Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

pp 743-744

External Locus of Control

  • Gary DavisAffiliated withMedical School Duluth, University of Minnesota Email author 


Helplessness; Low self-efficacy


External locus of control is the belief that one’s behavior will not lead to valued reinforcement that is available in the environment and therefore not under one’s control. The occurrence of reinforcement is believed to be a function of factors out of one’s control such as luck, chance, or randomness.


External Locus of Control

External locus of control anchors one end of a continuum of the locus of control construct with the other end anchored by internal locus of control. The construct developed out of work by E. Jerry Phares and Julian Rotter in the 1950s at Ohio State University and was influenced strongly by Alfred Adler’s earlier work on striving for superiority. Feelings of inferiority were thought to be associated with externality. Rotter published his initial paper containing the external locus of control construct in 1966 that included the now famous Internal-External Locus of Control Scale ...

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