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What is the control locus?

What is the control locus?

July 19, 2024

The Control locus it is a topic widely used in psychology, and it affects the point of view of an individual and the way he or she has to interact with the environment. Rotter, in 1966, proposed the "locus of control" as a personality trait in his Theory of Social Learning .

"If the person perceives that the event is contingent with his behavior or his own relatively permanent characteristics, it has been said to be a belief in internal control"; instead, "when a reinforcement is perceived as following some personal action, but not being entirely contingent with it, it is typically perceived, in our culture, as the result of luck, and in this sense it has been said that it is a belief in external control. "
Rotter, 1966

What is the control locus?

According to Rotter's Theory of Social Learning, prior to the Albert Bandura, human behavior takes place with a continuous interaction between cognitive, behavioral and environmental determinants . Therefore, the perception of control or non-control that a person has about the events that occur around them, are important for the course of their own life.


The locus of control is a variable of the personality, relatively stable, that represents the attribution that a person carries out on whether the effort he makes is contingent on his behavior . There are two extremes of the continuum: internal control locus Y external control locus.

The locus of internal control occurs in case an individual perceives that the reinforcing event in particular is contingent on his own behavior. That is, the person perceives that what has happened externally is thanks to his behavior and has control over the external consequences. For example, a person with an internal locus of control attributes his happiness to himself. If you want to be happy, you can work on it.


The locus of external control happens when the individual perceives that an external event has occurred independently of his behavior. Therefore, the individual associates to chance, luck or destiny, the event that has occurred. For example, a person with external locus of control attributes their happiness to another person or to the situation.

Locus of control and personal development

This concept is important, because if a person thinks that what happens around him does not depend on him, you may not act to change it . For example, if a person thinks that they have no control over the election of the political party that is going to govern in their country, they may not do anything to change it, or even exercise their right to vote. On the other hand, if a person thinks that his vote will be important for the election of a new government, he may be motivated to change the political landscape and may even go out to demonstrate.


The feeling of not being able to control an event often generates a state of paralysis that disables people to achieve the proposed goals.

The locus of internal control is also an important aspect for personal development, since a person with an internal locus of control believes in their possibilities in front of what happens externally and knows that making the most effort will go far.

Learned helplessness: external control locus

In our article "Learned helplessness: delving into the psychology of the victim" we explain the phenomenon of Learned helplessness . According to César Ojeda, learned helplessness "refers to the condition in which a person or animal is inhibited in aversive or painful situations when the actions to avoid it have not been fruitful, ending by developing passivity before them."

Therefore, learned helplessness could be a consequence of the individual having learned to behave passively , perceiving that there is nothing he can do to change a negative situation even though there are real possibilities for change. The direct consequence of this attribution is the loss of coping response.

Learned helplessness is a concept widely used in clinical psychology, since it is intimately associated with depressive states. Several studies accept this hypothesis, for example, this study from the Catholic University of Chile shows that patients with depression and anxiety score lower on the Rotter Control Locus Scale. That is, those prone to depression and anxiety tend towards the locus of external control.

Resistant personality: internal control locus

According to the psychologist Bertrand Regader, "a resistant person is one who despite suffering problems and even disorders that could be destabilized, is able to maintain strength, resist and get afloat.This class of subjects are not immune to the events of life that we all live, such as the death of a loved one, a sentimental breakdown, a bad work situation ... but they differ from others in that they are able to accept in a stoical way these reverses of life and draw strength from weakness to keep going ".

A psychologist at the University of Chicago, Suzanne C. Kobasa, conducted several studies on the tough personality . According to their conclusions, people with this type of personality have several characteristics. They tend to be people of great commitment, locus of internal control and oriented to the challenge and with a greater openness to changes.

Internal control locus and external control locus at work

The control locus can also affect the job performance . It is important to understand that the locus of control is a continuum, no one is 100% locus of external or internal control. Below are some characteristics of the internal and external control locus.

Individuals with internal control locus :

  • They are prone to take responsibility for their actions
  • They are less influenced by the opinions of others
  • They tend to perform more when they can work at their own pace
  • They have a high feeling of self-efficacy or self-confidence
  • They feel safe in the face of challenges
  • They tend to be healthier
  • They tend to be happier and independent
  • They tend to be more successful in the workplace

Individuals with external control locus :

  • They attribute to luck, destiny, circumstances or others for their successes
  • They do not believe that adverse situations can change
  • They are more likely to suffer from learned helplessness
  • They are more unhappy
  • They tend to be less successful in the workplace

Bibliographic references:

  • Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectations for internal versus external control of reinforcement.
  • Maddi, S. R., & Kobasa, S.C. (1984). The hardy executive: Health under stress. Homewood, IL :: Dow Jones-Irwin.
  • //psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/fl/What-Is-Locus-of-Control.htm

Locus of Control Definition and Examples of Internal and External (July 2024).


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