Sociology of Mindsport as an Academic Field
The sociology of mindsport is a new and innovative area of research and teaching. While there is considerable research on chess and some on poker, there has been very little written across the social sciences on bridge. There is currently no university module that examines sociological concepts, theories and themes that facilitate an understanding of the complexities of mindsports, including their social roots and societal importance.
Given that mindsports are cultural and social practices that cannot be separated from social concerns in contemporary society, it is timely to introduce such a module to university teaching. It is important for students to investigate the meanings and motivations of participation in mindsports in relation to social and global divisions. By exploring the complexity of the social and cultural contexts of mindsport in relation to work, family and everyday life in contemporary society, the development of the sociology of mindsport will bring to light some of the major controversies and issues that confront leisure and sport studies today.
Sociology of bridge
The sociology of bridge is about understanding how the bridge world works: what motivates players, opportunities for skill development and the dynamics of the game. BAMSA projects are researching interactions and relationships within the mindsport, wellbeing, transferable life skills, health and social benefits, intergenerationality, youth participation, digital approaches and the growth and sustainability of the global bridge community. By carrying out research that highlights the benefits and skills that playing bridge provides, we can develop an evidence base from which to persuade governments, communities and schools to consider investing in introducing more bridge into primary and secondary schools, universities, workplaces and community centres.
In order to achieve this evidence base, the BAMSA research team is undertaking a sociological exploration of bridge including the social and non-technical aspects of the mindsport. The card game of bridge involves overlapping boundaries between work, leisure, gender studies, gerontology and mindsport. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws on literature from a variety of academic areas.
Each of the BAMSA studies will be supervised or led by Professor Punch, who has more than 20 years’ experience of undertaking research with families, children and young people, and who is an international bridge player in her own right. The global BAMSA network ensures the research is directly linked to the work of the European Bridge League (EBL), the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), the South Pacific Bridge Federation and the World Bridge Federation (WBF).
Sociology of mindsport
The academic study of the sociology of mindsport explores sociological theories, debates and controversies regarding the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of leisure and sports studies. It enables a critical understanding of the connections between leisure, mindsport and sport which are considered alongside their relationship to work and family life.
Mindsports, such as chess and bridge, focus on cognitive aspects of play and competition, structured by rules and goals. An academic understanding of mindsport considers both professional and recreational levels undertaken during ‘free time’ or work time; chosen for pleasure, relaxation, employment or other emotional satisfaction. The growth of mindsports can bring families, local, national and international communities together via shared goals, with positive implications for healthy ageing and intergenerational socialisation.
Mindsports involve intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, while also reflecting power and status. They are socially constructed, relative to the social, political and economic conditions that exist in any given society at any given time.
As sociologists, BAMSA researchers explore the potential of mindsports to contribute positively to mental and physical health, wellbeing and social connection, and investigate their contribution to the formation of self and identity. They examine the barriers and opportunities regarding mindsport participation and the role of mindsport in relation to nationalism, the economy, health policy, globalisation, digitalisation, commodification and inequalities. They consider the place of mindsports within contemporary, globalised societies and analyse the extent to which they reflect social divisions in wider society.