Locus of Control (Meaning and Significance)

In this brief guide, we will discuss Locus of Control, as well as other related aspects like types of locus of control, locus of control test, locus of control examples, and how to develop an internal locus of control.

Locus Of Control

Locus of control is a concept that refers to someone’s beliefs and values regarding what underlies their experiences and the factors that are considered responsible for their success or failure, as well as the resources the person prefers in case of conflict or challenges.

Locus of control is deeply related to personality and it was proposed by a famous personality theorist and psychologist Julian Rotter, who gave a theory of personality known as the Cognitive Social Learning theory. 

In this theory he proposed that the individual’s personality is often the result of a complicated interplay between cognitive and social factors, and that both our minds and our environment play a crucial role in how we turn you, eventually.

Rotter belongs to a school of psychology known as Social learning, which also includes theorists like Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel, and they emphasize the person’s use of social resources as well as the things one learns from their environment or social settings and how it affects their personality traits.

Locus of control comes into the picture because whether someone has an internal or external locus of control is heavily dependent on what their social setting has taught them over the years, as well as what they turn to when they are in trouble.

Locus of control is also said to have been shaped or developed as a result of childhood experiences which also includes the children’s interactions with their parents and most studies and research indicates that children who are encouraged to be independent and who are able to learn the connection between actions and consequences are more likely to have an internal locus of control.

Locus of control may also be defined as the degree to which people believe that things that happen in their life are because of external forces that are beyond their influence or whether they believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives. 

The concept of locus of control was introduced in 1954, and the word Locus comes from a Latin word that means for “place” or “location”.

It has also been seen that someone with a strong internal locus of control may believe that events in their life may primarily be because of their own actions, and those with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors for whatever happens in their life.

Locus of control has potential for research in various areas in psychology like educational psychology, health psychology, and clinical psychology. 

There is also much talk about what the locus of control test measures should be like, and while some researchers prefer the idea of more specific measures of locus of control, there are some that prefer more global.

Another important concept to keep in mind about locus of control, which is a concept linked with expectancies about the future and ideas of the present, is the concept of attributional style which refers to what explanations a person may have for past outcomes.

These two are different concepts and must be treated as such, as is locus of control and self-efficacy, because self-efficacy refers to the unique belief someone has in their own specific skill or abilities, which is not necessarily always related to the external factors.

Locus of Control Test

The most commonly used locus of control test is the Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale, which is often used in clinics for the measurement of whether someone has a more internal or external locus of control.

Some items from this scale are given below:

“With enough effort we can wipe out political corruption.

It is difficult for people to have much control over the things politicians do in office.

Sometimes I can’t understand how teachers arrive at the grades they give.

There is a direct connection between how hard 1 study and the grades I get.

A good leader expects people to decide for themselves what they should do.

A good leader makes it clear to everybody what their jobs are.

Many times I feel that I have little influence over the things that happen to me.

It is impossible for me to believe that chance or luck plays an important role in my life.

People are lonely because they don’t try to be friendly.

There’s not much use in trying too hard to please people, if they like you, they like you.

There is too much emphasis on athletics in high school.

Team sports are an excellent way to build character.

What happens to me is my own doing.

Sometimes I feel that I don’t have enough control over the direction my life is taking.

Who gets to be the boss often depends on who was lucky enough to be in the right place

first.

Getting people to do the right thing depends upon ability. Luck has little or nothing to do

with it.

As far as world affairs are concerned, most of us are the victims of forces we can neither

understand, nor control.

By taking an active part in political and social affairs the people can control world events.

Most people don’t realize the extent to which their lives are controlled by accidental

happenings.

There really is no such thing as “luck.”

One should always be willing to admit mistakes.

It is usually best to cover up one’s mistakes.

It is hard to know whether or not a person really likes you.

How many friends you have depends upon how nice a person you are.

In the long run the bad things that happen to us are balanced by the good ones.

Most misfortunes are the result of lack of ability, ignorance, laziness, or all three.”

In this test, the person is supposed to pick one of these statements depending on what they believe, and the results are tallied at the end and compared to cutoffs.

The locus of control scale is most used with patients suffering from addiction, because it has long been believed that there is a distinct relationship between locus of control and addiction behaviors, and psychotherapy for addiction, like Motivational enhancement Therapy, often includes intervention targeted at locus of control.

Types of Locus of Control 

The two types of locus of control are internal and external, where internal locus of control refers to the belief that the person will be able to act on altering the possibility of whatever outcomes they wish for, and external locus of control refers to when someone believes that external factors are more at play than internal ones.

Someone with an external locus of control may believe strongly in the mercy of luck, fate and unforeseen uncontrollable outside force and they are also more likely to feel helpless all the time.

External locus of control may also make people not take the responsibility for their bad outcomes and they may ascribe their miserable performances in life to some outside force.

Reinforcement is also a factor in whether someone will have an internal or external locus of control, and it has been theorized that someone who has extreme reliance on positive reinforcement that is external in nature will likely come to associate the value of their actions as being based on external circumstances.

On the contrary, individuals who base the value of success on their own work and believe they control their life have an internal locus of control, and their idea of reinforcement may be more based in the satisfaction they feel.

This brings us to another point, if the feeling of satisfaction is important in cultivating locus of control, wouldn’t it mean that someone who enjoys their work and gets pleasure from it will be more likely to have an internal locus of control? Yes, it does.

In fact, research has shown that people who experience flow, which is a concept related to optimum performance, are more likely to have an internal locus of control, which proves the reinforcement theory of Rotter, because in case of flow the reinforcement is the flow experience.

Based on the above, the characteristics of someone with an internal locus of control are:

  • They take responsibility for their actions
  • They are less likely to be influenced by the opinions of other people
  • They do better at tasks when they are allowed to work at their own pace
  • More likely to have a strong sense of self-efficacy
  • May work harder to achieve the things they want
  • Are usually confident in the face of challenges
  • May be physically healthier
  • May also be happier and more independent
  • Are capable of achieving greater success in the workplace

On the other hand, someone with an external locus of control may have the following characteristics:

  • Often attribute failures and other issues to outside forces or circumstances
  • May count on or give credit to luck or chance for any successes
  • Lack of belief that they are capable of changing their situation with their efforts
  • Likely to feel hopeless or powerless in the face of difficult situations
  • More at risk for experiencing learned helplessness which has been linked to depression and anxiety.

Locus of Control Examples

Below are some examples of locus of control:

Someone with an external locus of control might say things like “the sun was in my eyes,” “I was at the wrong angle.” “The floor was slippery,” or “I ran over the wrong part of the floor,” or “I was wearing the wrong shoes.”

Someone with an internal locus of control, however, might say “I didn’t study hard enough.” where the external locus of control is evident in the statement “the teacher made the questions too hard.”

In case of success, the person with an internal locus of control may say “yeah, I earned that grade. I worked hard.” whereas someone with an external locus of control, may say, “I was lucky. The test wasn’t very hard.”

Additionally, someone with an internal locus of control might say “I know it’s up to me,” “I have to learn how to become more successful,” “I am responsible for what happens in my practice,” etc. while people with external locus of control may say “it’s too hard to succeed these days,” or “the competition in our field is killing me,” 

How to Develop an Internal Locus of Control?

Here are some ways you can develop an internal locus of control:

  • Be aware of choice and try to ensure that you are always aware of the choices you have
  • Talk to others and take help from them in figuring out how other people accomplish things that you are not able to
  • Be aware of your self talk and check yourself
  • when you find that you are blaming or crediting external factors 
  • Take care of what factors are basing your ideas on
  • Be careful about what kinds of resources you use, whether they are internal or external
  • Don’t dabble in harmful behaviors to deal with stress
  • Do meditation and practice concentration and introspection to be aware of who you are and what you are capable of.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we discussed Locus of Control, as well as other related aspects like types of locus of control, locus of control test, locus of control examples, and how to develop an internal locus of control.

Locus of control is a very important concept in many aspects of psychology, including therapy and mental and behavioral disorders, especially addiction.

Locus of control is not just a way to understand why and how we do things, they also define how we deal with things in our life, how we perceive things and how we then act on them.

This concept also provides ground to many other things like the experience of flow and optimum performance, which is why it is important to have the locus of control assessed, so that important steps can be taken to balance the internal and external loci of control.

If you have any questions or comments about locus of control, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Locus of Control

What are the two types of locus of control?

The two types of locus of control are internal or external, where an external locus of control refers to a belief that one is helpless, without blame, and not in control of one’s successes and failures but an internal locus of control means that the person might attribute their success and failures to their own efforts and use their own resources to deal with issues.

Why is locus of control important?

Locus of control is important because it affects how the person faces challenges and copes with stress and it also changes how one’s motivation to take charge of their life is developed and sustained.

Locus of control is a very important concept because it sets the basis of how the person views their own actions and what they believe will have an impact on their life.

What is the difference between internal locus of control and external locus of control?

The difference between internal locus of control and external locus of control is that individuals with internal locus of control tend to blame things on the internal factors and they may also use internal resources to deal with problem and challenges, whereas the external locus of control depend on external resources and attribute things to the external factors as well.

What does internal locus of control mean in psychology?

An internal locus of control in psychology means when someone has a strong belief that they can control their own life and when they are faced with challenges or problems, they turn inward to deal with them rather than use external resources too heavily.

Citations

https://study.com/academy/lesson/locus-of-control-definition-and-examples-of-internal-and-external.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control#Attributional_style

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/moments-matter/201708/locus-control

https://www.mccc.edu/~jenningh/Courses/documents/Rotter-locusofcontrolhandout.pdf

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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