Empathic accuracy, shared cognitive focus, and the assumptions of similarity made by coaches and athletes
Previous research has shown that a shared cognitive focus between coaches and athletes increases their empathic accuracy; their ability to accurately infer what each other are thinking and feeling. The aim of this study was to investigate the degree to which this association is mediated by an assumption of similarity; the awareness that a shared cognitive focus exists. 78 coach-athlete dyads viewed video footage that displayed discrete interactions that had naturally occurred during their own training sessions. They then reported what they remembered thinking and feeling while making inferences about what their partners’ thought and felt at each point. Empathic accuracy, shared cognitive focus, and assumed similarity were calculated by comparing the similarity of participants’ self-reports and inferences in a variety of combinations. The results indicated a significant association between shared cognitive focus and empathic accuracy for both coaches and athletes. This relationship was significantly mediated by assumed similarity. This suggests that a shared cognitive focus increases empathic accuracy and that this association is at least in part due to coaches and athletes recognizing this similarity and basing their empathic inferences upon this knowledge. These issues are discussed in relation to limitations, theory, and practical application.