What personality characteristics are associated with an internal Locus of Control and an external locus of control

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Rotter's (1954) Locus of Control is a personality theoretical paradigm which people use to explain their circumstances. Locus (location) of control basically means that cause for something comes from, either, within a person's own control, or from the control of environmental factors. People with a tendency to refer to their internal locus of control tap on their own abilities, self-efficacy and self-esteem as causative agents of change.

In contrast, people who blame the government, their financial status, the supernatural, or other environmental factors blame an external locus of control to atone for their current situation.

Sportsmen are often associated with using their internal locus of control. After all, they diet, train, and consistently put their skills into practice in order to achieve a goal. Whether they win or lose, you hardly ever see a true sportsman blaming external factors unless they are obvious such as weather and the likes. Therefore, people who tap on their internal loci of control are:

  • aware of their self-efficacy (capabilities to confront problems)
  • sure of themselves
  • problem solvers
  • realistic (resort to their own devices)
  • independent
  • goal-driven
  • hard-working
  • responsible
  • intellectually mature

People who often seek for external causes as the driving agents of their circumstance may not always be wrong in doing so; external factors do indeed affect our circumstances. In Bandura's (1960) words, we "cause" our circumstances the same way that circumstances cause us. However, it is the extent to which we use the environment as an excuse what makes us reach wrong conclusions.

Hence the person who tends to always blame circumstantial issues, rather than personal resolve, as a way to atone for current circumstances will tend to be

  • aimless
  • unfocused
  • irresponsible (will not take a role in the events)
  • irrational (such as the case of people who say that they are "born to be...", or "cursed"
  • inconsistent
  • dissatisfied in general
  • in need of direction

Again, just think of a sportsman, or an athlete, and think of how their industrious nature keeps them focused on their internal processes, and on their mind and body wellness, to achieve goals. The opposite of doing this is what the external locus thinker does.

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