locus of control construct that is used to categorize people’s basic motivational orientations and perceptions of how much control they have over the conditions of their lives. People with an external locus of control tend to behave in response to external circumstances and to perceive their life outcomes as arising from factors out of their control. People with an internal locus of control tend to behave in response to internal states and intentions and to perceive their life outcomes as arising from the exercise of their own agency and abilities. [introduced into psychology by Julian Rotter]
Locus of Control refers to an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. Or, more simply: Do you believe that your destiny is controlled by yourself or by external forces (such as fate, god, or powerful others)? The full name Rotter gave the construct was Locus of Control of.
There are two types of locus of control: internal (inside) and external (outside). … Individuals with an internal locus of control believe their behaviors are guided by their personal decisions and efforts and they have control over those things they can change.
In simplistic terms, a more internal locus of control is generally seen as desirable. Having an internal locus of control can also be referred to as “self-agency”, “personal control”, “self-determination”, etc.
Research has found the following trends:
Males tend to be more internal than females
As people get older they tend to become more internal
People higher up in organizational structures tend to be more internal.
Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life are primarily a result of their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities.
A strong external locus of control describes when someone believes what happens to them is luck or fate and that they are not in control of their life; it is all due to external forces in their environment (for example other people). As an example imagine ‘Danielle’ does not do well in an examination.
3 Ways to Increase Internal Locus of Control
Change the blame game. Reflect back to moments that caused you distress. …
Take charge. Imagine your future goals and the path you would like to take to get there. …
Embrace failure. Take failure as an opportunity to learn.
However, it’s important to warn people against lapsing in the overly simplistic view notion that internal is good and external is bad (two legs good, four legs bad?). There are important subtleties and complexities to be considered. For example:
Internals can be psychologically unhealthy and unstable. An internal orientation usually needs to be matched by competence, self-efficacy and opportunity so that the person is able to successfully experience the sense of personal control and responsibility. Overly internal people who lack competence, efficacy and opportunity can become neurotic, anxious and depressed. In other words, internals need to have a realistic sense of their circle of influence in order to experience
Externals can lead easy-going, relaxed, happy lives.
Despite these cautions, psychological research has found that people with a more internal locus of control seem to be better off, e.g., they tend to be more achievement oriented and to get better paid jobs. However, thought regarding causality is needed here too. Do environmental circumstances (such as privilege and disadvantage) cause LOC beliefs or do the beliefs cause the situation?
Sometimes Locus of Control is seen as a stable, underlying personality construct, but this may be misleading, since the theory and research indicates that that locus of control is largely learned. There is evidence that, at least to some extent, LOC is a response to circumstances. Some psychological and educational interventions have been found to produce shifts towards internal locus of control (e.g., outdoor education programs).
In some contexts, having an external locus of control can be a good thing—particularly when a situation poses a threat to self-esteem or is genuinely outside of a person’s control. For example, a person who loses a sports game may feel depressed or anxious if they have a strong internal locus of control.
Locus of Control Applied
How do we determine our successes and failures?
There is a concept in the psychological literature known as locus of control that is unfamiliar to most people, even though, once defined, is commonly understood. Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes success or failure.
This concept is usually divided into two categories: internal and external. If a person has an internal locus of control, that person attributes success to his or her own efforts and abilities. A person who expects to succeed will be more motivated and more likely to learn. A person with an external locus of control, who attributes his or her success to luck or fate, will be less likely to make the effort needed to learn. People with an external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety since they believe that they are not in control of their lives. This is not to say, however, that an internal locus of control is “good” and an external locus of control is “bad.” There are other variables to be considered, however, psychological research has found that people with a more internal locus of control seem to be better off, e.g. they tend to be more achievement oriented and get better paying jobs.
For several years, I taught a course for mental health professionals who were interested in developing a private practice in psychotherapy. Some, who already had a practice, took the course because they were not doing well and wanted to learn how to be more successful. During the introductory remarks by each student, I was able to mentally divide the class into those having an internal or external locus of control and, therefore, learn a great deal about the class composition. The “internals” said things like, “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. (Notice the word beginning each statement). The “externals” were heard to say things like, “it’s too hard to succeed these days,” or “the competition in our field is killing me,” etc. The internals clearly believed that it was, essentially, up to them to succeed. The externals believed that luck, fate, or circumstance would more likely determine whether or not they would or would not become successful, more than the strength and quality of their own efforts.
Locus of control is often viewed as an inborn personality component. However, there is also evidence that it is shaped by childhood experiences—including children’s interactions with their parents. Children who were raised by parents who encouraged their independence and helped them to learn the connection between actions and their consequences tended to have a more well developed internal locus of control.
The benefits of this were specified in a research study that looked at the potential health effects of the locus of control trait. Researchers found that of more than 7,500 British adults followed since birth, those who had shown an internal locus of control at the age of ten were less likely to be overweight at age thirty, less likely to describe their health as poor, or show high levels of psychological stress. The major explanation for these findings was that children with a more internal locus of control behave more healthily as adults because they have greater confidence in their ability to influence outcomes through their own actions. They may also have higher self-esteem.
WE&P by: EZorrilla.