Psychological Medicine

Measuring empathy: reliability and validity of the Empathy Quotient

E. J. LAWRENCE a1, P. SHAW a1, D. BAKER a1, S. BARON-COHEN a1 and A. S. DAVID a1c1
a1 Section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, DeCrespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK; Autism Research Centre, University of Cambridge, Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK

Article author query
lawrence ej   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
shaw p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
baker d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
baron-cohen s   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
david as   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. Empathy plays a key role in social understanding, but its empirical measurement has proved difficult. The Empathy Quotient (EQ) is a self-report scale designed to do just that. This series of four studies examined the reliability and validity of the EQ and determined its factor structure.

Method. 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.

Results. 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 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.

Conclusions. The EQ is a valid, reliable scale and the different subscales may have clinical applications.

c1 Professor Anthony David, Section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Box 68, Institute of Psychiatry, DeCrespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, UK. (Email: