The empath genes are the most prolific Psi gene in the Ar’Manaan species, in fact a vast majority of “Norm” are ever so slightly empathic, (eg, Coan Tasoa from Time Speaker, is considered a Norm but he’s got the ability to sense the intentions of people, which is a low level Talent of active Empath genes).
In the Agency, the Empath ability is defined and rated by strength, range, sensitivity and the ability of the individual to control their ability. The Agency is soley focused on the individual as a resource, so if someone has a high rating in the other areas of definition, but can’t control their ability, they’ll be bumped down to a low rating and a very un-glamorous job, so the priority for testing is improving control but requiring a certain level of control to be rated above a 2.
So, Control is rated in a sort of percentile, if the person can control their ability 75% of the time, and can effectively shield their sensitivity, then they get the passing control rating of a three. You can earn a higher rating in control, but no one needs to for their overall rating.
Range is generally split into ever increasing degrees. A level one range is touch-only, so they can only sense emotions or force another to feel something if they’re touching them. Level two is the range of arm’s length, or the immediate spaces around the individual, so, a person might be able to sense the feelings of their target if they’re talking to them or are in the seat behind them in the bus, but no further (this distance is also called the “conversation distance”, as in the distance that one can have a comfortable conversation within). A level three for empath is usually line of sight, or about as far as an athlete can throw something. Not many level threes can literally sense within a fifty metre radius in all directions, they almost always need to be able to see their target. Level four empaths are expected to have the range of half a kilometre, but in order to sense that many people, they also are required to learn how to shield completely, if they don’t, they’re rated at a three with a four radius. Most empaths don’t have a radius higher than a level four, they become a five due to strength, control or sensitivity.
For empaths, Strength relates to how strongly they can make someone feel something. A level five is complete effectiveness, they can stop a full blown panic attack or cure someone of suicidal depression. The other scales 1-5, and equal levels of increase. While touch improves the strength of an empath, in the Agency they require folks to do the Strength tests without touch.
Sensitivity is exactly what it sounds like. A level one in sensitivity will only be able to tell if someone’s feeling “good” or “bad”, and not any fine detail of emotion. A level two can sense what the person is feeling, and they’d be perceptive enough to sense when someone has a crush on someone else. A level three would be able to sense the deeper levels, the feeling itself, and who it pertains to, such as, they would sense that someone is grieving and can feel that they’re grieving the loss of a family member or a friend or a lover. Levels four and five are more about volume, four you would sense all of the feelings someone is experiencing in the moment and perhaps their connections to the people around them, a level five would sense the same, but it would be louder, more painful, much harder to drown out.
So, for example, a person rated overall as a five, wouldn’t necessarily have a five rating across all four definitions. They have to have a minimum of a three in control, and a four in range, they’d only need a five in sensitivity OR strength. The ratings in each area add up together (but not mathematically), to give an over all rating, one can be a level three empath but have a strength or sensitivity of a four, because their range isn’t high enough.
I hope this shows you that the overall ratings are only a guide to a person’s ability, it’s not a perfect measurement, and particularly, it’s only a measurement in relation to those skills that the Agency deems useful. You can be incredibly gifted but low rated because you don’t fit into their boxes, so it’s in no way a measurement of worth or skill.