Psychological Exercises

Locus of Control - A Class Tutorial

James Neill
Last updated:
13 Feb 2011

Goals

This exercise is designed to give students:

  • Insight into "locus of control" as a psychological construct
  • Feedback about individual locus of control scores
  • Strategies for changing locus of control

Applications

Possible applications of this exercise include:

  • Psychology classes
  • Personal development courses
  • Corporate training
  • Therapeutic / rehabilitation programs

Variations can be created by selecting different types of Locus of Control questionnaires.

Tutorial Outline

  1. Invite students to complete a Locus of Control questionnaire - at this stage do not explain what it is measuring.
  2. Have students self-score and get a total number.  Make you're aware of which direction the questionnaire is scored in.
  3. Explain the concept of Locus of Control.
  4. Draw a <---------------------> (continuum) on a whiteboard.
  5. Label the ends as external <----------------> internal and explain both ends of the spectrum
  6. Add a scale to the spectrum and invite students to come up and place a mark on the board, so that the distribution of class scores is visible but the process is fairly anonymous (e.g., try to have several markers available so there's a crowd at the board rather than individuals one at a time being watched).  Optional: Ask participants to initial their score - this helps them to own their score without necessarily giving away their identity (depends how well they know one another)
  7. Caution the class about overly simplistic interpretations and emphasise that when discussing psychological constructs such as LOC its important to avoid valenced interpretation (i.e., good vs. bad):
    • In general, a more internal locus of control seems to advantageous, but this is not always the case, for example, for external locus of control people tend to cope better with terminal illness.
    • Very high locus of control particularly, if not accompanied by real life skills, can contribute to anxiety problems.
  8. Present major group differences - i.e., males more internal than females, people get more internal as they get older and ask students to explain these findings.
  9. Ask students for ways they can suggest for changing someone's locus of control towards internality.  Some psycho-educational programs are effective in shifting people towards a more internal locus of control.