Locus of Control

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Locus of Control is a psychological phenomenon that was first identified in the mid-1900s by the American psychologist Julian Rotter. Locus of Control describes the degree to which an individual believes his or her actions cause various outcomes. This article will provide a brief historical summary of the definition of Locus of Control, an outline of measures used to quantify the degree to which a particular individual is characterized by an internal or external Locus of Control, its applications in formal and informal learning environments, and possible relationships between Locus of Control and several other motivational constructs.



Educational Applications

Control and Incidental Course Knowledge

Control and Self-Regulation Strategies

Other Applications

  • Health psychology
  • Sports psychology

Relationships to Other Motivational Constructs

  • Learned Helplessness
  • Expectancy Value Theory
  • Attribution Theory
  • Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation


  • Dollinger, S. J. (2000). Locus of control and incidental learning: An application to college student success. College Student Journal. 34(4), 537-540.
  • Furnham, A., & Steele, H. (1993). Measuring locus of control: A critique of general, children's health- and work-related locus of control questionnaires. British Journal of Psychology. 84(4), 443-479.
  • Schunk, D. H., Pintrich, P. R., & Meece, J. L. (2008)Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications (Third Edition). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  • Shell, D. F., & Husman, J. (2008). Control, motivation, affect, and strategic self-regulation in the college classroom: A multidimensional phenomenon. Journal of Educational Psychology. 100(2), 443-459.