Self-efficacy is a person’s belief that he or she can accomplish a particular activity (Siegle, 2000).
It is a related concept introduced by Albert Bandura, and has been measured by means of a psychometric scale (Sherer et al., 1982).
It differs from locus of control by relating to competence in circumscribed situations and activities, rather than more general cross-situational beliefs about control.
Bandura has also emphasised differences between self-efficacy and self-esteem, using examples where low self-efficacy, for instance in ballroom dancing, is unlikely to result in low self-esteem because competence in that domain is not very important to an individual.
Although individuals may have a high internal health locus of control and feel in control of their own health, they may not feel efficacious in performing a specific treatment regimen that is essential to maintaining their own health (Roddenberry et al., 2010).
Self-efficacy plays an important role in one’s health because when people feel that they have self-efficacy over their health conditions, the effects of their health becomes less of a stressor.
Smith (1989) has argued that locus of control only weakly measures self-efficacy; “only a subset of items refer directly to the subject’s capabilities” (Smith, 1989, p.229).
Smith noted that training in coping skills led to increases in self-efficacy, but did not affect locus of control as measured by Rotter’s 1966 scale.
The previous section showed how self-efficacy can be related to a person’s locus of control, and stress also has a relationship in these areas.
Self-efficacy can be something that people use to deal with the stress that they are faced with in their everyday lives.
Some findings suggest that higher levels of external locus of control combined with lower levels self-efficacy are related to higher illness related psychological distress (Roddenberry et al., 2010).
In the previous section, the different types of locus of control, internal and external, were mentioned.
Based on the definition of people who have an external locus of control, it is understandable that this can be associated with higher levels of stress.
A study conducted by Bollini and others reveals that individuals who have a high external locus of control tend to have higher levels of psychological and physical problems.
These people are also more vulnerable to external influences and as a result they become more responsive to stress (Roddenberry et al., 2010).
Veterans of the military forces who have spinal cord injuries and post-traumatic stress are a good group to look at in regards to locus of control and stress.
Ageing shows to be a very important factor that can be related to the severity of the symptoms of PTSD experienced by patients following the trauma of war (Chung et al., 2006)
Research suggests that patients who suffered a spinal cord injury benefit from knowing that they have control over their health problems and their disability, which reflects the characteristics of having internal locus of control.
A study by Chung et al. focused on how the responses of spinal cord injury post-traumatic stress varied depending on age (Chung et al., 2006).
The researchers tested different age groups including young adults, middle-aged, and elderly; the average age was 25, 48 and 65 for each group respectively.
After the study, they concluded that age does not make a difference on how spinal cord injury patients respond to the traumatic events that happened (Chung et al., 2006).
However, they did mention that age did play a role in the extent to which the external locus of control was used, and concluded that the young adult group demonstrated more external locus of control characteristics than the other age groups to which they were being compared.
Locus of Control Measuring Scales
The most widely used questionnaire to measure locus of control is the 23 item (plus six filler items), forced choice scale of Rotter (Rotter, 1966).
Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale:
For each question select the statement that you agree with the most:
1. a. Children get into trouble because their parents punish them too much.
b. The trouble with most children nowadays is that their parents are too easy with them.
2. a. Many of the unhappy things in people’s lives are partly due to bad luck.
b. People’s misfortunes result from the mistakes they make.
3. a. One of the major reasons why we have wars is because people don’t take enough interest in politics.
b. There will always be wars, no matter how hard people try to prevent them.
4. a. In the long run people get the respect they deserve in this world
b. Unfortunately, an individual’s worth often passes unrecognized no matter how hard he
5. a. The idea that teachers are unfair to students is nonsense.
b. Most students don’t realise the extent to which their grades are influenced by accidental
6. a. Without the right breaks one cannot be an effective leader.
b. Capable people who fail to become leaders have not taken advantage of their
7. a. No matter how hard you try some people just don’t like you.
b. People who can’t get others to like them don’t understand how to get along with others.
8. a. Heredity plays the major role in determining one’s personality
b. It is one’s experiences in life which determine what they’re like.
9. a. I have often found that what is going to happen will happen.
b. Trusting to fate has never turned out as well for me as making a decision to take a definite course of action.
10. a. In the case of the well prepared student there is rarely if ever such a thing as an unfair
b. Many times exam questions tend to be so unrelated to course work that studying in really useless.
11. a. Becoming a success is a matter of hard work, luck has little or nothing to do with it.
b. Getting a good job depends mainly on being in the right place at the right time.
12. a. The average citizen can have an influence in government decisions.
b. This world is run by the few people in power, and there is not much the little guy can do about it.
13. a. When I make plans, I am almost certain that I can make them work.
b. It is not always wise to plan too far ahead because many things turn out to be a matter of good or bad fortune anyhow.
14. a. There are certain people who are just no good.
b. There is some good in everybody.
15. a. In my case getting what I want has little or nothing to do with luck.
b. Many times we might just as well decide what to do by flipping a coin.
16. a. Who gets to be the boss often depends on who was lucky enough to be in the right place first.
b. Getting people to do the right thing depends upon ability. Luck has little or nothing to do with it.
17. a. As far as world affairs are concerned, most of us are the victims of forces we can neither understand, nor control.
b. By taking an active part in political and social affairs the people can control world events.
18. a. Most people don’t realize the extent to which their lives are controlled by accidental happenings.
b. There really is no such thing as “luck.”
19. a. One should always be willing to admit mistakes.
b. It is usually best to cover up one’s mistakes.
20. a. It is hard to know whether or not a person really likes you.
b. How many friends you have depends upon how nice a person you are.
21. a. In the long run the bad things that happen to us are balanced by the good ones.
b. Most misfortunes are the result of lack of ability, ignorance, laziness, or all three.
22. a. With enough effort we can wipe out political corruption.
b. It is difficult for people to have much control over the things politicians do in office.
23. a. Sometimes I can’t understand how teachers arrive at the grades they give.
b. There is a direct connection between how hard I study and the grades I get.
24. a. A good leader expects people to decide for themselves what they should do.
b. A good leader makes it clear to everybody what their jobs are.
25. a. Many times I feel that I have little influence over the things that happen to me.
b. It is impossible for me to believe that chance or luck plays an important role in my life.
26. a. People are lonely because they don’t try to be friendly.
b. There’s not much use in trying too hard to please people, if they like you, they like you.
27. a. There is too much emphasis on athletics in high school.
b. Team sports are an excellent way to build character.
28. a. What happens to me is my own doing.
b. Sometimes I feel that I don’t have enough control over the direction my life is taking.
29. a. Most of the time I can’t understand why politicians behave the way they do.
b. In the long run the people are responsible for bad government on a national as well as on a local level.
Score one point for each of the following:
2. a, 3.b, 4.b, 5.b, 6.a, 7.a, 9.a, 10.b, 11.b, 12.b, 13.b, 15.b, 16.a, 17.a, 18.a, 20.a,
21. a, 22.b, 23.a, 25.a, 26.b, 28.b, 29.a.
A high score = external Locus of Control
A low score = internal Locus of Control
Also relevant to the locus of control scale are the Crandall Intellectual Ascription of Responsibility Scale (see Reid and Croucher, 1980) and the Nowicki-Strickland (1971) (Nowicki and Strickland, 1973) Scale.
One of the earliest psychometric scales to assess locus of control, using a Likert-type scale, in contrast to the forced choice alternative measure in Rotter’s scale, was that devised by W. H. James for his unpublished doctoral dissertation, supervised by Rotter at Ohio State University. However, this remains unpublished (Lefcourt, 1976).
Many measures of locus of control have appeared since Rotter’s scale.
These were reviewed by Furnham and Steele (1993) and include those related to health psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, and those specifically for children (such as the Stanford Preschool Internal-External Control Index (Mischel et al., 1974; Furnham and Steele, 1993) for three to six year olds).
Furnham and Steele (1993) cite data suggesting that the most reliable, valid questionnaire for adults is the Duttweiler scale.
The Duttweiler (1984) Internal Control Index (ICI) addresses perceived problems with the Rotter scales, including their forced choice format, susceptibility to social desirability and heterogeneity as indicated by factor analysis (Duttweiler, 1984).
She also notes that, while other scales existed in 1984 to measure locus of control, “they appear to be subject to many of the same problems” (Duttweiler, 1984, p.211)
Unlike the forced choice format used on Rotter’s scale, Duttweiler’s 28 item ICI uses a Likert-type scale in which people must state whether they would rarely, occasionally, sometimes, frequently or usually behave as specified in each of 28 statements.
The ICI assess variables pertinent to internal locus: cognitive processing, autonomy, resistance to social influence, self-confidence and delay of gratification.
A small (133 student subject) validation study indicated that the scale had good internal reliability (a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.85) (Salmani Nodoushan, 2012).