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The Empathy Quotient

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Jan. 14th, 2016 | 12:51 pm

I woke up today and was pondering what drives individuals to do horrible things and got on the web to seek some answers and stumbled across a test that determines one's level of empathy. Supposedly, those with lower empathy, and therefore lower scores, are more likely to commit acts that deny/undermine/negate the feelings of others. Those with low scores are claimed to have trouble relating to other people, because they do not strongly empathize with others. Claims are that they are capable of committing horrible acts without feeling much remorse.

I'm sure you can see where this is going... I took the test.

And well..I didn't score in the extremely low range, which would've placed me in the autism spectrum...but I scored just above that. Very strange, because my bf often tells me how incredibly empathetic I am and how in-tuned I am to the social aspects of situations. (still shaking my head) I have to wonder where he and my friends and family members would fall on this scale. :P

Basically it came down to this: A)I do not understand what motivates others, specifically in events that involve hurting others when retaliation/defense/psychosis are not involved B)I often do not understand how/why others are so easily hurt by the judgements of strangers/acquaintances C)If someone is hurt by my actions/words I generally believe it is their problem...bc, well, I'm pretty considerate and I'm not going to live my life scared of being myself or saying what i think.

Yes, I've always had a much "thicker skin" than my peers and have never cared much about what people think of me. Yes, I care about what my friends, family, boss and coworkers think...after all, these are people who I am directly involved with and whom I should and do care about. But, I have never been able to grasp why people care so much about what strangers and individuals they hardly know think. Some people have admired my ability to simply not be bothered...certainly there are many self-help books, sites, and counseling to help people drown out the negativity and judgement of others. So why am I an empathetic abnormality? And is that really such a bad thing?

The test began with Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, and Director of the University's Autism Research Centre. He's been doing autism research since the mid 80s and has produced a series of tests to measure placement of an individual in the autism spectrum. This research has lead to the development of the Baron-Cohen Empathy Quotient Test. The test measures an individuals ability to empathize with others, indicating autism among lower scores. Rather recently, it has been used to indicate individuals that are empathically deficient. The claim is that individuals who are not autistic and who score low, are more likely to be sociopathic, narcissistic, or to suffer from some sort of anti-social personality disorder. They've been making these claims for a relatively short time..8-10years.

After a little online digging I discovered this: 1)Basically, most scholars disagree with the use of this scale to determine the likelihood of an individual to commit acts without remorse/empathy as they have shown it not to be an effective indicator 2)It offensively makes a variety of assumptions about individuals, such as: those with autism are more likely to harm others because they cannot empathize as deeply, men are intrinsically less empathetic, those who are most empathetic are less likely to harm others, if members in society were more empathetic we would have a lower instance of harm towards others.

Basically, all it does is help to indicate autism...

Strangely enough, studies have shown that those with the lowest levels and highest levels of empathy are the individuals most likely to have difficulties in social settings. They are the most likely to have difficulty getting along with others, holding onto friends or jobs. So really...you wouldn't want a high score. Also..a narcissist or any individual who has difficulty with self reflection, wouldn't produce a reliable score because of their distorted view of their own abilities.

I even read an article by a journalist who took the test and scored even lower than me. The response from Cohen was that the scale is not exact and that he was still within a normal range...even though the test had basically identified him as borderline autistic.

So yeah... I've often thought that psychology is a bogus science that can and does find some type of disorder and neurosis with everyone. Literally..everyone. And the sad thing is that it doesn't have to be so distorted. It doesn't have to make such far-reaching and broad claims. So why does it? Because people are afraid of NOT being normal. Because they can't admit that there aren't that many differences between a deviant and a norm. The idea that we are all capable of horrible acts given the right thought process or environmental conditions is just too dark for them. Because the individuals that go into psychology, conduct these studies, and build these tests, are most often drawn to it because they DO NOT understand others. Seems to me, that those deficient in these skills shouldn't be the one's judging others and producing the tests for "normalcy".

Honestly, just the fact that I'm all moody and bitchy about my results and angered at the idea that people are being wrongfully grouped into a "non-empathetic" category and judged..it's a pretty strong indicator that the test is bogus. Based on my results I shouldn't care.

Like seriously...did no one think that they should give the test to a trial group to check it's validity before making these claims?! ugh!

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