An illustration of Steven holding a sign that says ‘EQ’.

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.

 

Dr. Natalie’s rating: 5 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 2 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.

 

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


Taking the test

The EQ consists of 60 statements, giving you 4 choices for each statement:

  1. Definitely Agree = 2 points
  2. Slightly Agree = 1 point
  3. Slightly Disagree = 1 point
  4. 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


Validity

How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?


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Discussion

Natalie:

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.

Kendall:
  • 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?

Embrace ASD | The Empathy Quotient | icon Test

Filler statements

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.

The EQ

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.


Recommended next steps

After the EQ, consider taking one of the tests below.

Systemizing Quotient

Measures your systemizing and pattern
finding proclivities and abilities

Toronto Empathy Questionnaire

Measures your emotional ability to
understand and respond to others

Toronto Alexithymia Scale

Measures difficulty in identifying and
describing emotions and feelings

Online autism tests can play an essential role in the process of self-discovery, and may inform your decision to pursue a formal diagnosis. For a formal assessment, please see a knowledgeable medical professional trained in assessing autism.


An illustration of a clipboard with a checklist or assessment.

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
have a look at the following post:

Online autism assessments

Cognitive empathy, Empathy, Empathy Quotient, Psychometric test, Sally Wheelwright, Simon Baron-Cohen, Social skills, Test-retest reliability, Theory of mind, Toronto Empathy Questionnaire


Dr. Natalie, Martin & Kendall

Dr. Natalie, Martin & Kendall

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht RP ND is a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor and a Canadian leader in trauma and PTSD, and she happens to be autistic.Martin Silvertant is ironically a silver award-winning graphic designer, type designer, autism researcher, and more. He was diagnosed at 25.Kendall Jones is a musician and sound engineer from Louisiana, with an affinity for both music and language. He was diagnosed late in life, at 61.

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