Resistance to Social Influence - Locus of Control
- AS, A Level
- AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB
Last updated 22 Mar 2021
In some cases people can resist the pressure to conform or obey because of their personality. Rotter (1966) proposed the idea of locus of control, which is the extent to which people believe they have control over their own lives.
People with an internal locus of control believe that what happens in their life is largely the result of their own behaviour and that they have control over their life. Whereas people with an external locus of control believe that what happens to them is controlled by external factors and that they do not have complete control over their life.
Consequently, Rotter suggested that individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to resist the pressures to conform or obey, in comparison to individuals with an external locus of control.
Research supports the idea that individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to resist the pressure to obey. Oliner & Oliner (1998) interviewed non-Jewish survivors of WWII and compared those who had resisted orders and protected Jewish people from the Nazi’s, in comparison to those who had not. Oliner and Oliner found that the 406 ‘rescuers’, who had resisted orders, were more likely to have a high internal locus of control, in comparison to the 126 people who had simply followed orders. These results appear to support the idea that a high internal locus of control makes individuals less likely to follow orders, although there are many other factors that may have caused individuals to follow orders in WWII and it is difficult to conclude that locus of control is the only factor.
Furthermore, research also supports the idea that individuals with an internal locus of control are less likely to conform. Spector (1983) used Rotter’s locus of control scale to determine whether locus of control is associated with conformity. From 157 students, Spector found that individuals with a high internal locus of control were less likely to conform than those with a high external locus of control, but only in situations of normative social influence, where individuals conform to be accepted. There was no difference between the two groups for informational social influence. This suggests that normative social influence, the desire to fit in, is more power than informational social influence, the desire to be right, when considering locus of control.
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