Our life is full of actions and results. Each of us ascribes some locus of control over these outcomes. In psychology, locus of control is considered an important aspect of personality. The concept was originally developed by Julian Rotter in the 1950s.
The main idea of locus of control is that it describes how much a person feels in control of what happens to him and how much he, as a person, can influence his life.
An internal locus of control will reinforce the behavior and the behavior will continue. An external locus of control will cause the behavior to die out – why would we keep trying if the outcome is out of our control?
People with a high internal locus of control see themselves as having a great deal of personal control over their behavior and are therefore more likely to take responsibility for how they behave. Research has shown that people with an internal locus of control tend to be less conforming and less obedient (ie, more independent). Rotter suggests that people with an internal locus of control are better able to resist social pressure to comply or conform, perhaps because they feel responsible for their actions.
A person with an external locus of control who attributes their success to luck or fate is less likely to put in the effort necessary to learn. People with an external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety because they believe they are not in control of their lives. However, this does not mean that an internal locus of control is “good” and an external locus is “bad.”
Locus of control is often seen as an innate component of personality. However, there is also evidence that it is formed based on childhood experiences, in particular the interaction of children with their parents. Children raised by parents who encouraged their independence and helped them understand the connection between actions and their consequences tended to have a more developed internal locus of control.
People who use a mixture of both internal and external loci in their reasoning report higher levels of happiness (April, Dharani, & Peters, 2012).