Investigating interpreters’ empathy: Are emotions in simultaneous interpreting contagious?

Paweł Korpal and Aleksandra Jasielska
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

An experimental study was conducted to examine whether simultaneous interpreters are affected by the speaker’s emotions. To this end, two measures of emotion were used: galvanic skin response (GSR) as a marker of emotional arousal, and SUPIN – the Polish adaptation of PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). A group of interpreters with Polish as their A language and English as their B language (N = 20) took part in the experiment. They were asked to simultaneously interpret two speeches (recordings accompanied by video) from Polish into English: a neutral speech and an emotional speech. The results show that the interpreters are indeed affected by the speaker’s emotions, which is reflected in both a greater galvanic skin response and higher SUPIN scores for the emotional speech, when compared to the neutral speech and baseline values. The results may shed new light on the importance of emotion processing in simultaneous interpreting.

Publication history
Table of contents

In recent decades, research on psychological factors has gained popularity in Interpreting Studies. In line with the discourse-based interaction paradigm (Wadensjö 1998), interpreting can be perceived as a communicative activity in which an interpreter acts as a mediator enabling communication between two parties expressing not only meaning, but also intentions and emotions. Some interpreting scholars have emphasised the significance of psycho-affective factors in the interpreting profession (Brisau, Godijns and Meuleman 1994; Timarová and Ungoed-Thomas 2008; Bontempo and Napier 2011; Pöchhacker 2011; Rosiers, Eyckmans and Bauwens 2011). For example, according to Brisau, Godijns and Meuleman (1994, 87),

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