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Empathy quotient

The meaning of «empathy quotient»

Empathy quotient (EQ) is a psychological self-report measure of empathy developed by Simon Baron-Cohen and Sally Wheelwright at the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. EQ is based on a definition of empathy that includes cognition and affect. According to the authors of the measure, empathy is a combination of the ability to feel an appropriate emotion in response to another's emotion and the ability to understand the others' emotion (associated with the theory of mind). EQ was developed in response to what the authors considered to be a lack of questionnaires which measure empathy exclusively: other measures such as the questionnaire measure of emotional empathy and the empathy scale have multiple factors which are uncorrelated with empathy, often associated with social skills or the ability to be emotionally aroused in general.[1] EQ was designed to test the empathizing–systemizing theory, a theory which places individuals in different brain-type categories based on their tendencies toward empathy and system creation, and was intended especially for clinical use to determine the role of lack of empathy in psychopathology, in particular to screen for autism spectrum disorder.[2]

The EQ consists of 60 items, 40 items relating to empathy and 20 control items. "On each empathy item a person can score 2, 1, or 0[3]". A 40-item version of the test containing only the relevant questions is also available, but may be less reliable in certain applications. Each item is a first-person statement which the administree must rate as either "strongly agree", "slightly agree", "slightly disagree", or "strongly disagree". All questions must be answered.[1]

The instrument is scored on a scale of 0 (being the least empathetic possible) to 80 (being the most empathetic possible). A useful cut-off of 30 was established when screening for autism spectrum disorders.[1]

Together with the systematizing quotient, the empathy quotient was developed by Simon Baron-Cohen and is used to test his empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory of autism. This cognitive theory attempts to account for two different aspects of autism disorder: the social and communication barriers and the narrow interest and attention to detail. Baron-Cohen associated the social and communication barriers with a lack of empathy, not only a lack of theory of mind but also an inability to respond to others' thoughts and emotions. He associated the narrow interest and attention to detail with a special ability to systematize or analyze.[4] This theory is consistent with the findings that individuals with autism score significantly higher scores on the systemizing quotient and lower scores on the empathizing quotient than the general population.[5] Although these scores have been found consistently, there is controversy about whether the autistic brain differs qualitatively or quantitatively.[6]

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