Front Page Titles (by Subject) Individualism and Locus of Control - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1
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Individualism and “Locus of Control” - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Individualism and “Locus of Control”
“Individualistic Bias in Studies of Locus of Control.” In A.R. Buss, ed. Psychology in Social Context. New York: Irvington Press, 1979.
The assumption in most of the research on Rotter's concept of locus of control is that it is better for a person to have an internal orientation, perceiving the outcome of events as contingent on her own personal action, than for that person to have an external orientation, whereby she perceives the outcome of events to result from chance, fate, or the actions of powerful others. Research indicates that an internal locus of control is related to a person's perseverence, creativity, achievement, self-esteem, and other adaptive personality characteristics. Furby criticizes this research for focusing too heavily on the perceived correlation between one's actions and outcomes.
The individualistic bias to which the author objects is seen when the perception of the locus of control of events as external is assumed to be inconsistent with “reality.” Only in instances where there is an actual potential for personal control is an internal orientation true and useful. Thus situation-specific expectancies of locus of control are more appropriate than are the generalized expectancies discussed by Rotter. However, in any specific situation, it may be exceedingly difficult to ascertain the actual potential for control.
Using the techniques of the sociology of psychological knowledge, Furby suggests that the individualistic bias in locus of control research is a function of the social and political attitudes of those involved in the research. Internal ideology is said to embody the Protestant Ethic and be related to the capitalist spirit. The author observes that “any social and economic structure entailing gross inequalities in both political power and material well-being is likely to foster an internal control ideology.” Those out of power are thereby encouraged to perceive their “failure” as a result of their own doing rather than to blame the system. Psychologists accept an internal control ideology because (1) they have been socialized to accept the general societal values, (2) they have greater than average wealth and social power, and (3) they, in fact, have greater than average actual personal control compared to the general population.
The author concludes that for psychologists to endeavor to increase an internal orientation as a general strategy is wrong. There are circumstances where an external locus of control is not only appropriate but may lead to more effective behavior. What is needed is to expand the conditions under which individuals will experience actual control.