April 11, 2020
Category:

Toronto Empathy Questionnaire

Last updated on November 9, 2022

The Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ) is a self-report questionnaire measuring a person’s emotional ability to understand and respond to others.

Basic information
Statements: 16
Duration: 5–7 minutes
Type: screening tool
Authors: Nathan Spreng, Margaret McKinnonRaymond Mar, & Brian Levine
Publishing year: 2009
Seminal paper: The Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (Spreng et al., 2009)

 

Take the test here:


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 3 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 3 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 3 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 3 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.


Who the test is designed for

  • Adults (age 16+) of average intelligence to higher intelligence.

Test versions & translations

The TEQ  is available in:


Taking the test

The TEQ consists of 16 statements, giving you 5 choices for each statement:[3]Toronto Empathy Questionnaire | Psychology Tools

  • Never
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Always

Note: There are no right or wrong answers or trick questions.


Scoring

  • Scoring range: 0–64
  • Threshold score: 45↓
    • The TEQ scores exhibited a negative correlation with the Autism Quotient.
    • Scores 45 or higher indicate you have higher than normal empathy.
    • The lower the score, the less empathetic you are.
  • Most non-autistic males score:  43.46–44.45
  • Most non-autistic females score: 44.62–48.93

Scoring is as follows:

  • Never = 0
  • Rarely = 1
  • Sometimes = 2
  • Often = 3
  • Always = 4
Questions
  • Positively worded items: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 16.
  • Negatively worded items are reverse scored: 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15.
Methods

You can take the test using two methods of scoring:

  1. Automated-scoring, which is for most purposes.
  2. Self-scoring, in case you want documentation of your answers.

Validity

How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?
In three studies, the TEQ demonstrated strong validity, correlating positively with social skills, self-report measures of empathy, and negatively with measures of autism symptomatology.


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing to the title ‘Discussion’.

Discussion

Natalie:
  • The TEQ is a good measure of one’s emotional empathy. I score 54 out of 60, indicating that I have high empathy, correlating well with my experience and career as a psychotherapist. I believe the TEQ to be a better alternative to Simon Baron-Cohen’s Empathy Quotient (EQ), as the EQ leaves many autistics feeling surprised and confused by their low score.
  • We know we have strong feelings—often too strong, but the EQ usually scores us as having shallow empathy. It is important to understand that Baron-Cohen’s EQ looks primarily at whether a person responds in a neurotypical way to social situations—not their capacity for emotional empathy.
  • The test was designed to test empathy in autistics. It uses negatively worded statements to avoid bias, but negatively worded statements are difficult for autistics and produce a disadvantage for us. For example, “Other people’s misfortunes do not disturb me a great deal.” The statements produce a “disagree” response to avoid response bias. For clarity, I convert to a positive version then choose the answer opposite to the positive version.
  • The authors claim that the TEQ is inversely correlated with the Autism Quotient and/or autism traits, but this does not hold true for many of us. For instance, my AQ score of 42 is high, but my TEQ of 54 is particularly high. Seeing as the TEQ was written in 2009, it would be nice if the test could be updated to better reflect the empathetic capacity of autistic people.
Kendall:
  • The negative statements are confusing and a problem for me. They’re easily understood, but figuring out what my answer should be is convoluted. Unlike other tests, the choices here are more useful – I don’t feel so boxed in and restricted. This questionnaire more accurately depicts my concept of empathy or the lack thereof (TEQ 48 vs EQ 13).

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing at a psychometric test.

Toronto Empathy Questionnaire

Select the answer that best reflects the frequency to which each statement applies.

1. When someone else is feeling excited, I tend to get excited too.
2. Other people’s misfortunes do not disturb me a great deal.
3. It upsets me to see someone being treated disrespectfully.
4. I remain unaffected when someone close to me is happy.
5. I enjoy making other people feel better.
6. I have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.
7. When a friend starts to talk about his/her problems, I try to steer the conversation towards something else.
8. I can tell when others are sad even when they do not say anything.
9. I find that I am 'in tune' with other people's moods.
10. I do not feel sympathy for people who cause their own serious illnesses.
11. I become irritated when someone cries.
12. I am not really interested in how other people feel.
13. I get a strong urge to help when I see someone who is upset.
14. When I see someone being treated unfairly, I do not feel very much pity for them.
15. I find it silly for people to cry out of happiness.
16. When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards him/her.


Recommended next steps

After the TEQ, consider taking one of the tests below.

Autism Spectrum Quotient

A simple screening test that is used as a basis
for pursuing a formal autism evaluation

Executive Skills Questionnaire

Measures ability to plan, organize, focus attention,
remember instructions, multi-task, and self-regulate

ADHD Self-Report Scale for DSM-5

Screening scale for ADHD

Online autism tests can play an essential role in the process of self-discovery, and may inform your decision to pursue a formal diagnosis. For a formal assessment, please see a knowledgeable medical professional trained in assessing autism.


An illustration of a clipboard with a checklist or assessment.

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here:

Online autism assessments

References

This article
was written by:
dr-natalie-engelbrecht
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht ND RP is a dually licensed naturopathic doctor and registered psychotherapist, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research. And not only do I happen to be autistic, but my autism plays a significant role in who I am as a doctor and how I interact with and care for my patients and clients.

Disclaimer

Although our content is generally well-researched
and substantiated, or based on personal experience,
note that it does not constitute medical advice.

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