Published:  2023-11-19

Under Pressure? A Study of Heart Rate and Heart-Rate Variability Using SmarTerp

Authors:  Christian Olalla-Soler, Nicoletta Spinolo, Ricardo Muñoz Martín

Tags:  CAI tools, SmarTerp, heart rate, heart-rate variability, interpreting, physiological stress, quasi-experiment

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The results of a quasi-experimental, intra-subject study are reported on the effects of the use of SmarTerp on physiological stress levels of twelve second-year students of the MA in Interpreting at the University of Bologna during a simultaneous interpreting task. The study, part of a broader project, explores the rendition of terminological units, proper names, and numbers and its correlation with stress levels, to provide insights into SmarTerp’s practical usefulness in the field. Physiological stress levels were measured through heart rate and heart-rate variability indicators with Empatica E4 wristbands. Participants took part in three data-collection sessions over a month. In sessions 1 and 3 the participants interpreted two speeches, one with SmarTerp and another one without it. Descriptive findings hinted at a potential stress-alleviating effect of interpreting with SmarTerp, especially when interpreting into a second language. However, all inferential statistical results consistently revealed non-significant outcomes. Furthermore, stress levels did not decrease significantly over time when using SmarTerp. While the non-significant reduction in stress may cast doubt on the tool’s efficacy, the complexity and multiple variables influencing stress in interpreting tasks should be factored in. SmarTerp may serve its primary purpose in aiding accurate rendition of terminological units, proper names, and numbers.