Evaluating Emotional Stability as a Predictor of Chinese MTI Students' Interpreter Aptitude

Evaluating Emotional Stability as a Predictor of Chinese MTI Students' Interpreter Aptitude

Jiang Fengxia (Beijing Foreign Studies University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch019
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It is necessary to find an effective way of testing interpreters' aptitude so as to enhance the efficiency in deciding his or her potential interpretation talents. This chapter proposes that variance in interpreter performance is dependent on factors of both general cognitive ability and personality. It reports on a study of 110 Chinese MTI students in the hope of finding out what traits play the most important role and to what extent these variables impact on learning and achievement. Psychological constructs of self-efficacy, goal orientation, and negative affectivity were measured, as were interpreter ratings of self-perceived competence as practitioners. The most significant finding revealed the dimension of emotional stability (represented on the negative end of the continuum by traits of anxiety and neuroticism, and measured in this study by the negative affectivity scale) as a predictor of interpreters' self-perceived competence. Based on these findings, recommendations for admission testing and interpreter education curricula are discussed.
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In recent years it has been more widely accepted that both personality factors and general cognitive ability influence performance — in the classroom and in the workplace. Such individual differences are further influenced by environmental and social factors, such as learning conditions. It needs to be stated that the primacy of general cognitive ability as a predictor of occupational performance remains largely undisputed, despite gains in the field of personality studies (Ree & Earles 1992; Ree et al. 1994; Schmidt & Hunter 1998). Essentially this means there is typically a complementary fit between a person’s intellectual resources and the cognitive demands of their chosen occupation.

However, accounting for at least some of the variance in occupational performance amongst individuals, the research published in recent years demonstrates a convincing relationship between personality and performance as well (Barrick & Mount 2005; Barrick et al. 2001). Although personality may be only a small part of the bigger picture, Ones et al. (2007) suggest that personality constructs may account for specific attitudes, behaviors and performance in an occupational context. Notably, the role of personality in successful completion of courses of study (Phillips et al. 2003); skill acquisition (Oakes et al. 2001); job performance (Judge et al. 1999); and career success (Bozionelos 2004) should not be underestimated. An individual’s preferences and desires evidently influence his/her person vocation fit (Reeve & Heggestad 2004), and “adaptability, positive relationships, openness to experiences, and social and psychological capital” (Fouad 2007: 556) impact on career exploration. Ultimately, individual personality differences do relate to outcomes at work.

Furthermore, it is now understood that the actual relationship between general cognitive ability and personality is negligible. There may be a very bright individual who is lazy, anxious, insecure and unmotivated, which potentially impacts on job performance and productivity. Similarly, there may be a very responsible, goal oriented, secure and careful individual who may lack the general cognitive ability required for a particular job, even if apparently suited in temperament. It appears personality is a poor predictor of general cognitive ability, and that tests of cognitive ability should be interpreted separately from personality tests administered to individuals, with limited inferences made between the constructs. This reinforces the view that attention needs to be paid to both general cognitive ability and personality factors in any recruitment and selection process in an occupational context (Judge et al. 1999).

Barrick and Mount (2005) describe the cognitive factors affecting job performance as the “can do” factors — an individual needs a requisite level of general cognitive ability, to perform the tasks inherent in the job. Personality however may be described as the “will do” factor — will the person be dependable, motivated, confident and goal-oriented enough to apply their individual capabilities towards effectively performing the tasks of the job? In essence, and quite logically, performance is predicated on both ability/capacity and motivation/willingness factors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

MTI: Master program in Chinese universities. The during period is two years usually, and MTI are initial letters of master of translation and interpretation. The purpose of this program is to train the professional interpreters.

Self-Efficacy: The extent or strength of one's belief in one's own ability to complete tasks and reach goals. Psychologists have studied self-efficacy from several perspectives, noting various paths in the development of self-efficacy; the dynamics of self-efficacy, and lack thereof, in many different settings; interactions between self-efficacy and self-concept; and habits of attribution that contribute to, or detract from, self-efficacy.

Emotional Stability: A measure standard of psychological emotion. It represents on the negative end of the continuum by traits of anxiety and neuroticism, and measured in this study by the negative affectivity scale, and it works as a predictor of interpreter’s self-perceived competence.

Cognitive ability: The set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving & decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc.

Interpreter Aptitude: Kinds of ability of interpreters which enable them do the job. The purpose of an aptitude test is to identify which applicants to a course would appear to be most suitable for training as interpreters.

Personality: Refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.

Self-Perceived Competence: A person’s own beliefs or predictions concerning their abilities and performance. This may be different from an individual’s actual performance. Both self-perceptions and actual competence have traditionally been divided into four smaller categories. These include academic, social, emotional, and behavioral perceptions.

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