Facing Others’ Trauma: A Role-Taking Theory of Burnout

Anne Groggel, Jenny L. Davis, Tony P. Love

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The experience of “burnout” is characterized by emotional fatigue and detachment associated with intensive stress. Burnout is prevalent across personal and professional spheres, with increasing cultural salience. Multiple factors can contribute to burnout. Here, we focus on one: exposure to others’ trauma. This circumstance spans domains from social service professions to social media newsfeeds, with potentially deleterious effects on the self. To understand the conditions under which trauma exposure results in burnout, we propose and test a role–taking model. We do so by presenting study participants (N = 723) with a first–person account of intimate partner violence, stimulating an acute instance of trauma exposure. Findings show that higher levels of role–taking increase burnout, with antecedents and outcomes tied to role-taking’s cognitive and affective components. This study clarifies how burnout occurs within the scope of trauma exposure while expanding role–taking research beyond the interpersonal benefits that have monopolized scholarly attention to date.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-408
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Sociological Association 2022.


  • burnout
  • experimental social psychology
  • role-taking
  • social theory
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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