Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 163–175

The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences

  • Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Sally Wheelwright

DOI: 10.1023/B:JADD.0000022607.19833.00

Cite this article as:
Baron-Cohen, S. & Wheelwright, S. J Autism Dev Disord (2004) 34: 163. doi:10.1023/B:JADD.0000022607.19833.00


Empathy is an essential part of normal social functioning, yet there are precious few instruments for measuring individual differences in this domain. In this article we review psychological theories of empathy and its measurement. Previous instruments that purport to measure this have not always focused purely on empathy. We report a new self-report questionnaire, the Empathy Quotient (EQ), for use with adults of normal intelligence. It contains 40 empathy items and 20 filler/control items. On each empathy item a person can score 2, 1, or 0, so the EQ has a maximum score of 80 and a minimum of zero. In Study 1 we employed the EQ with n = 90 adults (65 males, 25 females) with Asperger Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA), who are reported clinically to have difficulties in empathy. The adults with AS/HFA scored significantly lower on the EQ than n = 90 (65 males, 25 females) age-matched controls. Of the adults with AS/HFA, 81% scored equal to or fewer than 30 points out of 80, compared with only 12% of controls. In Study 2 we carried out a study of n = 197 adults from a general population, to test for previously reported sex differences (female superiority) in empathy. This confirmed that women scored significantly higher than men. The EQ reveals both a sex difference in empathy in the general population and an empathy deficit in AS/HFA.

Empathy sex differences Asperger syndrome social difficulties 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Baron-Cohen
    • 1
  • Sally Wheelwright
    • 1
  1. 1.Autism Research Centre, Departments of Experimental Psychology and PsychiatryUniversity of Cambridge, Douglas HouseUnited Kingdom

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