Tuesday, 14 April 2015

"I did it" vs. "It was fate"

“It’s out of my hands”

“I made the decision, and now I have to pay the consequences”

“There’s nothing I could do”

“I did my best”

All of the above statements relate to how a person views the cause of the events around them.  The psychological term that describes this perception is called locus of control.  In its most basic form, the locus of control differentiates if a person primarily believes that they have the ability to control their environment (internal) or if they believe what happens is predetermined by fate, luck, or powerful others (external).

For example, if a person with an internal locus of control got a 95% on an exam, he or she would likely attribute the success to personal factors such as studying or being smart.  If someone with an external locus of control received the same grade, they would credit environmental factors such as the test being easy or the professor needing to bell curve the grades. 

Based on the previous example, it would seem that an internal locus of control is great.  You see yourself as competent, and overall, you are just fantastic! However, this is not always the case.  In the face of a negative situation, for example, if the mark on the test was a 55%, the external locus of control would be much more beneficial to a person’s self-esteem because they would perceive the test as really hard instead of viewing him or herself as unintelligent.

So now that you understand what locus of control is and how it can effect a person, let’s consider how this concept relates to a person’s quality of life, such as their perceptions of meaning in life and well-being. 

A study by Singh and Choudhri (2014) considers how these quality of life factors are experienced by young adults (aged 20-23) based on their individual differences in the previously discussed concept of locus of control.  They surveyed 120 university students, and their results demonstrate that an internal locus of control (“I did it!”) is related to a greater sense of achievement and self-acceptance, stronger interpersonal relationships, and a more avid belief in fair treatment.  This way of thinking was also related to a general positive appraisal of life, greater expectations for success, and the ability to be more supportive in times of crisis. 

All of this information has implications and is interesting, however, it is important to remember that having an internal locus of control has been associated with these quality of life factors. In other words, this study does not tell us that viewing yourself as the controlling factor for events will increase your quality of life, but rather that the two have been seen as related in research settings.  The important message from all of this is that the way that you frame situations in your mind is related to how you experience the events in your life, and just remember, YOU CAN DO IT!  

Primary Source: 
Singh, T., & Choudhri, N. (2014).  Early adulthood: The role of locus of control, meaning of life, and subjective well-being. Journal of Psychsocial Research, 9, 131-139. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1562147181?accountid=15115

Secondary Source: 
Shojaee, M., & French, C. (2014).  The relationship between mental health components and locus of control in youth.  Psychology, 5, 966-978. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.58107

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