Locus of Control – Concept, Types, Effects



When you get good marks in an exam, do you think that it were your efforts that became fruitful or it was luck? Similarly, when you fail in some task, do you blame yourself for your low efforts or blame the situation for being unfavorable. This difference in behavior whether the consequences are or are not in one’s control is studied by Julian Rotter. He proposed the concept of locus of control.

What is Locus of Control?

Locus of control is the belief regarding the outcome of their actions.

Julian Rotter (1966, 1978,1981, 1990) devised a theory based on a basic principle of motivation derived from
Thorndike’s law of effect: People are motivated to seek reinforcement and avoid punishment.

According to Rotter, Locus of Control means – The tendency for people to assume that they either have control or do not have control over events and consequences in their lives.

American Psychological Association (APA) – A construct that is used to categorize people’s basic motivational orientations and perceptions of how much control they have over the conditions of their lives.

It refers to internal or external control over reinforcement resulting from operating response upon the environment. In fact it is the development of a generalized expectancy within the individual as to how he receives reinforcement.


Certain people believe that their skills and abilities influence the outcome of the action. Others believe that some external factors like fate or chance influence their result.

Types of Locus of Control

Certain people believe that their skills and abilities influence the outcome of the action. Others believe that some external factors like fate or chance influence their result.

Internal Locus of Control

People with internal locus of control think that skill coupled with hard work, foresightedness and feeling of  responsibility can change their fate and bring reinforcement.


External Locus of Control

People high on external locus of control think that reinforcement is not in their control that is, they can not influence the outcome of happenings. Whatever happens is ascribed to luck and coincidence.




Internal Vs External Locus of Control

Internal Locus of ControlExternal Locus of Control
Refrain from situations which

 threaten control over reinforcement.

Not able to keep balance in situations of learned helplessness.
They like to maintain a 

certain probability of success.

They show more conformity to social influence
When deciding about a target, make use of information present in the environment and their previous experiences in this regard.Even in regard to target they go by what others say
Give serious and long consideration

 before arriving at a decision.

Take quick decisions
While arriving at a decision, they rely

more on their skill than leaving 

things on chance factors

They discuss with others and take their opinions
More resistant to social influenceGet easily influenced by outside social factors.
Characterized with independence of thinking.Depend on others for opinions to quite an extent.


How does it affect our performance?

a) Absenteeism: People having internal locus of control possess a belief that the health is under their control. They inculcate good health habits and take proper care of their health. Thus, they have lower rate of sickness. Therefore, absenteeism is less in these people.

b) Turnover: With respect to turnover, internals tend to take action and thus might be expected to quit the jobs more readily, but they tend to be more successful on the job and more satisfied.

c) Decision-Making: People having external locus of control are more oriented towards intuitive decision making. On the other hand, internals consider more information before taking decisions. They are motivated by the achievements. They would like to control the outcome of the decisions.

d) Motivation: Internals possess achievement motivation than externals that are just satisfied with the available rewards.

e) Job Satisfaction: People having external locus of control are more dissatisfied on the jobs. This is because of the belief that the outcome is not under their control. In the case of internals, job  satisfaction is more due to the belief that outcomes are the results of their actions.

f) Psychological Commitment: Externals are less involved in the jobs. Internals possess commitment that is more psychological.

g) Social interactions: People having internal locus of control are more sociable and excited to have social relationships to keep their identification and esteem.


  • Baron, R. A. and Byrne, D. (1997). Social Psychology, 8th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
  • Ciccarelli, S. K.; White J. N. Adapted by Girishwar Misra (2018). Psychology (5th Edition). Pearson


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