Mind in the Eyes Test

Okay, this gets funnier by the minute. I just came across a website with several tests by Baron-Cohen. One of them was the empathy test. Another one was a mindreading test. It works as follows:

You have black-and-white pictures of human faces, but you only see their eyes and eyebrows, no mouths. You have to figure out which emotions or mental states their eyes reflect. It´s multiple choice, you have four options each.

I thought I was going to fail at this miserably, after yesterdays empathy results. In fact, though, I was quite good. You have 36 pictures. If you get 22 to 30 right, you´re within normal range, if you get over 30 right, you are really good. I scored a solid 28 after all.

So I have low empathy, but I can read peoples´ eyes considerably well? Isn´t this endlessly fascinating? Now tearing apart that empathy questionnaire becomes even more important.

The stuff I missed:

  • I thought “upset” was “terrified” (not completely off then)
  • I thought “worried” was “sarcastic”, though I wavered between the two
  • I thought “thoughtful” was “irritated” (the guy was looking to the other side, he reminded me of someone quietly plotting a murder, but then again, that´s thoughtful, too)
  • I thought “doubtful” was “playful” (though that´s not fair, it was a woman´s pair of eyes and her make-up made her look a little more flirtatious than she might have felt)
  • I thought “tentative” was “grateful” (and seriously, Baron-Cohen has never seen subbie eyes)
  • I thought “friendly” was “guilty” (friendly seemed to simple)
  • I thought “interested” was “panicked” (okay, weird one)
  • I thought “confident” was “ashamed” (brilliant, this. I mean…how did I come up with THAT?)

Okay, at least I know now that I´m not completely off. I can tell how people are feeling. Mimic isn´t lost on me. I´ve also tried false-belief-tests, I tend to pass them. I don´t know to what extent it´s intuition and to what extent I´m building bridges, but somehow I seem to have a grasp on other peoples´minds.

Okay, association game: What did I associate with the pictures I got wrong?

The “terrified versus upset picture” showed an old man staring into the camera. His eyes were like holes, like he wasn´t really seeing what´s in front of him. I imagined he was seeing something terrible happening in front of his eyes. Essentially, I thought he might be having some war memories or something. In a way, he´s upset over them rather than terrified in the moment. He´s upset over something terrifying. Well.

The sarcasm/worry picture shows a young man who´s frowning, looking up somewhere. I had the imagine of an actor in a sitcom who pretends to think hard about something he already knows is bullshit. Could it be that sometimes I think around too many corners? (Okay, that last sentence has me laugh. Like: hard!)

Friendy/guilty is another interesting thing. I didn´t see very much in that picture, to be honest. No association whatsoever came up. I figured that maybe guilt is sort of expressionless, an inner void. At least chronic guilt. So I chose that one. Instead, it was “friendly”. So, apparently “friendly” expressions don´t ring any bells with me. Maybe it is too weak, too vague. Maybe that explains some of my social difficulties. In most everyday life social gatherings people prefer to be easy and, well, “friendly”. Not open books that can be read. “Friendliness” might serve as some kind of facade. I mean, is “friendly” an emotion? You are friendly, but do you feel friendly?

Interested/panicked. Again, woman´s eyes. Lot´s of eyeliner, very expressive eyes. I do think that distorts the way we perceive emotions. Though, of course, we encounter that in daily life all the time, it´s just an interesting observation. She doesn´t look straight at the camera, it seems as if she´s just turned her head and I had the mental image of a nervous woman hearing a sound and snapping around to see if it´s what she fears it is. Yes, I have been socialized by horror movies. I can see how this has to do with interest. Something has evoked her attention. Maybe that´s the common ground.

Grateful/tentative – well, I cannot explain that. Or maybe I can. I recognized that look from the look I get from people I top. It makes sense that they´d be careful, like “can I dare touch her arm?” Maybe that was actually a language problem at work here, with “tentative” I associated “you try something”, I didn´t associate caution, leave alone fear. So instead I opted for “grateful”, as gratitude is something people show to me in such situations as well.


Ashamed/confident is something that really doesn´t make sense to me. The picture didn´t speak to me too much, but to assume the exact opposite of what it depicts? To be fair to me, though, the picture is not very good. Half that woman´s face is in the shadows. I can only see one eye properly. Let´s say it´s the one mandatory freak result. Anything else I have some explanation for.

Okay, at least now I know that I can tell what people feel. And it´s damn reassuring to know that I haven´t been misreading my partner´s mimic all those years. I´ve been wondering if maybe I´m some kind of monster and they´re just too scared to tell me. But no – with regard to facial expressions I can trust my perception. I´ve been wondering just how out there I am after the empathy test.

So the whole sadism thing is not a lie. Or rather: The intimacy is not a lie. I am in touch with my partner. I do see their emotions reflected in their eyes. I´m not just imagining they like what I inflict on them. Of course the rest of their behavior indicates so, too, like – them openly stating they want it? Still, it´s nice to know I´m not enjoying something that´s purely imaginary.

Guess I´m not going to get any further without continuing my analysis of the empathy test.




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