- Bailey et al., 2018). Importantly, however, whilst some of the constructs in the former category have their place as part of a broader whole, this nuance is often missed by practitioners looking for an edge to develop performance or perhaps in the literature (Burgoyne et al., 2020). ...
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In recent years, high-performance sport has seen a rising interest in Psychological Safety, a construct with a strong empirical basis in certain business contexts. As research and practice interest grows in PS, there are early indications of practitioners and, to a lesser extent research, treating the construct as being universally transferable. We offer three central concerns with this situation. Firstly, it seems that a variety of different interpretations in use may limit the practical application of the construct. Secondly, a concern that not all dimensions of PS are transferable or applicable in the HPSs context, especially for athletes. Finally, emerging evidence from outside of sport suggests potential downsides to the perceptions of PS in a performance/selection sets. We suggest that, as with all theories and constructs, there is a pressing need for nuance and context-specific evidence in how researchers and practitioners approach transferability plus, perhaps, a little more understanding of the real-world high-performance context.
... Aktuell etwa erfahren Brain-Trainings, Neuro-Athletik und Übungen aus den Life Kinetiks eine starke Rezeption. Wissenschaftliche Evidenzen für die Wirkung sind aktuell im Einzelnen überschaubar (Bailey et al. 2018) bzw. nicht existent (Blair und Kooi 2004). ...
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Einsatztrainer*innen gründen ihre Trainingspraxis auf Wissen: auf Einsatzwissen, das, gerahmt von politischen und rechtlichen Vorgaben, Bewältigungskompetenzen für typische einsatzbezogene Anforderungen umfasst, sowie auf pädagogisches Wissen, das Kompetenzen zur Vermittlung entsprechender Einsatzkompetenzen beinhaltet. Der Beitrag argumentiert, dass Wissen die zentrale Ressource des Einsatztrainings bildet, dabei allerdings die Vorstellung eines einfachen Transfers zu problematisieren ist. Dazu wird Einsatz- und Trainingswissen aus Sicht der ökologischer Dynamiken als entscheidende Herausforderung für eine professionelle Trainingspraxis und deren Weiterentwicklung identifiziert. Für das Einsatztraining ist die moderne Wissenschaft in dieser Hinsicht ein wichtiger Ansprechpartner. Zugleich gehen mit der Bezugnahme auf Wissenschaft potenziell beachtenswerte Probleme für das Einsatztraining einher: Moderne Wissenschaft ist hoch spezialisiert. Daraus folgt mitunter ein isolierter Blickwinkel, der die komplexen Anforderungen der Leistungserbingung in Training und Einsatz unterläuft. Einsatztraining steht unter zeitlichem Druck und muss für Polizeikräfte nützlich sein: Das kann eine übereilte Rezeption und Finalisierung (pseudo-)wissenschaftlichen Wissens zur Folge haben. Die Wissenschaft hat eigene Verfahrensregeln, nach denen sie ihr Wissen generiert und bewertet. Sofern diese Regeln und das aus ihnen resultierende Wissen bestehende Vorstellungen und Strukturen der Polizei infrage stellen, besteht die Gefahr einer Immunisierung gegenüber Wissenschaft. Mit dem Plädoyer für eine „organisationale Wissensbildung“ (Nonaka 1994) wird eine konkrete Entwicklungsperspektive aufgezeigt, die im Zusammenspiel von Praktiker*innen und Entscheider*innen dem Wissensbedarf des Einsatztrainings eine systematische Grundlage bieten kann.
... Likewise, a growing number of Olympic athletes have begun to incorporate pseudoscientific therapies into their training regimens such as cupping, acupuncture, and "IV hydration" which not only provide no real clinical benefits, but are potentially harmful in some cases (Lunau, 2016). Crucially, a recent study found that over 50% of surveyed coaches based at least some aspects of their coaching practices on pseudoscientific ideas and "neuromyths" (Bailey et al., 2018). In other words, a non-trivial proportion of sport science and coaching practices are arguably based on bullshit, with the potential for consequent risk of harm to athletes. ...
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Recent literature has identified and examined the construct of bullshit as a notable threat to the promulgation and use of accurate information. The parallel challenges posed by increasing availability of unfiltered online information have been identified as further exacerbating factors. Accordingly, the present paper adds to this perspective by examining susceptibility to and perceived frequency of bullshit in the sport science and coaching domain. Participants (N = 280) completed several validated instruments examining susceptibility, tendency to engage in and perceived experience of bullshit in their professional environments. Data suggest similar ratings to more general population samples, with educational level acting as a key moderating factor. Implications for practice and psychosocial approaches to bullshit are discussed, in tandem with recommendations for refinements to communication.
... Over the last two centuries, there has been a belief that coaching and physical education should be informed by a blend of experiential and empirical knowledge (Bailey et al., 2018). The challenge we face, though, is that whilst these forms of knowledge coexist and entangle to inform an individual's pedagogical practices, they operate on very different timescales. ...
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Over the last two centuries, there has been a belief that coaching and physical education should be informed by a blend of experiential and empirical knowledge (Bailey et al., 2018). The challenge we face, though, is that whilst these forms of knowledge coexist and entangle to inform an individual’s pedagogical practices, they operate on very different timescales. For example, stage-based models of movement skill that prioritise the acquisition of idealised, fundamental ‘techniques’ are still common to many national sporting policy documents. This manifests in many coaches and teachers, often having been coached themselves by such linearized approaches, to continue to draw on such experiential knowledge to instil the fundamentals into the youth athletes of today. Thus, the challenge is in overcoming these ‘myths of yesterday’ to progress into the ‘truths of today’. Namely, the movement science literature stage-based models were contemporary in academic texts books in the early to mid-20th century. The myths of ‘fundamentals’ is born out of mid – end of the 20th century motor learning literature, grounded on the idea that practitioners must reduce the amount of information in an environment to assist the learners’ brains in processing information. At the end of this chapter, we provide a contemporary understanding of movement learning, calling for a shift in coaching practice that moves from ‘fundamental’ to functional. That is, from reductionist applications to facilitating emergent functional relationships between the performer and the constraints of their environment (Renshaw & Chow, 2018).
... Although expertise-based approaches have been prevalent in the coaching literature for a number of years, a range of pseudoscientific approaches based on the "right way to do it" are perpetuated in coach education and wider discourse (Bailey et al., 2018;Stoszkowski et al., 2020). This trend toward oversimplification has seen the widespread promotion of athlete centredness, autonomy-supportive coaching and athlete empowerment without critical consideration, or granular consideration of meaning (Alder, 2018). ...
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This ethnographic case study examines the long-term impact of youth sport coaching within tennis, using observations, field notes, and interviews as data sources. We highlight the complexities that youth sport coaches face in their role in developing young players within, in this example, tennis, but suggest that these issues are transferable across the youth sport context. There are some key messages for youth sport coaches and sporting organisations arising from this study, particularly around the role of a youth sport coach. We advocate an expertise approach to developing youth sport coaches due to the many roles, within their sport and from a biopsychosocial perspective, that they have to navigate. Additionally, we suggest that simplistic narratives in youth sport coaching are misplaced.
... Und ihre "Trickkiste" ist: leer. Nichtlineare Pädagogik kann nicht behaupten, durch Fingerübungen zur Blickführung einsatzrelevante Aufmerksamkeit zu schulen und dabei ‚das Gehirn mit einzubeziehen' -ersteres ist Quatsch und letzteres unvermeidbar (Bailey et al., 2018), solange ein Mensch noch lebt. ...
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Nichtlineare Pädagogik argumentiert mit Fakten. Das Leben, die Menschen, das Lehren und das Lernen – das alles folgt einer nichtlinearen Organisation. In diesem Beitrag berichten wir von unserem Aufbruch, als Forscher und Trainer im Doppelpack den „Geist“ der Nichtlinearen Pädagogik in das Einsatztraining der Polizeien von Bund und Ländern zu bringen. Wir berichten von den Gründen, warum die Nichtlineare Pädagogik ausgezeichnet zu den Anforderungen eines Trainings passt, das Polizist*innen auf den Einsatz vorbereiten möchte. Und wir berichten von den Gründen, warum es gegenwärtig noch nicht passt und was zu tun wäre, um dies zu ändern. Eine Nichtlineare Pädagogik des Einsatztrainings, so unsere Prognose, bedarf eines reflexiven Reformstils innerhalb der Polizei, der die Bereitschaft zur Veränderung der Bedingungen zur Veränderung einschließt. Systematischem Einsatzwissen kommt dabei eine Schlüsselrolle zu.
Chapter
The term “learning styles” refers to the belief that students learn best when instruction method matches their preferred learning style, typically either visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic. The belief in learning styles is widespread among all key players in the education system despite a lack of empirical evidence to demonstrate its merit. This belief extends to the general public, including parents and students, who believe teachers should teach students preferred learning style. Indeed, many educators at all levels, and across the globe, support and implement elements of learning style theories in their classroom. The cost to this practice is the use of limited time and resources to determine students’ preferred learning styles and customize lessons to teach that style. These practices are bolstered by researchers from diverse disciplines supporting learning styles and endorsement fromina ministries and regulatory organizations including state standards and certification exams. Among such groups, learning styles theory has become commonly accepted knowledge, even without scientific merit. The widespread nature of the learning styles myth demonstrates the importance of educating all key players so limited resources are redirected to evidence-based practices.
Chapter
Neuroscience provides coaches with a compelling lens through which to view their coachee’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. However, enthusiasm for integrating neuroscience into coaching often outpaces the coach’s knowledge of the subject matter. In addition, there is no empirical evidence for the use of neuroscience within positive psychology coaching (PPC) per se. To address these concerns, this chapter considers the lessons learned from two disciplines which have scrutinised the opportunities and limitations of translating neuroscience into practice: educational neuroscience (EN) in the classroom setting and psychoeducation (PE) in the mental health setting. Opportunities exist for the thoughtful development of neuroscience-informed coaching practice including (i) the development of neuroscience-informed content for coaching conversations (the ‘what’), (ii) the development of neuroscience-informed structures or tools for the delivery of coaching (the ‘how’), and (iii) validation of coaching efficacy using neuroscience technology (e.g. testing how coaching ‘works’). Attention needs to turn towards the training of coaches in how to assess, understand and integrate neuroscientific research to ensure the continuation of evidence-based coaching practice.
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La neuroeducación, también conocida como neurociencia educativa o Mind, Brain, and Education, es una disciplina de este siglo ofrecida en diversos cursos de posgrado. A pesar de su rápido crecimiento, carece de: definición epistemológica precisa, relación clara con otras disciplinas y suficiente divulgación en el mundo académico. Los objetivos de esta investigación fueron: Analizar los contenidos de las Ofertas de Posgrado en Neuroeducación (OPN) presentes en Universidades Latinoamericanas (UL) y Universidades del Paralelo Norte (UPN); Comparar los Enfoques Teóricos (ET) presentes en las OPN; Determinar posibles relaciones entre el ranking de las universidades y el tipo de ET de las OPN; Realizar una propuesta neuroeducativa para Venezuela. Fue una investigación documental, con enfoque cuantitativo, diseño correlacional y nivel exploratorio. Los ET analizados fueron: interdisciplinario (incluye educadores, psicólogos y neurocientíficos), aplicativo (utiliza aportes de la neurociencia en el aula) y traductor (enlaza neurociencia y educación) definidos a partir de 60 palabras clave. Se analizaron 41 OPN: 24 de UL, en su mayoría de bajo ranking, y 17 de UPN, en su mayoría de alto ranking. Los ET encontrados en las UL fueron: aplicativo (70%), interdisciplinario (23%) y traductor (7%), y en las UPN fueron: interdisciplinario (59%), aplicativo (37%) y traductor (4%). Las OPN siguen siendo relativamente bajas en la población estudiada: 0,80% en las UPN y 3,23% en las UL. Se hallaron evidencias de influencias de la corriente Mind, Brain, and Education en varias UL y UPN. No se hallaron relaciones significativas entre el ranking y el ET de las OPN. El 75% de las OPN proviene de universidades privadas. Ante las escasas OPN en las UL, varias empresas privadas están asumiendo la difusión de versiones distorsionadas de la neuroeducación. Esta tesis aportó un diagnóstico nunca antes mostrado de las UL y un método de análisis conceptual para interpretar el discurso de las OPN. Los resultados de esta investigación sirvieron para la elaboración de varias propuestas de inserción de la neuroeducación en Venezuela, entre ellas: la asignatura electiva Neuroeducación para cursos de pregrado, el seminario Neuroeducación para cursos de posgrado y un modelo pedagógico general llamado C.R.E.A. (Creación-Retención-Emoción-Atención) inspirado en la neurociencia.
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A growing body of research evidence suggests that physical activity can have a positive effect on educational achievement. This book examines a range of processes associated with physical activity that are of relevance to those working in education – including cognition, learning, memory, attention, mood, stress and mental health symptoms – and draws on the latest insights from exercise neuroscience to help explain the evidence. With contributions from leading scientists and educationalists from around the world, this book cuts through the myths to interrogate the relationship between physical activity and educational achievement in children, adolescents and young adults in a variety of cultural and geographical contexts. Examining both the benefits and risks associated with physical activity from the perspectives of exercise science and educational psychology, it also looks ahead to ask what the limits of this research might be and what effects it might have on the future practice of education. Physical Activity and Educational Achievement: Insights from Exercise Neuroscience is fascinating reading for any student, academic or practitioner with an interest in exercise science and education.
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Neuromyths are misconceptions about brain research and its application to education and learning. Previous research has shown that these myths may be quite pervasive among educators, but less is known about how these rates compare to the general public or to individuals who have more exposure to neuroscience. This study is the first to use a large sample from the United States to compare the prevalence and predictors of neuromyths among educators, the general public, and individuals with high neuroscience exposure. Neuromyth survey responses and demographics were gathered via an online survey hosted at TestMyBrain.org. We compared performance among the three groups of interest: educators (N = 598), high neuroscience exposure (N = 234), and the general public (N = 3,045) and analyzed predictors of individual differences in neuromyths performance. In an exploratory factor analysis, we found that a core group of 7 “classic” neuromyths factored together (items related to learning styles, dyslexia, the Mozart effect, the impact of sugar on attention, right-brain/left-brain learners, and using 10% of the brain). The general public endorsed the greatest number of neuromyths (M = 68%), with significantly fewer endorsed by educators (M = 56%), and still fewer endorsed by the high neuroscience exposure group (M = 46%). The two most commonly endorsed neuromyths across all groups were related to learning styles and dyslexia. More accurate performance on neuromyths was predicted by age (being younger), education (having a graduate degree), exposure to neuroscience courses, and exposure to peer-reviewed science. These findings suggest that training in education and neuroscience can help reduce but does not eliminate belief in neuromyths. We discuss the possible underlying roots of the most prevalent neuromyths and implications for classroom practice. These empirical results can be useful for developing comprehensive training modules for educators that target general misconceptions about the brain and learning.
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Developing novices’ proficiency in skilful activities is central to the reproduction of human societies. The interactional practices through which instruction is accomplished have provided a rich focus for ethnomethodological and conversation analytic studies examining classroom settings, and, more recently, non-classroom environments of instruction in practical and manual skills. This paper examines the work of instruction in basketball training and in particular the correction of player performances, which are a ubiquitous and central feature of instruction in basketball training sessions. A central part of this instructional action relies on the coach observing training activities to determine players’ competencies and to extract relevant correctables from the players’ embodied displays, which are in turn embedded within complex arrangements of rapidly moving bodies situated in material environments. In this paper we examine the visual-analytic work involved in both organizing and observing a basketball training activity, demonstrating the sequential layering of multiple membership categorization devices drawn upon in producing and recognizing actions in this setting. We argue that the coach deploys spatial orientations which function analogously to membership categorization devices, with players’ bodily positions relative to one another and the material structure of the surround generating category-like sets of rights, responsibilities, and sequential relevancies. As we demonstrate, these orientations provide crucial resources for the identification of players’ errors and thereby for the organization of instruction in interaction in this setting.
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Enthusiasm for research on the brain and its application in education is growing among teachers. However, a lack of sufficient knowledge, poor communication between educators and scientists, and the effective marketing of dubious educational products has led to the proliferation of numerous ‘neuromyths’. As a first step towards designing effective interventions to correct these misconceptions, previous studies have explored the prevalence of neuromyths in different countries. In the present study we extend this applied research by gathering data from a new sample of Spanish teachers and by meta-analysing all the evidence available so far. Our results show that some of the most popular neuromyths identified in previous studies are also endorsed by Spanish teachers. The meta-analytic synthesis of these data and previous research confirms that the popularity of some neuromyths is remarkably consistent across countries, although we also note peculiarities and exceptions with important implications for the development of effective interventions. In light of the increasing popularity of pseudoscientific practices in schools worldwide, we suggest a set of interventions to address misconceptions about the brain and education.
Article
Two largely separate bodies of empirical research have shown that academic achievement is influenced by structural factors, such as socioeconomic background, and psychological factors, such as students' beliefs about their abilities. In this research, we use a nationwide sample of high school students from Chile to investigate how these factors interact on a systemic level. Confirming prior research, we find that family income is a strong predictor of achievement. Extending prior research, we find that a growth mindset (the belief that intelligence is not fixed and can be developed) is a comparably strong predictor of achievement and that it exhibits a positive relationship with achievement across all of the socioeconomic strata in the country. Furthermore, we find that students from lower-income families were less likely to hold a growth mindset than their wealthier peers, but those who did hold a growth mindset were appreciably buffered against the deleterious effects of poverty on achievement: students in the lowest 10th percentile of family income who exhibited a growth mindset showed academic performance as high as that of fixed mindset students from the 80th income percentile. These results suggest that students' mindsets may temper or exacerbate the effects of economic disadvantage on a systemic level.
Chapter
Disruptive student behavior contributes to poor student outcomes, loss of classroom instructional time, and teacher burnout. Physical movement is an intervention that has been used to target and ameliorate disruptive student behavior for students with learning and behavioral disabilities. A review of two movement-based interventions - Brain Gym® and antecedent bouts of exercise - reveals different levels of research support. Brain Gym®, a commercial movement-based curriculum, is not supported by extant empirical research. Alternatively, a growing body of research empirically supports antecedent bouts of exercise as an effective behavioral intervention. This chapter provides a description and review of research for each intervention. Implications for instructional practice and recommendations are provided.