August 21, 2003

Bill Whittle And Locus Of Control

Bill Whittle posted his latest essay, Responsibility, yesterday. A vast oversimplification of his argument is that the willingness to take personal responsibility for one’s choices is the key discriminator between one’s positions on many of the issues that define the traditional camps of “conservative” and “liberal.” In Bill’s words:

Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering – all of it – will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility.

What many people don’t know is that there is psychological construct that I believe effectively describes—and predicts—the willingness to take personal responsibility. It’s called Locus of Control, and it was first published by Julian Rotter in Psychological Monographs (80, 1, Whole No. 609) in 1966.

In layman’s terms, Locus of Control describes the extent to which people believe the outcomes they get in life result either from their personal actions or from events outside their personal control. Very simply, people with an “external” locus of control believe things happen to them, while people with an “internal” locus of control believe things happen because of them.

I’ve wondered for some time how Locus of Control and political ideology correlate; I’ve found no extent research on the topic through a quick online search, but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there. If the Whittle Principle is correct, the correlation between Locus and Control and political ideology should be relatively high. Maybe I’ll design a quick on-line survey that measures both scales, run the stats, and let you know what I learn.

In the meantime, if you’re curious about your own Locus of Control, there are several self-assessments online which are reliable, short, and consistent with Rotter’s research.

  • You can take Rotter’s original assessment here.
  • Discovery Health has a more recent assessment online here.

And if I decide to create the online survey relating Locus of Control and political ideology, you’ll see it in this space first.

Posted by Avocare at August 21, 2003 06:13 PM | TrackBack

I find I learn something new from almost everyone of your posts. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Gwen at August 23, 2003 10:31 AM

Wow, great minds must think alike. For the past 6 months I have been researching this very same topic for my Master's thesis, and I will be surveying over 200 people on October 7th here in California, which is the date set for our recall election. Hopefully I can provide you with my final piece when all of the stats are calculated...too strange that I have found absolutely nothing on this correlation for 6 months, and now here you are!

Posted by: Wendy Harrison at September 29, 2003 01:39 PM

Thanks, Wendy. I'd love to see your research.

Posted by: Alan at September 29, 2003 04:37 PM
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