Review the idea of locus of control. Who in our society has demonstrated a great level of external locus of control? What are some qualities of his or her personality? Who in your personal life...

Review the idea of locus of control. Who in our society has demonstrated a great level of external locus of control? What are some qualities of his or her personality? Who in your personal life has demonstrated a great level of internal locus of control? What are some qualities of his or her personality?

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Locus of control refers to people's ideas about whether internal or external factors determine the outcome of a situation. Some people believe their locus of control is internal, meaning the outcome of a situation is contingent on their behavior. These people tend to try to control situations and tend to be more motivated to achieve success. Other people believe that external factors are at work in producing the outcome of a situation. These people have a high external locus of control, and they often react with passivity to situations. They believe factors such as fate or destiny control the outcome of situations. People are often on a spectrum between external and internal locus of control and do not fall neatly into one category or another. 

Research cited in Kirkpatrick, Stant, & Downes, 2008, suggests higher performing students have a high internal locus of control. They believe their success is a result of their abilities and efforts. Students who are lower-performing or have learning differences have a higher external source of control, attributing their outcomes to factors such as fate or the challenging nature of the test. Perhaps you know someone with a high internal locus of control who has a committed and strategic approach to doing well in class. That person does his or her homework, meets with teachers, and asks a lot of questions in class, as he or she believes academic performance is under one's control. 

According to research by Shieman (2001), older people often have a high external locus of control. This research suggests people's experiences with aging and retirement often lead them to have a higher external locus of control. Education and financial well-being, on the other hand, are associated with a higher internal locus of control. Slagsvold and Sorensen (2008) found women generally possess a lower internal locus of control than men but this gap is closing because of more equal educational opportunities for women. People with a high external locus of control may be more seemingly passive about achieving professional or financial success and pursuing academic and professional opportunities because they feel the outcome of situations is beyond their control. 

 

References:

Kirkpatrick, M.A., Stant, K., & Downes, S. (2008). Perceived locus of control and academic performance: broadening the construct’s applicability. Journal of College Student Development, Vol. 49 (5), 486-496.

Schieman, S. (2001). Age, education, and the sense of control: a test of the cumulative advantage hypothesis. Research on Aging vol. 23 (2), 153-178.

Slagsvold, B. & Sorensen, A. (2008). Age, education, and the gender gap in the sense of control. International Aging and Human Development, Vol. 67(1), 25-42.