Rotter- Locus of Control

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Background theory and Psychologists:
Locus of Control theory
Assumptions/ Approaches/Perspective:
The extent to which a person attributes responsibility to themselves vs. other forces, determines their locus of
Theory/Model/ Concept definition:
External forces and locus of control: God, Doctors, fate and parents--their health is seen to be not within their
control or as not their responsibility
Internal locus of control: You are in control of your health, therefore you are more likely follow health advice of
others and you will do what you think will make you healthier.
Locus suggests that where a person thinks the control of their health lies will influence whether they adopt a
health behaviour.
Methodological and theoretical issues and debates:
Reductionist--doesn't consider demographic variables ­ simplified to either internal or external locus of control
Ethnocentric bias- behaviour of locus of control varies between cultures
Low reliability- a persons' locus of control varies across time and across different health issues
Low internal validity- doesn't incorporate individual differences
Title and Authors: Internal versus external locus of control- Rotter (1966)
Method: Review Article
Participants and/or sampling: Initially 6 pieces of research (which were all lab experiments) into individual
perceptions of ability to control outcomes based on reinforcement.
Rotter found that results from the studies reviewed consistently showed that participants who felt they
had control over the situation were more likely to show behaviours that would enable them to cope with
potential threats, than participants who thought that chance or other non-controllable forces determined
the effects of their behaviour
Locus of control would affect many of our behaviours, not just health behaviours.
Research by James et al, found that male smokers who gave up and did not relapse had a higher level of internal
locus of control than those who did not quit smoking but found no significant difference between female smokers,
indicating that factors such as weight gain were influential in giving up smoking.
Review: secondary research, did not carry out data collection himself, not as valid
Ethical: no manipulation of an IV
High reliability: lab experiments reviewed which are highly controlled
Low ecological validity: lab experiments are highly controlled creating highly artificial conditions. It also increases
the chance of demand characteristics
Low validity: Subjective interpretation of the 6 pieces of research- may not be interpreted in the same way by
another psychologist
None of the 6 articles had any related health tasks or ill participants and so generalising the results t health
behaviours lacks mundane realism
Reductionist: Only looks are locus of control affecting health behaviour and does not consider other factors
Deterministic: Suggests human behaviour can be influenced by reinforcement
Usefulness: if we increase people's internal locus of control, the more likely we are to cope with potential threats
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