A string of recent studies suggest that, apart from sociopaths, we are all hardwired with a capacity for empathy. Although we are all born with the ability to relate to other people’s feelings and emotions, the extent to which we empathize with other people can vary from person to person. While some people empathize with friends and strangers alike, others may only be able to relate with the emotions of people close to them. Take this EQ test developed by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley to find out how empathetic you really are.
Researchers from the University of Virginia recently discovered that our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes comes from the fact that we consider people close to us a part of ourself. Psychology professor James Coan and his colleagues monitored fMRI brain scans of 22 young adults who were under threat of a mild electric shock or were forced to watch the same threat directed at a friend or stranger. The same area of the brain that responded to the threat of shock to the self, responded identically to the threat of shock to a friend.
“It’s essentially a breakdown of self and other; our self comes to include the people we become close to,” Coan said in a statement. “If a friend is under threat, it becomes the same as if we ourselves are under threat. We can understand the pain or difficulty they may be going through in the same way we understand our own pain.”
The following quiz has been adapted from three psychology surveys backed by science, including the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, and the Emotion Specific Empathy Questionnaire. Out of 28 total questions, 22 will measure your level of empathy while the remaining six will help the UC-Berkley research team relate empathy to gender, age, birth order, ethnicity, and political background.
Find out your empathy score here: