This study seeks to discover which personality types become interpreters for the deaf and where they prefer to work. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Keirsey Bates Temperament Sorter, and personal interviews via e-mail were used to determine the types of 35 interpreters and 37 interpreting students. The predominant type for interpreters was INFJ, whereas that for students was ISFJ. These results were compared with the types of personnel in various prefessions. In the fields of education, medicine, and law enforcement, the SJ combination predominated, while in performing arts, mental health, and religious work, the NF combination took precedence. This data correlates positively with the types of interpreters who prefer working in each of the aforementioned settings.
Personality Type and Interpreters for the Deaf
In many professions, one predominant personality type manifests itself so frequently that it becomes almost a cliché to the rest of the world. We are all familiar with the stereotypes of the computer nerd, the mad scientist, the absent-minded professor, and the glad-handing politician. While these characterizations may be inaccurate, they do demonstrate the fact that some personality types seem to gravitate to certain professions, or to different expressions a profession. For example, quiet, creative people become artists and writers, while outgoing creative people teach others to draw and write. The ways in which different personalities express themselves is a constant source of fascination for me.
I work as a professional interpreter for the deaf and part time instructor in the Interpreter Training Program at Oklahoma State University/Oklahoma City campus. I have always felt that interpreting was an excellent match for my personality; therefore, I assumed that most interpreters, or those who want to become interpreters, were a lot like me. However, since I started teaching at OSU/OKC, I have discovered that many, if not most, of the students in our program have personalities quite different from mine. I also learned that of all the students who begin our program, only a very small percentage actually go on to become interpreters. This interested me for two reasons. First, I wondered if there were any way to know in advance whether a student was typologically suited to the interpreting profession; second, I wondered where the students would work after graduation. I wondered if certain personality types would be happier and more effective in some environments than others and, if so, which types are best suited for which settings.
I decided to see if I could find out the answers to my questions by means of a combination of informal survey and research. The answers will help me in several ways. First, I will become a better mentor by learning to see the strengths in my students' personalities and encouraging them to build upon those strengths. Second, I will become a better advisor to students by guiding them into a field of interpreting that will make best use of their natural preferences. "An understanding of type ... gives you confidence in your own direction of development - the areas in which you can become excellent with most ease and pleasure. It can also reduce the guilt many people feel at not being able to do everything in life equally well" (Lawrence, 1982, p. 18).
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator
The personality traits that I studied are the four pairs of preferences postulated by Carl G. Jung in 1921 and verified through a personality assessment instrument developed by Isabel Briggs Myers in 1942 and continuing, with some modifications, to the present day. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Form G, is a self-scorable instrument which identifies a person's preferences for Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, and Judgment or Perception. (Descriptions of the four pairs of preferences are provided below.) Each question is a statement with two possible endings, both of which are acceptable and desirable, although they may be weighted differently. The subject is instructed to complete each statement with the ending that most closely describes his or her preferred behavior most of the time. This is clearly a very subjective instrument, but it has been proven highly accurate at discovering a person's innate preferences.
Extraverson/Introversion. The first pair of preferences, Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I), describe the way a person gains energy. Extraverts (people who prefer Extraversion) become energized when they are surrounded by people and activity, and therefore they prefer to spend most of their time in interaction. Introverts (people who prefer Introversion) quickly become drained of energy by too many people and activities. They need to withdraw to a quiet place in order to think and regain their energy, and so they prefer to spend much of their time alone. While every person spends some time in interaction and some time alone, each person enjoys one more than the other, and this is the one the MBTI seeks to discover. It is estimated that in America approximately 75% of the population is Extraverted and 25% is Introverted. (See Table 1.)
Questions that measure the preference for Extraversion or Introversion deal with how the subject relates to other people. Some of the questions that purport to discover this preference are:
Do you usually (A) show your feelings freely, or (B) keep your feelings to yourself?
Do you think the people close to you know how you feel (A) about most things, or (B) only when you have had some special reason to tell them?
Sensing/Intuition. The second pair of preferences is Sensing (S) and Intuition (N). Both Sensing and Intuition are ways of gathering information (perceiving), but the kind of information perceived is different. Sensors notice and trust information gained through their five senses. They are grounded in the real world of here and now, aware of what is happening around them and making decisions based on actual facts. Intuitives, on the other hand, notice and trust information gained indirectly, such as inferences, analogies, or intuitive leaps of imagination. They are only vaguely aware of what is happening in the here and now because they are always looking ahead and planning tomorrow, making decisions based on what might be. Every person uses both Sensing and Intuition in gathering information, but each person uses one more than the other, enjoys one more than the other, and trusts one more than the other. In the American population, it is estimated that approximately 75% prefer Sensing and 25% prefer Intuition (Table 1).
Questions relating to the Sensing/Intuitive preference try to determine whether the subject is more comfortable dealing with facts and things or with ideas and possibilities. Some of the questions designed to measure the Sensing or Intuitive preference are:
Would you rather be considered (A) a practical person, or (B) an ingenious person?
Do you think it more important to be able (A) to see the possibilities in a situation, or
(B) to adjust to the facts as they are?
The third pair of preferences deals with judgment, or how a person makes decisions once the information has been gathered, whether by Sensing or Intuition. Thinking (T) judgment bases all decisions on logical analysis, objectivity, and justice. Feeling (F) judgment bases decision making on values, harmony, and mercy. Both Thinking and Feeling are rational, valid ways of deciding, and we all use both skills every day. But each person trusts decisions based on one more than decisions based on the other. It is interesting to note that in America, approximately 75% of men are Thinking and 25% Feeling, while among women it is just the opposite - about 75% Feeling, and 25% Thinking (Table 1).
Questions dealing with this preference try to determine whether the subject allows the heart to rule the head, or the head to rule the heart. Some examples of questions which measure one's preference for Thinking or Feeling are:
Would you rather work under someone who is (A) always kind, or (B) always fair?
Are you more careful about (A) people's feelings, or (B) their rights?
Judging/Perceiving. The fourth pair of preferences, Perception (P) and Judgment (J), were not explicitly described by Jung, but were implicit in his writings. These two preferences describe the way in which a person prefers to deal with the outer world. People who enjoy taking in information, whether through Sensing or Intuition, are called Perceivers; people who are quick to make decisions, whether through Thinking or Feeling, and called Judgers. This does not imply that Judgers are not perceptive, or that Perceivers have no judgment, it only describes the preference a person chooses to use when he or she is Extraverting. It is estimated that approximately 55% of the population is Judging, and 45% Perceiving (Table 1).
This is the preference that tells whether the subject prefers to deal with the world in an orderly way or a more spontaneous way. Some of the questions designed to determine one's preference for Judging or Perceiving are:
Are you more successful (A) at dealing with the unexpected and seeing quickly what should be done, or (B) at following a carefully worked out plan?
Do you think that having a daily routine is (A) a comfortable way to get things done, or (B) painful even when necessary?
The preceding descriptions are necessarily exceedingly brief and simplistic. The theory of personality type is very complex, but this is not the place to explain it in great detail. Even in this very simple form, it is easy to see how friends and acquaintances, and even we ourselves, exhibit some of these personality traits in our daily interactions. Each person prefers one of each pair of functions, and the initials of the four preferred functions are put together to create one of 16 possible personality "types" (See Table 2). An ESTJ, for example, would be defined as a person who prefers interaction to solitude, trusts the facts, makes decisions logically, and likes to have things settled, while an INFP would be one who seeks out solitude, misses the events of today because he/she is so busy anticipating tomorrow, makes decisions that reflect personal values, and goes through life with more questions than answers. Obviously, these two personality types, as well as all the other types, will have very different attitudes toward relationships, learning, and work.
A look at Table 2 shows that the sixteen types thus produced are not evenly distributed with each type having 6.25% (1/16) of the general population. The breakdown in Table 1 indicates that Extraverts outnumber Introverts by about 3 to 1; Sensors outnumber Intuitives by about the same ratio; Thinkers and Feelers are about equal in numbers but are influenced by gender as described above, and Judgers have a slight edge over Perceivers. Therefore, some types are much more abundant in the population than others. For example, the four types that prefer Introversion and Intuition each represent only 1% of the population as a whole, while the four types that prefer Extraversion and Sensing each constitute 13% of the general population.
Not only do the four preferences describe four distinct ways of functioning, but also the preferences combine to create characteristics that could not be predicted from the individual preferences themselves. These combinations are called Temperaments, and they are based on a long history of attempts to classify and understand human nature. Over 2,500 years ago, the Greek physician Hippocrates described four types of personality, which he named for the four kinds of body fluid (humors): Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, and Melancholic.
Sanguine. The Sanguine personality, named for blood, describes the fun-loving, happy-go-lucky type who faces life with gusto. This is a fair description of a person of the SP temperament. Persons favoring Sensing and Perception (_S_P) are characterized by "practicality; adept problem-solving skills, particularly at hands-on tasks; resourcefulness; and a special sense of immediate needs" (Kroeger & Theusen, 1988, p. 59). These are the people who love a challenge and are willing to take risks. The four SP types (ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP) make up about 38% of the population (Keirsey & Bates, 1984, p. 39).
Choleric. The Choleric personality, named for choler, or yellow bile, is a person who is orderly, critical, controlling. This corresponds nicely to the SJ temperament (_S_J). This is the group that trusts Sensing and prefers making decisions whenever possible. Their strengths include "administration, dependability, the ability to take charge" (Kroeger & Theusen, 1988, p. 56). They are traditional, conservative, and structured. The four SJ types (ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, and ESFJ) comprise about 38% of the American population (Keirsey & Bates, 1984, p. 39).
Phlegmatic. The Phlegmatic type, named for phlegm, is described as peace-loving, patient and indecisive. This description parallels the NF temperament. People of the NF temperament (_NF_) prefer Intuition and Feeling, and this combination gives them "a phenomenal capacity for working with people and drawing out their best; being articulate and persuasive; a strong desire to help others; the ability to affirm others freely and easily" (Kroeger & Theusen, 1988, p. 53). These are the positive, affirming communictors who seek harmony above all else. The four NF types (INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, and ENFP) represent about 12% of the population (Keirsey & Bates, 1988, p. 60).
Melancholic. The Melancholic temperament, named for black bile, is the personality type that is withdrawn, serious, and objective -- an apt description of the NT temperament. People preferring Intuition and Thinking (_NT_) can be recognized by their "ability to readily see the big picture; a talent for conceptualization and systems planning; insight into the internal logic and underlying principles of systems and organizations; the ability to speak and write clearly and precisely (Kroeger & Theusen, 1988, p. 55). They are so intent upon analyzing a situation or relationship that they often miss the experience itself. The four NT types (INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, and ENTP) comprise about 12% of the population (Keirsey & Bates, 1984, p. 47).
A distribution of the population by temperament is shown in Table 3.
Personality Type and Job Satisfaction
Jung's theory of psychological type raises some speculation with regard to the relationship between type (and temperament) and job satisfaction. Two principles on which I will focus much of the remaining discussion are listed by Judith Provost (1990:
According to Isabel Briggs Myers (1980), it is the S/N preference which has the strongest influence on career choice because it is the preference that determines one's interests. Sensors are drawn to occupations that deal with facts, while Intuitives are drawn to occupations that deal with possibilities. The second most important preference in choosing a career is the T/F preference. If the person is a Thinker, he/she will be more comfortable working with inanimate things, whereas a Feeler will be more comfortable working with people. Therefore, one would expect an ST person to seek out a hands-on occupation that allows him/her to work with data, computers, or materiel handling, while an SF person would be expected to look for hands-on work that provides practical assistance to people. In fact, professions such as law enforcement and accounting do indeed draw a high percentage of ST types, while the SF types flock to such professions as nursing, physical therapy, and personal service work. Similarly, if a person is an NT type, one would expect to find him/her in some field of work that requires imagining possibilities for things or systems, such as architecture or engineering, while an NF person would be expected to find work imagining possibilities for people. Indeed, the fields of science, research, and engineering are heavily populated with NT types, while the fields of psychiatry, the ministry, and creative arts draw predominantly NF types.
While it is possible and even common for people to work in professions that do not correspond to their preferences, the research makes it clear that there are benefits in selecting an occupation that makes use of one's dominant preferences. Says Judith Provost, "For some individuals, work and play are synonymous‹they conceive of play as a state of mind or attitude that they also find at work ... it seems that this playlike quality is more likely to occur when the dominant or preferred function is used on the job" (Provost, 1990, p.55). Conversely, work that calls upon one to use his/her less preferred functions can cause stress, anxiety, and eventual burnout.
It should be stressed at this point that psychological type and temperament do not determine one's ability or qualifications to do any particular job. All types are found in every occupation, though not all in the same proportions. The question is not "What is the best type to become an interpreter for the deaf (or any other profession)?" but "How can I, as a teacher, nurture and guide each student to find success and satisfaction in his/her chosen field?" If an uncommon type shows up in one of my classes, how can I meet that student's needs while still fulfilling the expectations of the rest of the class? Where will this student find his/her niche? These are questions that must be addressed if we are to graduate competent, qualified, and successful interpreters.
There is a dearth of information on the personality types of interpreters for the deaf, and what research has been done is largely unpublished and unavailable at this point. Since I do not have the appropriate degree or qualifications to acquire the MBTI myself, I was unable to give that assessment instrument to professional interpreters or students. Therefore, I gathered my data by the only means available to me: informal survey and the Keirsey-Bates Temperament Sorter. I started by writing an e-mail letter to the interpreters' mail list to which I subscribe, asking that anyone who had already taken the MBTI and knew their type write to me, telling me his/her type, in what field of interpreting he/she prefers to work, and how he/she feels that the work of interpreting fits in with his/her preferences. From the more than 100 names on the list, I received a total of 27 responses, some of them students. A few came with long, detailed narratives, others with only the four-letter type.
At the same time, I asked interpreter associates and students in the Interpreter Training Program at OSU/OKC to take the Keirsey-Bates Temperament Sorter as a means of attempting to identify their types. I visited with each one of them individually and explained the results of the questionnaire, offering alternatives and answering questions until each student was able to verify the accuracy of his or her type, either as it came out on the original assessment or after making adjustments in one or more of the preferences. Since I know these people personally, I feel quite confident that the results are as accurate as they ever could be on a subjective assessment such as a paper-and-pencil personality test.
Initially, I predicted that members of the interpreting profession would be mostly Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving (INFP). My reasoning was as follows: First, the interpreting process requires that the interpreter take in information and process it internally before putting out an interpretation. This is the preferred method of information processing for an Introvert. Second, interpreting means working with words and language, a skill that is generally associated with intuition. Furthermore, the interpreting process is based not only on words, but also involves nuances, vocal inflections, connotative values, and myriad other non-sensory input. Since Intuitives' natural tendency is to read between the lines, this seems to be a skill compatible with interpreting. Third, since interpreting is among those professions called "helping" professions, it would seem to be more appealing to the Feeling type of personality than to the more impersonal Thinking type. And finally, because interpreting requires that the interpreter take in and pass on information without any kind of personal input or value judgment, it seems that Perception would be preferable to Judging.
Among working interpreters, I found almost equal numbers of Extraverts and Introverts. The Extraverts told me that they thought Extraversion is an asset to interpreters because interpreters have to be able to meet people and be looked at "and can't worry if we're having a bad hair day." The down side of Extraversion is that they sometimes have to restrain themselves to prevent overwhelming their clients, and they sometimes find it a challenge not to speak up and join the conversation they are interpreting. The Introverts said that Introversion is a plus because it predisposes them to work with small numbers or one-on-one, makes them less dependent on reinforcement from others, and allows them to work in the world of thoughts and ideas. They can focus on the interpreting without being distracted by the activities around them, and without getting socially involved with the clients.
As predicted, I did find that the number of Intuitives surpassed the number of Sensors, but interpreters of both preference types were enthusiastic in their support of the benefits of being their type. The Intuitives said that the ability to think abstractly "is a gift!" Not only does the ability to conceptualize ideas allow them to produce an appropriate interpretation into American Sign Language, but also it helps them use closure skills to understand what the deaf client is signing to them, even if the client uses signs the interpreter has never seen before. Intuitives believe their Intuition gives them the ability to "assess a situation quickly and act accordingly" and also to "channel people's thoughts and feelings through my body and mind accurately and realistically (so it looks/sounds like the person himself is saying it)." Sensors were equally convinced that Sensing is a necessity for interpreters. "I notice details. Small differences can make a big difference in the meaning of a sign ... and interpreting has a practical aspect. It's useful; not theoretical."
The number of Feelers greatly exceeded the number of Thinkers, but whether this is a result of the nature of the profession or the fact that most of the respondents were women is hard to say. The Thinkers told me they like interpreting because it is a skill which "can be constantly improved and one's level of competence can be increased on an almost daily basis." The other big advantage to being a Thinker is "I don't suffer from the messiah complex." Thinkers are better able to distance themselves from the emotional content of the interpreting situation. Feelers, on the other hand, believed that Feeling is indispensable to the interpreting process. The word "empathy" came up a lot in their responses, as did the term "strong personal values." Feelers are unanimous in their belief that Feeling helps them understand "where the deaf and hearing clients are coming from." However, Feelers agreed that the Feeling preference has its pitfalls. The most common one is the tendency to become emotionally involved in the interpreting situation: "I have to self-talk myself into the truth that whatever I learned on an assignment about a deaf person's life is THEIRS, not MINE."
I found that the number of Judgers was greater than the number of Perceivers. Judgers saw Judging as an advantage in being able to make interpreting decisions quickly (one respondent added "for better or worse"). They also agreed that Judging keeps them organized, showing up on time for assignments, getting the bills out, and keeping track of who has paid and who needs a second notice. Perceivers thought that the Perceiving preference was ideal for a freelance interpreter because it allows them a lifestyle that is "flexible, adaptable, and spontaneous." They like going into new situations, don't mind last-minute changes, and don't feel the need to see the completion of everything they do. Perceivers did confess to having problems keeping up with the paperwork.
Only three types were not represented at all in the sample: ISTP, ESTP, and ENTP. The type that had the highest number was, as predicted, INFP (1% of the general population, 16% of the sample). Table 1 shows the breakdown by individual preference, and Table 4 shows the type distribution of the interpreters in my sample.
In terms of the four temperaments, the NF temperament had by far the largest number of interpreters, and the SP temperament had the fewest. This is particularly interesting because NF, as a group, equals approximately 12% of the total population, but they were 41% of the sample; SP is 38% of the population, but only 12% of the sample. Table 3 shows how the temperament distribution of the interpreters in my sample compares to that of the general population.
Interpreter Training Students
Among the 37 students who responded, the results were similar, but far from identical (See Table 5). For one thing, Introverts significantly outnumbered Extraverts. More interesting is the fact that Sensors greatly exceeded Intuitives. Feelers and Judgers were represented in much higher numbers than Thinkers and Perceivers. In temperament terms, the group showing by far the highest number of students was the SJ temperament, with 54% of the sample. In the general population, SJ is only 38%. Among students, as with working interpreters, ISTP, ESTP, and ENTP were not represented at all, nor were INTP and ENTJ. SP was only 11% of the sample (38% of the general population); NT was 6% (12% of the general population). The single type that was best represented was ISFJ (6% of the population, 26% of the sample).
It appears that the types that are drawn to interpreter training programs and the types that go on to become interpreters are not quite the same, and the question is, what happens to all those Sensors? Two possible answers come immediately to mind. One is that it could be that Sensors see interpreting as a manual skill, something that often comes very easily to Sensing types. Once they discover that interpreting requires message analysis and processing skills, they may lose interest and drop out. The other possibility is that research shows that most college professors are Intuitive types. That being the case, it may be that the professors are frightening students away by lecturing theory to students who only want to learn the skill. This would be a good subject for further research.
Preferred Fields of Interpreting
I asked the working interpreters what fields of interpreting they enjoyed most and how they felt those fields satisfied their preferences. Since my sample was small, I have been unable to draw any definitive conclusions from the survey, but the findings were certainly suggestive. Altogether, they named seven specific fields of interpreting in addition to private practice work (as opposed to working on the staff of a school, hospital, or other agency: educational (which I subdivided into elementary/secondary and postsecondary), medical, legal and law enforcement, performing arts, mental health, and religious. The results are listed in Table 1.
Among interpreters who prefer educational interpreting, the majority in my sample were Judgers. Only three interpreters said they enjoyed interpreting at the elementary level. Within that small sample, Introverted Judgers predominated. Two other types specified that they do not enjoy interpreting at the elementary level: ISFJ and INFP. Eleven interpreters responded that they enjoyed interpreting at the postsecondary level. There was no clear type bias in this field, only a slight preference of Judging.
Six interpreters responded that they enjoy working in the medical setting. While they were evenly divided in their preference for Extraversion and Introversion, and for Sensing and Intuition, they did show a clear preference for Thinking and Judging.
Only one interpreter expressed a preference for working in the legal setting. Significantly, it was an ESTJ. While one response does not reflect a pattern, it does fit in with type theory, as I will show later in this report.
Only two interpreters responded that they enjoyed interpreting in the performing arts setting, and one other interpreter indicated that she does not like performing arts interpreting. The two who preferred performing arts were both NFP; the one who avoids it was ESTJ.
Three of the four respondents who said they enjoy the mental health setting were INF; the fourth was ESTJ. Another interpreter, INTJ, said she does not like mental health interpreting.
Finally, five interpreters said they enjoyed religious interpreting. Of these, three were INFP; one was ESFP, and one (who said she "fell into" religious interpreting) was ENTJ. One ESTJ said she does not like interpreting in the religious setting.
Of course, there are many settings in which an interpreter may be called to work, but these are fairly representative of the kinds of situations that interpreters face daily. I was hoping for some more definitive typological breakdowns, but it appears that almost any type can feel comfortable in almost any setting. My next step was to research the personality types of professionals working in the fields of education, medicine, law enforcement, performing arts, mental health, and religion and see if there are any correlations between the personality types of those professionals, and those of the interpreters who particularly enjoy interpreting in those settings.
Self-Selection. Because the distribution of types in the general population is unequal, with some types representing as much as 13% of the population and others only 1%, the following information must be read carefully, always keeping in mind the general population distribution illustrated in Table 2. Within a given profession, one type may only be 5% of the sample, but if that type is 5% of the general population, then that is normal, average self-selection. On the other hand, if a type is 5% of the general population, but 25% of the sample, that shows a very high rate of self-selection; if that type were only 1% of the sample, that would show negative self selection. I will not mention self-selection in my commentary unless some unusually striking discrepancy occurs between the percentage of a type in the general population and its percentage of the sample under discussion.
Professionals in the Educational Setting
Interpreters for the deaf are in an odd position in the elementary classroom. They are not teachers, although they frequently do tutoring; they are not aides, although they often are required to perform some aide-like duties; they are not professionals in special education, but their clients usually have special educational needs; they have no authority, yet they are expected to enforce school rules. This made it difficult for me to determine which of the many educational roles would be the most accurate comparison with interpreters. I chose to use the scores of Teachers: Grades 1 through 12, Teacher's Aides, Reading Teachers, and Special Education Teachers as the four most closely related to the functions of the classroom interpreter.
Among teachers in grades one through twelve (p. 250 in the Atlas of Type Tables), the largest group was ISFJ, with SJ being the largest subgroup at 59% of the sample according to the Atlas of Type Tables. The SJ temperament is found in 38% of the general population. Extraversion and Introversion were almost equal with only a slightly greater emphasis on dIntroversion; Sensing was favored over Intuition by almost 3 to 1; the number of those preferring Feeling and Judging was about double that of those preferring Thinking and Perceiving. The least represented types were INTP, ESTP, and ENTP, each having only 1% of the sample. For ESTP and ENTP, this shows a definite negative self-selection rate, but for INTP (1% of the population), it is what one would expect to find in any group of 100 people.
Among teacher aides (p. 232 in the Atlas of Type Tables), the predominant type again was ISFJ, and the SJs far outnumbered any other group at 56% of the sample. While the number of Extraverts and Introverts was approximately the same, the number of Sensors was 50% greater than the number of Intuitives. The number of Feelers was almost double the number of Thinkers, and the number of Judgers was exactly double the number of Perceivers. The least represented types were INTJ and INTP, both under 1% of the sample.
Among reading teachers (p. 249 in the Atlas of Type Tables), which I chose because the field is slightly related to tutoring, the results were almost identical. While the most populated type was ISFJ, there was a definite increase in Extraversion and Intuition; and still Feelers outnumbered Thinkers, and Judgers outnumbered Perceivers, by 2 to 1. The least represented types were ISTP, INTP, and ESTP, each only 1% of the sample. For ISTP and ESTP, this is negative self-selection. For INTP, 1% is normal. Finally, looking at Special Education teachers (p. 251 in the Atlas of Type Tables), the chart shows a deviation from the elementary education pattern observed so far. The most populous type was ENFP, and while SJ was still the highest temperament, in fact Intuition actually beat Sensing by a slight margin overall. The gap between Thinking and Feeling narrowed slightly, as did that between Judging and Perceiving, The least represented types were ISTP (.58% of the sample, 5% of the population) and ESTP (1% of the sample, 13% of the population).
Discussion. The forgoing results are very much compatible with my findings about interpreters in the educational setting, and they hold implications for students going through the Interpreter Training Program at Oklahoma State University. First, it appears that the overall type of people who work in elementary education is ISFJ (See Table 6). This includes regular teachers, reading teachers, and teacher's aides. (Special education teachers tended to favor ENFP. I attribute this anomaly to the fact that people working in Special Education are consummate optimists who believe that, with a little ingenuity, anything is possible. ENFPs are by nature crusaders who will work tirelessly for a cause.) However, the two really significant attributes, I believe, are the S and the J. This is the combination that causes a person to be traditional, orderly, and structured. Clearly, at the lower levels, Sensing and Judging are the preferences that are most compatible with, and best satisfied by, work in the educational setting; at the same time, they are the preferences that would lead someone into the educational field at the elementary or secondary level. (See Table 3.) Furthermore, the dominant type of students in the Interpreter Training Program at OSU is ISFJ. This should mean that they will be the most marketable when they graduate, since most full-time interpreting jobs today are in the public school system.
At the postsecondary level, the interpreter's role is a little better defined. A staff interpreter interprets classroom lecture and does one-on-one tutoring with deaf students. Therefore, I compared interpreter types with the types of three groups: University Teachers, Teaching Assistants, and Adult Education Teachers.
Among university teachers (p. 255 in the Atlas of Type Tables), the most populous type was ISTJ, but that does not tell the whole story. Overall, Introverts did outnumber Extraverts by a small margin, but Intuitives constituted almost twice as many of the sample as Sensors, and Thinkers outnumbered Feelers. Judgers still beat out Perceivers by a wide margin. Of the four temperaments, both NF and NT had a slightly higher percentage of the total than SJ. The most under-represented type was ESTP with only 1% of the sample, but 13% of the population..
The field of teaching assistants (p. 256, Atlas of Type Tables) appears to be a mixed bag. The percentages of Extraverts and Introverts were close, as were those of Sensors and Intuitives. Feelers had a slight edge over Thinkers, and once again Judgers outnumbered Perceivers. The two types tied for the highest percentage of the sample were ISTJ and ENFP - four-letter opposites. The lowest percentage, .58%, was once again help by ESTP.
I found it interesting that adult education teachers (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 233) were typologically more like elementary and secondary teachers than like university professors. The group with the highest number of respondents was ESFJ, and overall, once again, the SJs took the prize for the most populous temperament. The breakdown of Extraversion, Introversion, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Judging, and Perceiving was almost identical to that of people in lower education. The most populous type was ESFJ; the least populous, INTP.
Discussion. At the higher levels of education we see more variation, and also the beginning of a pattern that seems to hold true throughout the literature. At the highest level (represented by university professors), there is a tendency toward NF and NT types, especially those preferring Judging. At the intermediate level (teaching assistants), NF and SJ tied for the top position. See Table 7 for a composite distribution of university teachers and teaching assistants. At the basic level of postsecondary education, the SJ temperament again took ascendancy. As with elementary education, this should be good news for Interpreter Training students. The data would suggest that SJs are temperamentally adapted for the educational setting all the way through the first few years of college. Professionals in the Medical Setting
Because there are so many different specialties in the medical profession, I tried to narrow my research to those people who might do work that is roughly comparable to the way interpreters for the deaf function in the medical setting. While interpreters do not actually get involved in any medical practices, they are called to interpret in every kind of medical situation, from X-rays to childbirth. I chose to use the fields of Medical Assistant, Nursing Aide, and a composite table of various Allied Health Practitioners.
Among medical assistants (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 358), two types tied for first place: ENFP and ESTJ. In looking at the breakdown of preferences and temperaments, however, it becomes apparent that, while the differences in Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, and Judging and Perceiving were fairly small, the combination of preferences most common in medical assistants was SJ. Feelers did outnumber Thinkers by a significant amount, but that is to be expected in a "helping" profession. The types most under-represented were ESTP with zero (but 13% of the general population), and ISTP and INTJ, each with 1% of the sample. For ISTP, this shows a negative self-selection rate, but for INTJ, it is a normal rate.
Nursing aides, including orderlies and attendants, (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 362) showed a similar set of preferences, only a bit more pronounced. The most populous type was ISFJ, and while the breakdown shows no significant difference between Extraversion and Introversion, it does show that Sensing was more common than Intuition, Feeling than Thinking, and Judging than Perceiving. SJ was definitely the largest temperament group, with 47% of the sample. The smallest groups were INTJ, with less than 1% of the sample, and ESTP and INTP, each with 1%. This is only significant for ESTP, which normally is 13% of the population.
The composite table of allied health practitioners (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 388) included audiologists, chiropractors, veterinarians, pharmacologists, health researchers, and others. Within this mixed group, the type having the largest number of members was ISTJ. As a group, these people showed an equal preference for Extraversion and Introversion, a slight preference for Sensing, a slight preference for Thinking, and a strong (2 to 1) preference for Judging. The type having the smallest percentage was ISFP, with only 2% of the sample. However, the most under-represented type was ESFP, having 3% of the sample but 13% of the general population.
Discussion. This data set coincides nicely with the working interpreters who told me they prefer working in the medical setting. They too showed equal preference for Extraversion and Introversion, Sensing and Intuition, but they also showed a preference for Thinking over Feeling as well as Judging over Perceiving. Table 8 is a composite distribution of the three samples used in defining the medical field.
As with the favorable comparison between interpreting students and professionals in the educational setting, it appears that the students entering the Interpreter Training Program are temperamentally and typologically well-suited to work in the medical profession. The combination of Sensing and Judging in particular, which is dominant among students in the program at OSU/OKC, seems to be the combination that predisposes one to work in the medical setting.
Professionals in the Law Enforcement Setting
The law enforcement field includes lawyers, judges, police officers, and any number of support personnel. Very few interpreters enjoy working in the legal setting (only one in my survey said he likes interpreting in law enforcement situations). I only chose two type tables to compare to interpreters: Police Officers and the Composite table of Protective Service Workers, which includes crossing guards, watchmen, corrections officers, and park rangers.
As a group, police officers (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 320) had a slight preference for Extraversion over Introversion, and a strong (three to one) preference for Sensing over Intuition. They also preferred Thinking over Feeling, and Judging over Perceiving.. The type with the largest number of police officers was ESTJ, with the SJ temperament representing 48% of the sample. The types having the smallest percentages were INFJ, INTJ, and ENFJ, each with only 1% or less of the sample. Since INFJ and INTJ each only comprise 1% of the general population, there is no evidence of negative self-selection within those two types; for ENFJ, at 5% of the population, there is a definite under-representation.
Protective service workers (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 333) showed a similar distribution, with ESTJ having the highest number and ISTJ running a close second. There was approximately equal preference for Extraversion and Introversion, but Sensing was preferred over Intuition, Thinking over Feeling, and Judging over Perceiving. The type showing the lowest percentage of the sample was INFJ, with 2% of the sample. However, since INFJ is in fact only 1% of the general population, this actually represents a positive rate of self-selection. The most under-represented type was ESFP with 3% of the sample, but 13% of the population.
Discussion. Since only one interpreter expressed a propensity for interpreting in the law enforcement setting, it is impossible to make any inferences about these findings. However, that one interpreter was of the type ESTJ, the very same type that prefers to work in law enforcement. It would seem logical that such a highly charged environment might require workers who have a more objective, unemotional demeanor than some of the other, more "helping" types of environments. Table 9 shows a composite distribution of types of professionals in the law enforcement field.
The implication for students in the Interpreter Training Program at OSU/OKC is that, although their SJ preference gives them some temperamental similarities with legal and law enforcement professionals, the students' preference for Feeling might be a stumbling block. It is my opinion, however, that if interpreters become aware of the problems they may face because of their personality preferences, they can make a decision to call upon their non-preferred function (in this case, the objectivity of Thinking) when necessary.
Professionals in the Performing Arts Setting
The umbrella term of performing arts includes a number of fields that do not involve interpreters, such as fine arts, journalism, and dance. However, there is a certain type that is drawn to the field of performing arts, whether they are creators, performers, or interpreters, and it is this type that I wanted to discover. I used a composite type table which included writers, artists, entertainers, and agents.
Among writers, artists, entertainers, and agents (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 106), the most populous type was ENFP, followed closely by INFP (20% and 16% of the sample, respectively). In the general population, these two types combined represent only 6%. Overall, there was no preference indicated between Extraversion and Introversion, but a big (5 to 1) preference for Intuition, a moderate preference for Feeling, and a significant preference for Perceiving. The NF temperament was the largest subgroup, with 52% of the sample (12% of the general population). The most under-represented groups were ISFP and ESFJ with 1.5% each of the sample (5% and 13% of the general population, respectively) and ESTP with zero, but 13% of the population. See type distribution in Table 10.
Discussion. This data matches the results of my informal survey, in which NFPs predominated in the performing arts setting, and Sensing Thinkers did not like interpreting performing arts. In a way, interpreting is itself a performing art, and this may explain why so many NF types actually become interpreters while the Sensing types drop out. The irony is that the demand for this type of work is very small compared to the demand for educational, medical, and legal interpreting, all of which call on SJ skills that are more difficult for the NF types.
Professionals in the Mental Health Setting
Given that there are numerous fields and types of mental health counseling, I tried to select type tables that represent people whose work is comparable to that of interpreters for the deaf. Of course, interpreters do work in every area of mental health, from AA meetings to deep psychotherapy, and these various settings probably call forth different personality types. However, in an effort to keep my data in the middle range, I selected three groups to study: a Composite of Practitioners is Social Work, General Counselors, and Social Workers. My assumption was that these three groups encounter a wide range of mental health issues, just as interpreters do.
The composite of Practitioners in Social Work (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 200) showed that the largest group by far was ENFP. The breakdown shows a strong preference for Extraversion, Intuition, and Feeling, and a moderate preference for Perceiving. The NF temperament, which is 12% of the general public, accounted for 55% of the sample. The most under-represented types were ISTP, ESTP, ISFP, and ENTJ, each with 1% or less of the sample. This reflects a strong negative self-selection rate, especially for the two Extraverted types.
Among general counselors (p. 201, Atlas of Type Tables), very similar numbers were found. ENFP (6% of the general population) accounted for 23% of the sample, and in the overall breakdown one can see that Extraversion was preferred over Introversion, Intuition over Sensing, Feeling over Thinking, and Perception over Judgment. The two types that were under-represented are ISTP and ESTP. The NF temperament was a full 57% of the sample.
The data on social workers (p. 209, Atlas of Type Tables) is similar. Again, ENFP was the most populous type, but the breakdown showed a different distribution overall. Extraversion and Introversion were equally preferred, Intuition and Feeling were preferred over Sensing and Thinking, and Judging was slightly preferred over Perceiving. The smallest groups were once again ISTP and ESTP.
Discussion. Clearly it is the NF combination that predisposes one to become a mental health practitioner (a composite type distribution is shown in Table 11), and it appears that those interpreters who prefer working in mental health settings share the same temperament. Since the NF temperament is in the minority in the OSU/OKC Interpreter Training Program, it seems that the teachers should encourage those students to continue working toward their goal of becoming interpreters, perhaps nudging them in the direction of mental health interpreting.
Professionals in the Religious Setting
There is data available on all kinds of religious professionals, but I don't know if much of it applies to interpreters in the religious setting. Most interpreters who do interpreting in church do so as a service to their deaf members, not as a function of type so much as a function of being asked to contribute their talents for the general good of the membership. However, one type table does seem to be comparable to interpreters in deaf ministry, and that is Protestants in Specialized Ministries (Atlas of Type Tables, p. 457). I will assume that the data in this chart is applicable to ministers to the deaf in other Christian and non-Christian houses of worship.
The dominant type in this sample was ENFJ. A breakdown by preference, however, showed almost no distinction between Extraversion and Introversion, but distinct preferences for Intuition, Feeling, and Judging. It is very interesting that the next highest type was INFJ at 12% of the sample. INFJ is only 1% of the general population. Four types each represented only 1% of the sample: ISTP, ESTP, ESFP, and ESTJ. ISFP had none at all. All four SP types showed a strong negative self-selection rate. NF comprised 53% of the sample (but only 12 percent of the general population), while SP was only 3% (but 36% of the population).
Discussion. While these data do coincide with my survey results, I don't think they can help guide and direct students into an appropriate field of interpreting because religious interpreting is usually done voluntarily as a matter of necessity. Often religious interpreters do not get paid for their work; they are expected to donate it for the good of the community. However, the data do show that some types are predisposed to become religious interpreters, and certainly many professional interpreters got their start in the religious setting.
With such a small sample, it is impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about the personality types of interpreters in various settings. Of the thousands of interpreters in the United States, only a very small percentage responded to my questions, and even that might be a biased sample. I assumed that if interpreters voluntarily answered my survey, that would constitute a random sampling, but of course, that is not necessarily so. First of all, I put the request on an e-mail listserve for interpreters. Right there, I made the questions more available to some types than others (other research shows that Introverts are more likely to join listserve groups than Extraverts). Second, some types (notably the NF types) are naturally more interested in type than others, and so more likely to respond; therefore, I could have an disproportionately large number of those types, and a correspondingly small number of the types less inclined to answer a survey like this.
The fact remains, however, that the results of my survey were certainly congruous with the little bit of published research I was able to find in the Journal of Interpretation (Doerfert & Wilcox,1986, p. 39). Furthermore, I discovered consistencies between the personality preferences of professionals in various fields and those of interpreters working in the same settings. I don't think this can be pure coincidence.
Since I had predicted a majority of NF types in the interpreting profession, I was not surprised to find that, indeed, the majority of my respondents were NF types. Not only is this consistent with my own sense of which preferences are beneficial to an interpreter, but it also corresponds to the findings of other research in the same field. What did surprise me was the discovery that the SJ temperament was actually preferable in so many different settings. Public education, especially at the lower to intermediate levels, the medical setting, and the law enforcement setting, all attract SJ types; the irony is that, at least among OSU/OKC Interpreter Training students, SJ is actually the predominant temperament. Where do they all go? Some drop out of the program; others continue until graduation and then never go on to work in the profession. What happens to them?
I can think of several answers to this question, but it would require more research to find the truth. If I were to study this issue (as I may well do on my next research project), I would start with an exploration of teaching styles and student retention. I think it quite possible that the NF-type professional interpreters who are teaching in Interpreter Training Programs gear their lecture material to the NF students (theories, principles, and conceptualizations) and allow the SJ students to fall behind and eventually drop out of the program. Then I would question the graduates of the Interpreter Training Program to see what their early interpreting experiences were. Often some of the first jobs a new interpreter gets are church services, employment counseling, and AA meetings - just the kind of things that would make an SJ want to throw in the towel. Third, I would consider the benefits of interpreting as a profession. Interpreters for the deaf are notoriously low-paid, so the rewards are mostly the intangible kind. For NF types, the intangible rewards are the most important ones (the opportunity to be of service, to make the world a better place, etc.), but people of the SJ temperament are often much more practical and reality-based. This could drive an SJ type into a more stable and lucrative profession.
Doerfert, K. & Wilcox, S. (1986). Meeting Students' Affective Needs: Personality Types and Learning Preferences. Journal of Interpretation, 3, 35-43.
Keirsey, D. & Bates,M. (1984). Please Understand Me. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Co.
Kroeger, O. & Thuesen, J.M. (1988). Type Talk. New York: Delacorte Press.
Lawrence, G. (1991). People Types & Tiger Stripes: A Practical Guide to Learning Styles. Gainesville. FL: Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc.
Macdaid, G. P., McCaulley, M. H., & Kainz, R. I. (1995). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Atlas of Type Tables. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psycholigists Press.
Myers, I. B. (1980). Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: CPP Books.
Provost, J. A. ((1990). Work, Play, and Type. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
head: PERSONALITY TYPE AND INTERPRETERS FOR THE DEAF
Table 1: Individual Preferences
Table 2: Type Distribution - General Population
Table 3: Temperaments
Table 4: Type Distribution -Working Interpreters
Table 5: Type Distribution - Interpreting Students
Table 6: Composite of Elementary and Secondary Professionals
Table 7: Composite of University Teachers and Teaching Assistants
Table 8: Composite - Medical Personnel
Table 9: Composite Law Enforcement Personnel
Table 10: Composite - Writers, Artists, Entertainers, and Agents
Table 11: Composite -- Mental Health Professionals
Table 12: Protestants in Specialized Ministries