Perceived Control

Cognitive – Experiential Domain
Personality from the Inside
• Emphasis on subjective, conscious experience
• How you think, feel, perceive your social world
– Chapter 12: Personality and Cognition
– Chapter 14: Personality and the Self
– Chapter 17: Personality and Culture
Personality and Cognition:
Perceived Control
• Narrow cognitive focus
– Judgments regarding causal connection between
• Perceived Control: extent to which we
perceive a relationship between two stimuli
– Human tendency to attempt to make sense of
Perceived Control – Individual Differences
• Locus of Control
– Developed by Julian Rotter (1960s)
– Based on clinical observations
• Scale: Higher scores indicate a more external
• External: Generalized expectancy that events are
outside of one’s control
• Internal: Generalized expectancy that reinforcing
events are under one’s control, and that one is
responsible for major life outcomes
Locus of Control Scale
Generalized expectancy that
one’s outcomes are contingent
Generalized expectancy that
one’s outcomes are independent
of one’s responses
of one’s responses.
Locus of Control Findings
• Internals act as if they have control
– Act on basis of expectancies (i.e., prison study)
• Generalizes to beliefs about others’ outcomes
– If external, believe outcomes for others are
• Religiosity?
– Why?
Locus of Control Findings Continued
• Socio-economic status (SES)?
– Why?
• Hours study?
• Vote?
• Time?
– Why?
Locus of Control Scale
Better to be internal or external?
Problems with scale?
Captured by Big 5?
Political correlates?
Perceived Control – General Principles
• Regardless of individual differences, how good
are people at detecting relationships between
• Both overestimate (perceive relationships that
are not warranted) and overestimate (fail to
perceive relationships that are warranted)
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Overestimate (erroneously see
– Examples?
• Two types of reasons: Motivational and
• Motivational
– People are motivated to understand (and predict,
explain, etc.) their social world
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Motivational Explanation
• People are motivated to understand (and
predict, explain, etc.) their social world
– Randomness is uncomfortable; it’s meant to be
– Science, religion
– However, may be so motivated to make sense that
they sometimes make sense when there is no
sense to be made (i.e., erroneously perceive a
nonexistent connection)
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Just World Hypothesis (Belief in a Just World)
– Belief that the world is essentially just; therefore,
bad things don’t happen to good people
• Lerner experiments
– Ps observe other Ps (actually confederates) in a
teacher/learner situation with shocks for incorrect
answers. Who is teacher/learning is randomly
determined. Ps perceive learner more negatively.
Perceived Control: General Principles
Real life examples?
Positive outcomes?
Effect is greater for those lower in power
Effect is greater if a more social orientation is
– Why?
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Cognitive Explanations
–Poor information processors
–Multiple documented biases
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Illusion of Control (Langer)
• Overestimate control over chance (i.e.,
random) events (e.g. gambling)
• Why? Confuse causality and control
– Casino games
– Lotteries?
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Illusory Correlation
– Wider scope; relevant any time (not just chance
events) judging a relationship between stimuli
Yes No
Symptom Yes 50
No 20
Perceived Control: General Principles
Yes No
Failure to consider all possible outcomes
Occurs anytime judging a relationship between two
stimuli (e.g., Californians and vegetarians; Hoosiers and
basketball, etc.)
Effect is larger if a priori expectation
Perceived Control: General Principles
• Underestimate (erroneously fail to see
– Examples?
• Learned Helplessness – exposure to
uncontrollable negative outcomes – belief in
no control when it may exist
• Dogs and uncontrollable shocks
• Humans and uncontrollable noise

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