Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are You an “Internal” or an “External”? And How High is your Self-Efficacy?

A week ago Tuesday in my Reply to a Comment by KIP, I said, “Inherent in your ‘making it work’ notion are… two important ingredients. First, by saying ‘work at making it work’ you are coming from an internal locus of control… ‘There is something I can do to make I work.’ This is in opposition to an external locus of control… ‘Whatever happens, happens; I just hope whatever happens is good.’ …and someday I may put together a Post on these issues.” Well, today is that “someday.”

The well-known social psychologist, Julian Rotter, championed the phenomenon of “Locus of Control.” To wit, people with an internal locus of control believe that their own actions determine the rewards that they obtain, while those with an external locus of control believe that their own behavior doesn't matter much and that rewards in life are generally outside of their control.

Another importantly related aspect of life is “Self-efficacy,” introduced by the famous social learning psychologist, Albert Bandura. Although someone may believe that how some future event turns out is under their control, they may or may not believe that they are capable of behaving in a way that will produce the desired result. For example, an athlete may believe that training eight hours a day would result in a marked improvement in ability (an internal locus of control orientation) but not believe that he or she is capable of training that hard (a low sense of self-efficacy).

Thus, if you are in a significant-other, adult loving relationship and you are committed to making it work (and improving it), it indeed will help if you: (1) have an “internal” locus of control (e.g., “I believe that if I do certain things I can make my relationship better”); and (2) have a high level of self-efficacy (“I have confidence in my ability to do things that would make my relationship better”).

Two questions regarding you as a loved-one in an adult loving relationship: (1) Are you an “internal” or an “external?” And, (2) how high is your level of self-efficacy?



Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between believing you can control an outcome by some action you take and actually controlling the outcome.

I'm sure that most athletes believe they are going to win because they have taken specific steps to lead them to victory.
But only one person wins.

A relationship is far more complicated than a single athlete striving to succeed.

In a relationship you could do everything possible to keep the relationship alive but if your partner isn't interested it won't matter much what you as an individual do..

I'm sure that the conclusions of the psychologists are the result of extensive study but in this light they appear to be too simplistic to me..

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello H&B,
I appreciate your visit and excellent examples of numerous truisms – such as:
* just because something appears simplistic, doesn’t mean it’s simple… adult loving relationships (and life I general) are very complicated;
* being an “internal with high efficacy” increases ones chances of success and happiness but doesn’t guarantee it… I vividly recall Mario Andretti’s quote, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” (good old “chance” is a big factor of life);
* “internals” with “high efficacy” can experience extreme frustration when confronted with a situation in which they have limited control;
* “exercising control” (from an internal perspective) needs to be balanced with an accurate awareness of probabilities… I couldn’t agree more, in relationships it is important (to whatever is within your control) to have a positive influence on the happiness and longevity of the relationship, but there indeed are numerous parts of the relationship over which you don’t have any control (viz, the other person); and,
* when I discuss the concept of “trust” in my pop-psych book “Living Life, Anyway,” I acknowledge that when entering a long term relationship one has to have trust in the other person (e.g., that he or she won’t hurt me or leave me), and one also has to have trust in oneself – if for reasons out of my control or influence he or she leaves me or it doesn’t work out, I’ll survive and “live life, anyway” (and work through the pain and sorrow and not live a life of distrust and bitterness).
And for the record, I have witnessed and experienced all of the above… not just as a psychologist but as a man with many emotional battle scars, some of which are still healing.
Thanks again, H&B… as you can see, I was moved by your Comments.
Peace be with you,

insideout said...

internal with high efficacy! But as my post today admits with weaknesses that are addictive in nature.

"In a relationship you could do everything possible to keep the relationship alive but if your partner isn't interested it won't matter much what you as an individual do"

I have to agree with happy n blue. If I give 80% all the time and my partner gives 20% will that relationship work? Probably not.

Simplistic? yes on a lot of this I have trouble wraping my mind around some of the terms used and the references, but I believe I am an internal and my wife an external, but it works for the most part because our personalities compensate eachothers weakness/short comings. I find myself in a very strange position these days, and my wife has shown a part of herself that I havent seen. I have really put this relationship through its paces lately...I/O

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi I/O,
Thanks for chiming in and further illuminating the intrigue and many mysteries of adult loving relationships. And as I said in my Reply to Happy and Blue (I don’t now if you read it or not), “being an ‘internal with high efficacy’ increases ones chances of success and happiness but doesn’t guarantee it… I vividly recall Mario Andretti’s quote, ‘Success is where preparation and opportunity meet’ (good old ‘chance’ is a big factor of life).”
We also might suggest to those not already in a relationship that they try to evaluate the extent to which a future partner will “work and invest in a relationship” before becoming committed to him or her. (My person experience was that, for the most part, my assessment of her was wrong – jeez I wish I were perfect...)
As Yogi Berra said, “Prediction is difficult, especially when it has to do with the future,” and when we get into a relationship the two things we can count on, among others, are that (1) change will be inevitable, and (2) we can not always accurately predict what he, she or we ourselves may do when something changes.
My conjecture, I/O, is that you tend to be an “internal” – but that doesn’t men that you’re one-hundred percent responsible for everything that goes wrong.
Hang in there (and try to be easy on yourself... self-blame can be very punishing),

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

What a great post. I remember studying these concepts at Uni. Makes me miss school :) I think I am growing in the direction of "internal with high efficacy" but I am still a work in progress ;)

As for relationships - way too complicated. Never simple :)

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Welcome Mostly Happy Thoughts… glad you stopped by,

Carl Rogers (remember him too?) talked about “the process of becoming” – becoming the best we can be. I congratulate you – you are in that process. (And remember, he also said that it’s the process of becoming [not getting there] that’s important. So if you’re a “work in progress” you’re right on schedule. Every night before I fall off, I ask myself, “Am a better person now than I was at this time last night?” (And things like… What did I learn new today? Do I feel better about myself? And if so, why?)

And regarding your last statement, regarding the complexities of relationships (and trying to figure them out)… sometimes I think it would be easier to bring peace in the Middle East.

Thanks again, MHT, and please know that you have an open return invitation,


Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

Here is a link to a post I made on my blog about some of my thoughts on relationships, if you are interested in reading it:

lol about your "bringing peace to the middle east" comment. So true!


Dr. Bill Emener said...

Thanks for the Link... on my way.

DH said...

Hmmm, I think I am very internal with a high level of self efficacy. I have always set out to do what I want and I become unstoppable. Not a good thing because sometimes things truly are not meant to be, and then it becomes destructive behavior. I am learning to know when to quit, as well as my limitations. Now I believe in doing the "footwork" and then "let the chips fall where they may". In other words, I do what I need to do (to make it happen). If it doesn't work out, I let it go. DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi DH,
Thanks for sharing your experience and learned wisdom. Yeah I hear ya... used to be that way myself. Then I realized that I wasn't the center of the universe and that there were things in life bigger than me, and when I took my cape off and quite playing superman, as you, I found life so much more enjoyable. It's called "serenity."
Thanks again, DH... peace be with you,