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Type of Measure: The Empathy Quotient (EQ) is a self-report 60-item questionnaire that was designed assess empathy among adults with high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome (AS). Autism is believed to be an empathy disorder (given mindreading deficits). The EQ therefore guages empathy, which is essential for normal social functioning. It contains 40 empathy items and 20 filler/control items. On each empathy item, scores range from 0 to 2, so the EQ has a maximum score of 80 and a minimum score of zero. Each empathy item is awarded 1 point if the respondent records the empathic behavior mildly, or 2 points if the respondent records the behavior strongly. The 20 filler items were included to distract the respondent from a relentless focus on empathy.

To avoid response bias, approximately half the items were worded to produce a “disagree” response and half to produce an “agree” response for the empathic response. Items were then randomized. The EQ has a forced choice format, can be self-administered, and does not depend on any interpretation (Baron-Cohen & Wheelright, 2004).

Target Population: Adults with normal intelligence

Measurement properties and previous use: The EQ was validated on 197 healthy control volunteers and 90 people with Asperger’s Syndrome and High-functioning Autism (AS/HFA) and age and sex matched controls (a sex ratio of 2.6 : 1 m : f was found) (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004). It was shown to distinguish reliably between the clinical and control groups (p < .05). The authors also found sex differences in the control group with women scoring significantly higher. In addition, the EQ was found to have high test–retest reliability over a period of 12 months.

Lawrence, Shaw, Baker, Baron-Cohen, and David (2004) conducted a series of four studies to examine the EQ’s validity, reliability, and factor structure. In Study 1, 53 people completed the EQ, Social Desirability Scale (SDS) and a non-verbal mental state inference test, the Eyes Task. In Study 2, a principal components analysis (PCA) was conducted on data from 110 healthy individuals and 62 people reporting depersonalisation (DPD). Approximately 1 year later, Study 3, involved the re-administration of the EQ (n=24) along with the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; n=28). In the last study, the EQ scores of those with DPD, a condition that includes a subjective lack of empathy, were examined in depth.

An association was found between the Eyes task and EQ, and only three EQ items correlated with the SDS. PCA revealed three factors: (1) ‘cognitive empathy’; (2) ‘emotional reactivity’, and (3) ‘ social skills’. Test–retest reliability was good (r=0.835; p=0.0001) and moderate associations were found between the EQ and IRI subscales, suggesting concurrent validity. People with DPD did not show a global empathy deficit, but reported less social competence (see Lawrence et al., 2004 for a full review).

Languages: Bulgarian, Češka, Chinese, Hrvatski, Deutsch, Español, Suomi, Française, Française, Farsi, Hebrew, Hellenes, Italiano, Korean, Nederlands-BE, Nederlands-NL, Polski, Português, Norsk, Română, Russian, Serbian, Slovensky, Slovenija, Svensk, and Türkçe.

Authors and Citation: Baron-Cohen, S., & Wheelwright, S. (2004). The empathy quotient: an investigation of adults with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism, and normal sex differences. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 34(2), 163-175.

Lawrence, E. J., Shaw, P., Baker, D., Baron-Cohen, S., & David, A. S. (2004). Measuring empathy: reliability and validity of the Empathy Quotient. Psychological medicine, 34(05), 911-920.

Licence: This measure is freely available online, and may be used along with proper citiation. You are welcome to download these tests provided that they are used for genuine research purposes, and provided due acknowledgement of Autism Research Centre (ARC) as the source is given.

Link to measure: Empathy Quotient (EQ) for Adults

Also available: Empathy Quotient (EQ) for Adolescents
Children’s Empathy Quotient (EQ-C)

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