Locus of Control (LOC)

I had an interesting conversation recently about the psychological idea of the Locus of Control (LOC). It has been helpful in several conversations in recent weeks.

The Locus of Control (LOC) can help us with safe experiments. It focuses attention on how I ‘allocate’ responsibility for things;  how I assess who is ‘responsible’ for my actions and/or the changes that are arising in my life.

It’s a simple continuum or straight line. From the:

External Locus of Control (ELOC): some-one else is responsible, e.g. my therapist, my spouse etc.

Internal Locus of Control (ILOC): it’s all to do with me, e.g. I made it happen.


ELOC  ==========================================================  ILOC

When you make a decision or take an action, it is likely that you will be able to identify a ‘responsiblity’ point along this line.  For example, you have an argument with your partner. Depending on the matter in hand, you may hold yourself to account for it. Alternatively, you may see your partner as the main person responsibile for the event.

Another alternative is to locate the event toward the left, toward the middle or toward the right as you consider how the balance of responsibility is ‘shared’ between the two of you.

This will vary from one situation to another.

However, if you do this safe experiment a few times, then it is likely that a pattern will emerge.

By and large, do you place the burden for events on yourself or on others? There is a light-hearted ‘test’ available at:

  • just bear in mind the distraction of advertisements here.
  • Depending on the pattern you notice, consider: how would you prefer things to be?

There is a readable article – in PDF format – you can print off at:,a…%202%20External%20Locus%20of%20Control%3A%20More%20

Locus of control is often viewed as an inborn personality component. However, there is also evidence that it is shaped by childhood experiences—including children’s interactions with their parents. Children who were raised by parents who encouraged their independence and helped them to learn the connection between actions and their consequences tended to have a more well developed internal locus of control.

It would appear that children with a more internal locus of control have greater confidence and feel more able to influence outcomes through their own actions.

Even so, humans are meaning-seeking creatures and our LOC will play a large part in the ‘meanings’ we detect and articulate.

Return to:


What is a Nudge?

How to design safe experiments.

Using Smart Objectives