Mental imagery, emotionality, and stress in simultaneous interpreting

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Kumcu A.

2nd Meeting of Bertinoro Translation Society, Murcia, Spain, 18 - 20 June 2023

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Murcia
  • Country: Spain
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Visual mental imagery plays a key role in verbal memory (Paivio, 1969). For instance, individuals with better imagery have also better memory for narratives (Bagri and Jones, 2018). Due to the well-established role of memory in interpreting, mental imagery has long been regarded as a promising predictor of interpreting performance and yet, it is critically understudied with some exceptions (e.g., Chmiel, 2019; see also Martín de León, 2017). In this vein, our previous results (Kumcu and Öztürk, 2022) showed that interpreting trainees who are better at controlling/manipulating visual mental images (but importantly, not with more vivid imagery) performed better in consecutively interpreting (particularly less imageable) speeches without notes. The current study, designed as an extended follow-up to Kumcu and Öztürk (2022), aims to investigate the effect of individual differences in visual mental imagery on simultaneous interpreting (SI) performance in speeches varying in emotionality. To this aim, 25 interpreting trainees will be administered two imagery scales (the revised version of The Vividness of Visual Imagery Scale - VVIQ-2 (Marks, 1995) and The Gordon Test of Visual Imagery Control - TVIC (Gordon, 1949)) measuring vividness and control/manipulation skills, respectively. Participants will also be tested through a colour naming task (Cui et al., 2007) and a mental rotation task as objective counterparts of the self-reported components of imagery. They will then be asked to simultaneously interpret neutral and emotional speeches (see Korpal and Jasielska, 2019) controlled for valence, imageability, difficulty, familiarity, and delivery speed. SI performance will be analysed based on a rubric breaking down output quality into fidelity (60 %), accuracy (20 %), and delivery (20 %) (see Rojo López et al., 2021). Participants’ auditory output will be analysed on PRAAT (Boersma and Weenink, 2022) for the prosody markers of stress (see Sondhi et al., 2015): pitch as a function of the fundamental frequency and disfluency as a function of silent and filled pauses as opposed to baseline speech production. The study aims to answer two main research questions: (1) What is the effect of vividness and control of visual mental imagery on SI performance? Although there is evidence that image-schematic prompts improve propositional recall and the shadowing accuracy among interpreting trainees (Zuo, 2014), how individual differences in imagery vividness and control map onto SI performance is currently unknown. Since several studies have shown that SI has different cognitive demands compared to CI (e.g., Lin et al., 2021), vividness, rather than the control might predict SI performance in contrast to CI. (2) What is the effect of vividness and control of visual imagery on stress during SI? Imagery is conceptualised as an "emotional amplifier" of mental content (Wicken et al., 2021). Thus, participants who conjure up more vivid mental images might experience greater stress (computed through the above-mentioned prosody parameters) when interpreting emotional speeches. On the other hand, the ability to control mental images might minimise acoustic reflections of stress during interpreting.