See Inside October/November 2006


Regarding Ulrich Kraft's "Burned Out": Herbert J. Freudenberger may have coined the term "burnout syndrome" in the 1970s, but he was not the first to notice the phenomenon. In The Wealth of Nations in 1776, Adam Smith observed that many people could only work at full output for a small number of years and that it was the bosses' job "rather to moderate, than to animate" their workers. George Combe in 1827 wrote that work must be enjoyable, which it could not be if it was too hard or too long: otherwise the only happiness is retirement.

Early in the 20th century the Yerkes-Dodson Law related increasing stress and motivation to an inverted U-shaped curve for work output; at the highest level of stress, output dropped to zero. Behavioral researcher B. F. Skinner discussed how a bricklayer could "burn himself out" in 1953. He called it "abulia," or absence of behavior, and described it as the consequence of too much work being expected.

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