The Importance of the Locus of Control
Locus of control stems from a social learning theory approach to personality where general beliefs are thought to develop from expectations based on prior reinforcements and hence is an expectancy-value approach to motivation. Expectancy-value means that it is looking at a combination of both elements: the expectancy of a particular outcome and the value of the outcome. For example, imagine a group of overweight people. Some may have a high expectancy that if they were to walk for half an hour a day, they would lose weight. Others would not. Some would value losing weight highly, others would not. Those who are high in both have the greatest chance of success.
Locus of control of reinforcements refers to the extent to which people perceive that reinforcements are within their own control, are controlled by others or are due to chance. Rotter says “it seems likely that, depending on the individual’s history of reinforcement, individuals would differ to the degree to which they attributed reinforcements to their own actions’ (Rotter, 1966). There are psychometric tests which can determine an individual’s tendency towards an internal or external locus of control. For our purpose, it is important to recognise that the client’s specific locus of control with respect to the issue that they are presenting can be a significant factor in our process of helping a client maximise their motivation, and perhaps their overall tendency is irrelevant: the hypnotherapist needs to know where the client is right now, with respect to the issue they are in the office to work on. If their overall tendency is more beneficial than the specific, however, then mapping techniques could be used to increase the benefit of the specific.
It is generally perceived that having an internal locus of control is “good” and external is “bad”. However, this is not always the case. For example, a client may, as a child have felt responsible for her parentsâ arguments. This is an internal LOC, and part of the motivational hypnotist’s role here may be, in this one instance, to shift this so that she knows that this is not within her control, but to help her to see that she can have control of how she now responds.