The New Johari Window #3: Locus of Control

The New Johari Window #3: Locus of Control

There is a second option with regard to the nature of external forces impacting on our ship. Someone else is coming on board our ship and steering it into the berth. This is the harbor captain (or the parent or mentor). We are dependent on someone else for direction, though we provide the energy. Thus there is a mixture of internal and external locus of control. A third option concerns the setting in which someone or something else is offering information to us. This person or object operates like a lighthouse. It doesn’t control us or even tell us what to do. It only provides information (that is hopefully accurate). We must decide what to do with this information. We might choose to ignore the information and crash on the rocks. That is our choice. It is up to us to discern and interpret the external information. This is an even more powerful and complex blending of internal and external locus of control. The external world is influencing us, but we are still in charge.

As in the case of an internal locus of control, there are multiple perspectives regarding external locus. One of these perspectives is offered by the behaviorists.  From a thoroughly behavioral perspective, one would conclude that our actions are primarily determined by the settings in which we find ourselves and the events in which we participate.  Reward systems (state) rather than enduring personality characteristics (trait) predict behavior. Variations among individuals in similar settings are minimal (error-variance). Show me what is being rewarded and I’ll show you what people are going to do. In his widely-read book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell moves this statement further by pointing out that many of us are vulnerable to the Fundamental Attribution Error that I mentioned above:

. . . a fancy way of saying that when it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context. We will always reach for a “dispositional” explanation for events, as opposed to a contextual explanation.


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About the Author

William Bergquist

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant, professor in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 45 books, and president of a graduate school of psychology. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations. His graduate school (The Professional School of Psychology: offers Master and Doctoral degrees in both clinical and organizational psychology to mature, accomplished adults.

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