The Empathy Quotient
The Empathy Quotient (EQ) is a self-administered questionnaire designed to measure empathy in adults. It tests the ability to tune into how someone else is feeling, or what they might be thinking.
- Statements: 60
- Duration: 5–10 minutes
- Type: screening tool
- Authors: Simon Baron-Cohen & Sally Wheelwright
- Publishing year: 2004
- Seminal paper: Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright (2004)
Take the test here:
Who the test is designed for
- Autistic adults (age 16+) judged to have an IQ in the normal range (IQ >=80).
- Versions for adolescents and children are also available.
Versions & translations
- The EQ has been translated into many different languages
- Non-adult versions are also available:
Taking the test
The EQ consists of 60 statements, giving you 4 choices for each statement:
- Definitely Agree = 2 points
- Slightly Agree = 1 point
- Slightly Disagree = 1 point
- Definitely Disagree = 2 points
The EQ comprises 60 statements, broken down into two types:
- 40 statements on empathy, and;
- 20 filler items.
Much of the confusion of the EQ comes from the 20 filler questions that were designed to distract the participant from a relentless focus on empathy. So the filler questions serve as a palate cleanser, which allegedly improves the accuracy of the given answers on non-filler questions.
- Scoring range: 0–60
- Threshold score: ↓30
- 81% of people previously designated Asperger syndrome score 30 or lower.The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004)
- Most non-autistic males score 42 on average.The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004)
- Most non-autistic females score 47 on average.The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004)
How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?
- The Empathy Quotient (EQ) is a widely misunderstood measurement. In actuality, it has good reliability and validity and falls into a normal bell curve. Everyone can be placed on this empathy spectrum (from high to low).
- The EQ is a valid, reliable scale.Measuring empathy: reliability and validity of the Empathy Quotient (Lawrence et al., 2004)
- The EQ has a test-retest reliability of 0.835 over a period of 12 months, which indicates good reliability (a reliability of 1 is perfect).Measuring empathy: reliability and validity of the Empathy Quotient (Lawrence et al., 2004)
I have an ambivalent relationship with Simon Baron-Cohen and his tests, and the Empathy Quotient is no exception. I score 32—much lower than the typical female score of 47. Martin scores a whopping 3, which is just outrageous. He is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know.
Baron-Cohen created this test to measure empathy but is not explicit in what he means by that term. I know he considers all autistic people ‘zero positives’. A zero positive is a person who lacks both cognitive and emotional empathy but may contribute to society.
A zero positive is a person who lacks both cognitive and emotional empathy but may contribute to society.
In terms of empathy, I have too much. I am what Baron-Cohen calls a level 6 (individuals with remarkable empathy). Level zero has no empathy at all. Hurting someone means nothing to them.
According to research and tests like the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, I have much higher empathy (54 out of 60) than most people. Research shows that our theory of mind or cognitive empathy improves significantly with age. Though we have cognitive empathy, we don’t always choose to use it.
One danger of the EQ is it perpetuates both the belief that autistics having no empathy, and the differences as a disability myth. Furthermore, it is upsetting for many autistics to learn how low they score on this test. Irrespective of your score, you are considered a zero-positive. So no matter what, Simon stretches or chops our limbs to fit into his Procrustean bed.
Despite all of this, the Empathy Quotient does have a reasonable correlation with autism. I concluded that it measures our social and communication differences rather than our empathy, and indeed research supports this.
- After receiving a score of 13 on the EQ, I could not understand why my score was so low. When I did the Toronto Empathy Score, I scored higher than normal empathy (48).
- Learning about the filler questions was annoying. For example, the practical joke question. Practical jokes are mean and I dislike witnessing them. Why does that not display empathy?
- The idea that empathy is a two-part process—identify what someone is thinking and respond with an appropriate emotion—seems accurate. I’m glad young Simon’s sister had a disability.
- Part two is where the misunderstandings occur. The desired response is the neurotypical response. My ability to attribute mental states to another person is present but, the response is spoken in a different language. Does that make my response invalid or incorrect?
The 20 filler statements have NOTHING to do with a person’s EQ score; they are simply disregarded, but serve to improve the accuracy of your answers. Still, I think it’s nice to know which statements are not counted on this test. They are:
- 2. I prefer animals to humans.
- 3. I try to keep up with the current trends and fashions.
- 5. I dream most nights.
- 7. I try to solve my own problems rather than discussing them with others.
- 9.. I am at my best first thing in the morning.
- 13. I would never break a law, no matter how minor.
- 16. I prefer practical jokes to verbal humor.
- 17. I live life for today rather than the future.
- 20. I tend to have very strong opinions about morality.
- 23. I think that good manners are the most important thing a parent can teach their child.
- 24. I like to do things on the spur of the moment.
- 30. People often tell me that I am very unpredictable.
- 31. I enjoy being the center of attention at any social gathering.
- 33. I enjoy having discussions about politics.
- 40. I can’t relax until I have done everything I had planned to do that day.
- 45. I often start new hobbies but quickly become bored with them and move on to something else.
- 47. I would be too nervous to go on a big rollercoaster.
- 51. I like to be very organized in day-to-day life and often make lists of the chores I have to do.
- 53. I don’t like to take risks.
- 56. Before making a decision I always weigh up the pros and cons.
Please read each statement carefully and rate how strongly you agree or disagree with it by selecting the circle under your answer. There are no right or wrong answers, or trick questions.
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