The term locus of control was first introduced in the 1950s by psychologist Julian Rotter. It refers to a person's basic belief system about the influences that affect outcomes in their lives. There are two classifications of people in this theory: external and internal locus of control. The most successful people tend to be internal, while those with an external locus of control tend to be more negative about the world and their place in it.
People with an internal locus of control believe that they are primarily responsible for the outcomes in their lives. These people tend to be self-reliant and believe that nothing can hold them back except themselves. Studies have shown that those with an internal locus of control tend to be more successful people because they believe they can be and work toward that goal. Men tend to be more internally focused, while studies have also shown that the older a person gets the more internally focused they become.
Those with an external locus of control believe that forces outside of themselves affect their ability to succeed. They tend to stake their future on things such as fate, luck, god or society. Because they believe they have very little personal stake in their future, those with an external locus of control tend to put less effort forward on most projects. Studies show that they are generally less successful in college and career than those with an internal locus of control.
There are many simple locus of control tests available. Most will ask questions pertaining to a person's belief in themselves. The original test was created by Rotter in 1966. It contained questions that required an "a" or "b" response. An example of a question on this test is the following: a) Many of the unhappy things in people's lives are partly due to bad luck. b)People's misfortunes result from the mistakes they make. Those with an internal locus of control would answer "a," while those with an external locus of control would answer "b."
Very few people are singularly internal or external. The Rotter Internal-External Locus of Control Scale places people on a scale, with one end the extreme external and at the other the extreme internal. Tests with individuals show which way they lean and if they have a sense of balance between the two extremes.
It is often believed that those with an external locus of control are destined to be unhappy. There is no guarantee that people of this kind are unable to be successful nor that they are unhappy. Many with this focus are able to see life as a series of fated events that they can just as easily fall on the good side of. Some are able to find freedom in this concept and live happy lives in the process.