More on the empathy test

I think I´ll go through that empathy questionnaire step by step and analyze how I reply to the different questions. It works as follows: You get a statement, and you check boxes that go from “strongly agree” over “slightly agree” to “slightly disagree” and “strongly disagree”. So let´s see what´s up with my empathy scores and where those deficits are coming from.

1. I can easily tell if someone else wants to enter a conversation.

Nope. In most social situations I´m locked somewhere inside my head and wonder where the hell to look in order to avoid people to think I want to enter the conversation. Most of the time I´m not even part of the conversation, if anything I listen to it, and that is exhausting enough since my thoughts tend to drift. Gah, I feel like I need to defend myself against the idea that I´m an egocentric, selfish asshole who doesn´t care about the poor, shy outsider. Fact is, I am the poor, shy outsider. Still, though, I do seem to lack the ability to understand that other people can be outsiders, too. I always think everyone knows everyone and I´m the only one on the outside.

I´m not sure if I rate this “strongly” or “slightly disagree”. I mean, I can definitely not easily tell if someone wants to enter a conversation, but if I say “strongly disagree” it sounds as if I cannot tell that at all. To be honest, I cannot think of an exemplary situation which could help me to say how well I can tell if someone wants to enter a conversation. Does this situation happen often in my life? I mean, isn´t this again some kind of epistemic pitfall? I might think someone wants to enter a conversation and, in fact, be wrong about it. Or I might overlook it and think that people around me simply never want to enter conversations. This whole question is illogical! Answering it requires that I already know if I have empathy or not!

2. I prefer animals to humans.

No. I like to watch some animals, but I don´t like to get close to them. I can predict human behavior better than animal behavior. I´m fairly convinced that most people won´t suddenly jump onto my lap. I can never be sure with animals. So this gets “strongly disagree”, even though I feel like an animal hater for saying it. Or like someone who loves humans. I really don´t like how radical this option is. At any rate, it probably gets me some empathy points.

3. I try to keep up with the current trends and fashions.

What. The fuck. Is this item doing on an empathy questionnaire? I do hope they don´t measure mental health in fashion compliance. Oh wait, yes, they actually do that.

To answer the question, though: “Strongly disagree”, and quite heartfelt this time. No, I don´t care about having the latest iPod, cooking the fanciest meals and wearing the hippest clothes! Does it really indicate a lack of empathy to not care about the stuff everybody seems to obsess over? According to what definition of empathy? Honest question, because the longer I look into this, the more ill-defined and vague the term seems to be.

4. I find it difficult to explain to others things that I understand easily, when they don’t understand it first time.

I guess this question is aimed at the ability to understand what the other person doesn´t understand. I guess I´ll give this a “slightly agree”. I tried helping kids with their homework once and failed miserably. It´s different when I´m communicating via Internet. I have plenty of time to think then. I can go through all the possible interpretations of my post and write down a list of suggestions what the other person might not have understood. This tends to work.

My god, just how much work am I putting into simply understanding what this questionnaire is all about! I just love it when I´m told to “answer spontaneously and as quickly as possible!” – “Alright, how about you have your lunch break and I´ll see you in about two hours?”  If I answered spontaneously, I´d get radically different results depending on whatever state of mind or mood I´m in.

5. I dream most nights.

Uh, yes, strongly agree? Again, what the fuck is Baron-Cohen on about? Has he read too much Dexter, who allegedly doesn´t dream?

6. I really enjoy caring for other people.

Yes, I do. I just spend at least half an hour giving someone a massage, and I´m always the one who makes tea and hot water bottles and aspirin for everyone. What the questionnaire doesn´t ask is whether I´m a nice, caring person or a manipulative control freak. Strongly agree either way. Guess this item measures sympathy rather than empathy, but Baron-Cohen tends to lump these together. Never thought studying philosophy would be good for anything, but right now it really pays having read stuff by this guy before.

7. I try to solve my own problems rather than discussing them with others.

I´m wavering between agreeing strongly or slightly. On the one hand, I hate to discuss things with others as it tends to confuse me. This is typically stuff for uni, intellectual things, or maybe my writing. On the other hand, I´m completely helpless when it comes to many things and in those situations I do go to other people for advice or help. Then again, I only do that when I can´t somehow ignore the problem, and I really have to make myself do it. So let´s say “strongly agree” and wonder in what way this relates to empathy.

8. I find it hard to know what to do in a social situation.

Strongly agree.

9. I am at my best first thing in the morning.

I never know how to answer this. I don´t wake up in the morning, I wake up around noon or later. I normally don´t enough sleep, and so I´m usually very tired when I wake up. It does happen, though, that I can solve problems I couldn´t solve the night before when going to bed. So let´s say “slightly agree”. Though I´m really not sure. Could as well be “slightly disagree”.

10. People often tell me that I went too far in driving my point home in a discussion.

I feel so insecure nowadays that I don´t discuss much anymore. It is true, however, that I can be somewhat radical. When I was younger I didn´t care what other people thought of me, if I had an opinion on something I said it, and I argued for it. So I´ll give this a “slightly agree”.

11. It doesn’t bother me too much if I am late meeting a friend.

What is “too much”? And bothered in what way? In the sense of feeling guilty, or in the sense of being anxious that he won´t wait for me? I do anticipate an angry reaction, if that was the point of the question. I´m even scared of one, though somehow that doesn´t lead to me hurrying up. I just silently resign or something. Sometimes I work up a little bit of anger myself, just so my friend´s anger wouldn´t hit me so hard. I think this gets “slightly disagree”.

Okay, those are like 60 questions, and I won´t do all of this tonight. More later.





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