Locus of Control

The Locus of Control is a concept first developed in the 1960’s by Julian Rotter and is measured along a spectrum (a continuum) with an ‘internal’ locus of control at one end and an ‘external’ locus of control at the other.

It represents the way that we attribute ‘causality’ (what causes things to happen – see Attribution Theory) to experiences or events in our lives.

Over the last 60 years the locus of control model has stood the test of time and is still regarded, today, as a valid and influential psychological perspective.

The Locus of Control is a measure of what we believe about causality and NOT a scientific explanation of causality.

It is one of the three main core beliefs that effect how we each experience life.

Locus of Control Concept

Locus of Control, Beliefs and Facts

Not all of us believe in the existence of (a) God.

As a result of this, we may not believe that God influences or has a hand in our life experiences or the path that our life follows.

Having this belief leads to the idea that it is our own actions and choices that determine the trajectory of our lives.

We would describe this as having an internal locus of control.

Of course, not believing in God does not mean that God does not exist, it is simply a belief that there is no God.

On the other hand, there are many people in the UK who do believe in (a) God and many of them believe that their lives are largely lived according to God’s plan.

However, recent media reports suggest that a a belief in God is now a minority belief.


By the same token, the fact that millions of people do believe in God does not mean that God actually exists, it’s just that those people who believe in God, believe he exists.

Neither believing or not-believing in God makes God any more or less real.

There is little relationship between what people believe and reality.

Believing in something does NOT make it a fact.

Most of the time, what we call a fact is really just the ‘best evidence’ we currently have to explain something.

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Internal v External Locus of Control

Sticking with the concept of God outlined above, those who believe that God does exist and influences their daily experiences would have an ‘external’ Locus of Control because they would attribute events and outcomes in their lives as being controlled or influenced by a force outside of themselves.

Those who believe that the outcomes of events or experiences are attributable to their own actions and volition and not due to the ‘will’ or ‘design’ of some unseen deity, would be said to have an ‘internal’ Locus of Control.

People with an external locus of control tend to believe that:

Life is what happens to you.

Whereas those with an internal locus of control tend to believe that:

Life is what you make it.

The locus of control also tends to influence other beliefs that people have, for example those with an external locus of control tend to believe in influences such as:

  • Luck
  • Fate
  • Chance

whereas ‘internals’ tend to believe that:

  • You make you own ‘luck’
  • Life outcomes are NOT pre-determined
  • Outcomes are the result of deliberative actions and not randomly controlled by ‘chance’
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Locus of Control and Mental Well Being

Research indicates that people who have, or who develop, an internal Locus of Control are better able to cope with adversity and challenging situations in life because of their belief that they can always take action to change outcomes.

This is known as ‘resilience‘.

Conversely, those with a more external perspective often feel ‘powerless’ to affect change because they perceive life adversities to be beyond any personal control. In these cases, we would say that they are more ‘susceptible’ to problems.

The Locus of Control Test

If you’d like to find out whether you have an internal or external Locus of Control, you can take the Locus of Control Test here.

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Arrange your FREE initial consultation here.

If you’d like to find out more about the locus of control and recovering from mental health problems then why not arrange a free initial consultation with us.

During this consultation we will discuss your particular issues and the different types of mental health counselling we offer (including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT) without you having to commit to any counselling going forward.

The consultation lasts around 50 minutes and is a great opportunity to meet with either Paul or Joan and decide if you would like to proceed with any support.