Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

On Measurement

The empathy test

Here’s a report on some “research” that “measures” the amount of empathy people have:

Looking at their test questions, it becomes immediately clear that the test is a composite of several different things. All together, these things are labeled “empathy” and the implication is that the more of it you have, the better. Before I get into why this does not qualify as research, I’ll elaborate about their test.

Here are four of the questions from the empathy test:

  • I can easily tell if someone wants to enter a conversation.
  • I can pick up if someone says one thing but means another.
  • I am quick to spot when someone is feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
  • I can sense if I’m intruding, even if the other person doesn’t tell me.

These four questions apparently measure the ability to read what someone else is thinking or feeling, or what their motivation is. Now, here is a set of different questions, which are apparently designed to measure the extent to which a person internalizes the emotions of others:

  • I tend to get emotionally involved with a friend’s problems.
  • It upsets me to see an animal in pain.

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