Locus of control is a theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies. A person’s locus (Latin for “place” or “location”) can be either internal (meaning the person believes that they control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their environment, some higher power or other people control their decisions and their life).
Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events result primarily from their own behavior and actions; for example, if a person with an internal locus of control does not perform as well as they wanted to on a test, they would blame it on lack of preparedness on their part. If they performed well on a test, they would think that it was because they studied enough. Those with a high external locus of control believe that powerful others, fate or chance primarily determine events. In the test-performance example, if a person with a high external locus of control does poorly on a test, they would blame the test questions as too difficult. If they performed well on a test, they would think the teacher was lenient or they were lucky.
Those with a high internal locus of control have better control of their behavior, tend to be more politically involved and are more likely to attempt to influence other people than those with a high external (or low internal) locus of control. They also assign greater likelihood to their efforts being successful, and more actively seek information concerning their situation.
Locus of control has generated much research in a variety of areas in psychology. The construct is applicable to fields such as educational psychology, health psychology or clinical psychology. There will probably continue to be debate about whether specific or more global measures of locus of control will prove to be more useful. Careful distinctions should also be made between locus of control (a concept linked with expectancies about the future) and attributional style (a concept linked with explanations for past outcomes), or between locus of control and concepts such as self-efficacy. The importance of locus of control as a topic in psychology is likely to remain quite central for many years.
Locus of control has also been included as one of the four dimensions that comprise core self-evaluations, one’s fundamental appraisal of oneself, along with neuroticism, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. The concept of core self-evaluations was first examined by Judge, Locke, and Durham (1997), and since has proven to have the ability to predict several work outcomes, specifically, job satisfaction and job performance.
This is something that I learned about in a psychology class with YMTMB HANH, and something I know intellectually but forget from time to time. Recently, I have been pounding it into my head to decide and act from a standpoint of having more control of my environment. For awhile I think I was slowly languishing because I wasn’t progressing as fast as I want to in my career (I feel like the other areas of my life are more or less gravy), and I recently recognized that I felt a little helpless. Having 12 hours of driving ahead of me this long weekend and the girlpren to reflect with will help me figure out what I need to do differently.