Assumptive-worldview theory suggests that people ordinarily hold positive assumptions about the world and themselves. Within this context, the authors investigate vicarious trauma-the effects of trauma on victims' acquaintances (i.e., secondary victims). They hypothesize that secondary victims' worldviews will be more negative than those of nontraumatized controls, depending on individual differences in empathy and emotional contagion. After screening 320 undergraduates to identify secondary victims, 95 individuals (including 63 secondary victims) were selected for the study. Results indicate that simply knowing someone with trauma is not associated with worldview; empathy and emotional contagion must be considered. In control participants, higher empathy is related to more positive worldview beliefs. In secondary victims, however, higher empathy is related to less positive worldview beliefs. Relationships involving emotional contagion are similar.
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