New publication in Interpreting

Is it all in the mind? Investigating the presumed cognitive advantage of aspiring interpreters

In complex tasks such as interpreting, the importance of a well-functioning working memory can hardly be overestimated. However, as empirical studies have failed to produce consistent results with regard to the interpreter advantage in memory storage, recent studies tend to focus on executive control rather than storage capacity. To our knowledge, no such study has compared the possible cognitive advantage of aspiring interpreters relative to other multilinguals before training takes place, in spite of the fact that many interpreter selection procedures seek candidates with superior working memory skills. To this end, we have compared a group of 20 student interpreters with two other groups of advanced language users who were all at the start of their Master’s training. Data were collected on three executive control functions: inhibition (resistance to interference and resistance to automatic response), shifting and updating. These functions were gauged by computer-based tasks, viz. an Attention Network Test, a Simon task, a Colour-Shape Switch task and a 2-back task. One storage capacity measure – a digit span task – was also included. Results revealed only negligible differences between the three groups at onset of training. The presumed cognitive advantage of aspiring interpreters with regard to executive control was not found.

Rosiers, A., Woumans, E., Duyck, W., & Eyckmans, J. (in press). Is it all in the mind? Investigating the presumed cognitive advantage of aspiring interpreters. Interpreting.  PDF available here

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