Focus your locus


Jenna Liu

Students delve into understanding external and internal controls
A couple of months ago, the Club COMO volleyball team was in the middle of a tournament, with only one round between them and the championship round. Sophomore Tylee Schnake knew all the team had to do was win the third game of the round by 15 points. Though the girls were determined to triumph, the game did not go as planned.
“They killed us, and it was a team we could have totally beat,” Schnake said. “I thought I was playing my hardest, but it was out of my control.”
What Schnake described was an exhibition of an external locus of control, or “The belief that events in one’s life, whether good or bad, are caused by uncontrollable factors,” according to The opposite of this would be an internal locus of control, which is the opinion that an individual can control what happens.
Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper said determination of an individual’s locus of control is done through self-report questionnaires. Cooper, along with Professor Maureen Findley, conducted a study on the effects of the locus of control on student academics in 1983 when he was part of the University of Missouri faculty.
Cooper and Findley found students’ beliefs in internal controls translated to more academic achievement. Cooper said this effect can be explained by the positive effect the locus of control has on the effort one puts in to achieve a goal.
“People with a strong internal locus of control believe they can control the things that happen to them,” Cooper said. “This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for motivation to try hard in any sphere of performance, including academics.”
While speaking of the differences between the internal and external locus of control, Cooper said those who have a strong external locus of control believe effort will be less likely to pay off. For sophomore Chung Lee, an internal locus of control has manifested as simple confidence in his own abilities.
“When I believed myself, I started investing my time into it, instead of idling around and thinking I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goal,” Lee said. “I was also able to take risks that I would’ve backed away from if I hadn’t had trust in myself.”
Schnake said the idea that one has power over what happens simply doesn’t ring true. She said while people can be more motivated to accomplish a task, they ultimately cannot guarantee the goal’s achievement.
“I think if you want success enough it could change your perspective, but we’re not in control of it,” Schnake said. “I believe that whatever happens. You can’t control it, but you can control your reaction.”
Yet Lee said he still is of the opinion that an individual’s realization of a goal depends upon his or her mindset. The motto ‘You have to want it to get it’ is an integral part of Lee’s own belief in the significance of internal controls.
“You need to want things that much to get what you want,” Lee said. “If you want it enough, you’ll do anything. Some things are unattainable unless you give everything.”
By Jenna Liu
Infographic by Claire Simon