Chapter 10- Cognitive Foundations Of Personality
People who are:
• Field dependent: tend to see the bigger picture rather than details. ( Good at learning new
languages in classroom setting
• Field independent: rely on their own physical sensations and have selective attention to a
particular object without being distracted by surrounding details. (Learn ebest while being totally
immersed in everyday situations)
Locus Of Control
Term defined by Julian Rotter as people’s belief about the control of reinforcements and outcomes in their
• People who believe they have some control over what happens to them have an internal locus of
control, they are called internals
• Externals are people who have an external locus of control- because they believe they have little
control over what happens to them. They believer that outcomes are due to chance, luck, fate,
• If people are rewarded for their actions they will come to believe that they can indeed control
what happens to them. If they are not rewarded they will think that they lack control and that
events happen due to external causes for unknown and unpredictable reason.
• Differ in the process information. Internals pay more attention to information that they may be
useful to them later and they also retain more information than externals. For example, both
hospitalized tuberculosis patients and prisoners facing parole who were internal retained more
information related to their condition than externals.
Measures of Locus of Control
Is often measured with Internal-External Locus of Control Scale. Respondents are presented
with 29 pairs of statements in a forced choice format. Each pair includes on internal locus of
control statement and one external locus of control statement. Higher scores indicated a greater
external locus control, lower scores a more internal locus of control.
• Numerous studies on locus of control which suggests that more positive outcomes in
achievement, work, health and relationships are associated with having an internal locus
Locus of Control and Achievement • Internals take more action than externals including political action and achieving greater
academic success by studying more
• Internals are better at planning and working at long term goals and establishing more
Locus of Control And Work Behaviour
• Based on meta-anaylsis of 222 studies, workers with an internal locus of control showed
greater satisfaction with their pay, promotions, co-workers and supervisors than did
workers with external locus of control.
• Internals showed greater job commitment, motivation, productivity, career success and
• Entrepreneurs are people who start their own business, more internal- did more
business related activities such as working long hours and setting goals for business that
• Internal locus of control are better able to turn their thoughts into actions
• Business Owners who were more internal coped better with a devastating hurricane and
floods. Externals found the whole situation more stressful than internals.
Locus of Control and Physical and Psychological Health
• The belief that they can control what happens to them combine with greater willingness
to take action contributes to overall better physical and mental health of people with an
internal locus of control.
• Adolescents’ externals have a greater risk of suicide than internals, and people who are
internals tend to be happier.
• People with an internal locus of control use more problem focused coping, looking for
possible solutions and taking concrete steps to make things better.
Locus of Control and Social Behaviour
• People with internal locus of control are also more likely to show independence and
resistance to social influence than externals. Externals are more vulnerable to
persuasion, social influence and conformity.
• Internals participate in more campus activities and hold more campus leadership
positions than externals do. Internals are more likely than externals • Externals are more sensitive to the social demands of a situation whereas internals are
more sensitive to the task demands of the situation. In one experiment, externals paid
more attention when feedback for their performance came from the experimenter instead
of directly from the task. Internals of course, preferred to receive feedback directly from
• However in social situations, Externals talked more and looked at their partners more
than internals did. Externals and internals expect to receive their rewards, either from
their own behaviour or from behaviour of others.
Cultural Differences in Locus of Control
In Western countries and Europeans have a more internal locus of control. They tend to
believe they have control even in situations where they do not. They tend to vulnerable
to an illusion of control: Where people believe that they have control even in situations
where they do no
• In Contrast, collectivistic cultures- such as countries in East Asia tend to be more external.
They believe that supernatural forces, fate or even destiny determines outcomes.
Two ways of taking control
1. Primary control: Attempt to make themselves feel better or less distressed by
changing circumstances. Must have an internal locus of control
2. Secondary control- attempt to fit into, accommodate or accept a situation or
an event in ways that make themselves feel better or at least less distressed.
Exercises control by changing oneself.
Then and now: Locus of Control
College students from the early 1960s where discovered (through Rotter I-E scale) scored more
externally than 80% early 60’s. This being said college students today have more external locus
of control than college students in earlier times.
Locus of control is not the only consistent difference between people in how they think about the
world. Feeling helpless in the present and hopeless about the future.
• Overmier and Seligman reasoned that when dogs or humans find themselves in a situation
where they are exposed to aversive stimuli that they cannot reduce, eliminate or control in
any way they may experience learned helplessness and come to believe that their actions will be useless in future situations as well. Lack of control causes this state of learned
helplessness whereas having control over aversive stimuli prevents later helplessness.
• Experiment where one group of dogs (inescapable Shock)had no control over the shock
they recieved, and other group of dogs (escapable Shock) where trained to stop shock by
tapping a panel. A third group of dogs had no training to shock.
Researchers called it yoking: when a treatment that participants on one condition receive
depends on how participants in another condition behave.
• The triadic design was formulated-> A research method in learned helplessness
experiments in which three groups are used to test controllability of an aversive stimulus.
• These dogs were then put into a shuttle box with a light. Whenever the light dimmed the
shock was given to the dog 10 seconds later. The dogs who were in Escapable boxes
figured out they could avoid the shock by jumping over the barrier when lights dimmed.
However the inescapable dogs felt conditioned that they couldn’t do anything about the
shock and didn’t attempt to escape
Explanatory style: How people explain the good and bad events in their lives using the
three dimension of interal-external, stable- unstable, and global-specific
• People who view negative events as their own faults (internal) likely to happen again
(stable) and undermining other aspects of their lives (globlal) and are at risk of depression.
This is called pessimistic explanatory style.
• People with an optimistic explanatory style view negative events as not their own fault
(external) unlikely to happen again (unstable) and limited to just one aspect of their lives
(specific). People who are optimistic explanatory style are faster at bouncing back from a
negative event and are less likely to experience symptoms of depression.
• When trying to understand a situation in which they can feel helpless, people may think that
there is nothing they can do to remedy the situation, internal versus external by be the
cause. Ex-> Olivia does bad on a test, she may think that the test is just difficult or unfair
(external) or she may think she did not study well, or does not have the capacity to do well
(internal). Some explanations may help her do better or make her feel helpless in the future.
The difference between lack of effort and lack of ability has to do with how permanent or
stable the cause is.
• Stable versus unstable: explanatory style whether the cause of positive or negative event
is likely to reoccur in future (stable) or not ( unstable)
• Global versus specific :Whether the cause of an event will also affect other aspects of a
person’s life (global) or just the one aspect (specific) • These explanations differ in three dimensions, can differ in locus of control, stability (how
stable, permanent or recurrent a cause is vs how unstable, temporary or intermittent it is)
and generality (how global, affecting many aspects of a person’s life or limited to a specific
domain a cause is.
• Students with optimistic style (making stable and global attributions) benefitted the most
from good events whereas students who made pessimistic attributions for good events
(unstable, specific) didn’t seem to derive much cheer from the good events in their lives.
• Increase in optimistic explanatory style for positive events (attributing good events to stable
and global factors recovered from depression faster, showing fewer depressive symptoms
than students with a more pessimistic style.
Measures of Explanatory Style
Questionairres and content analysis is used to measure ones explanatory style.
• Attribution Style Questions (ASQ): Most extensively used questionnaire, contains 12
hypothetical good and bad situations. Respondents imagine the situation happening to
them and write down that they think would be major cause of the situation. Then they
rate each cause from 1 to 7 scale of internal-external, stable and unstable and global
specific. Situations include becoming rich, getting a raise, getting compliment by friend,
having a date go badly, giving a bad presentation and not getting all your work done on
time. Higher numbers indicate more pessimistic explanatory style (internal, stable, global
for negative events and external, unstable and specific for good events). Lower number
includes more optimistic explanatory style.
• CAVE technique. The technique works very much like ASQ. A quote must be found
explaning a good or bad event happened to him or her. The researcher then quotes the
event and the explanation and presents to trained judges who rate the explanation on
the three dimensions of internal-external, stable-unstable and global-specific. Higher
rating indicates a more pessimistic explanatory style; lower score a more optimistic one.
Explanatory Style and Achievement
School- Optimistic college students do better than pessimistic explanatory styles. Students
with an optimistic explanatory style show greater motivation and persist longer in face of
adversity, strategies which are related to higher achievements.
However, there are times where a more pessimistic explanatory style focusing on failure
and discounting success may work to improve achievement such as when faced with highly
demanding academic programs. (Internal, stable, global for negat