Effects of the Interpreter on Neuropsychological Testing, by Rachel Nichole Casas

man timing women on psych test
Man times woman on a Psychology test at the University of Iowa

As the population of Hispanics who speak English “less than well” increases in the United States, the amount of neuropsychological tests which require an interpreter has also been increasing. This is an issue because, as pointed out in Rachel Nichole Casas’ 2010 Dissertation “Interpreter-mediated neuropsychological testing of monolingual Spanish speakers: does it have an effect on test scores?,” an academic consensus on the effects incurred when using an interpreter on such scores has not been made. In fact such effects have barely even been studied.

 

For lack of a better alternative, it generally is assumed that the test data obtained through an interpreter are a valid indication of the patient’s cognitive functioning, but with almost no empirical support, this assumption appears tenuous at best. The effect of an interpreter, in fact, could be substantial, making this issue all the more deserving of rigorous investigation.

Casas’ study does indeed show a strong scoring effect when using an interpreter on such tests, but she does not pose their exact nature, instead referring to the need for future research. This ground work study helps identify one of the largely ignored challenges which faces a multicultural society, one of identifying language related cognitive differences.

 

Rachel Nichole Casas. Interpreter-mediated neuropsychological testing of monolingual Spanish speakers: does it have an effect on test scores? PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) Thesis, University of Iowa, 2010.