Difference Between Attribution Theory and Locus of Control

Attribution Theory vs Locus of Control

In social psychology, attribution theory and locus of control are two important theories and are interrelated, thus making it necessary to know the difference between attribution theory and locus of control theory. These two theories explain how people interpret events. Attribution theory explains how people interpret events to understand the behaviour and how their thinking and behaviour are connected. Locus of control theory, on the other hand, explains the causes of attribution. This highlights that these two theories are linked together explaining different dimensions of individual interpretation of events. This article attempts to highlight the differences between attribution theory and locus of control theory while providing an understanding of the two theories.

What is Attribution Theory?

In day to day life, people try to understand the world around them. Attribution theory deals with this phenomenon of how individuals try to interpret events that occur in daily life and how they make connections with thinking and behaviour. Attribution can occur in two ways.

• Internal attribution

• External attribution

In internal attribution, people interpret the behaviour of a person emphasizing certain personality traits. We use this especially when we speak about others where there is a higher tendency to blame a person based on his or her internal factors.

For example, if a person spills coffee over his shirt one might say it is because he is clumsy. In this case, we are blaming a person for internal features.

However, in external attribution, people explain the behaviour focusing on the world around them. Most of us use this to our advantage. Let us take the same example, if we spill coffee there is a high probability for us to blame someone else for that particular event rather than blame ourselves.

According to Weiner, especially when speaking of achievements, four major factors affect our attributions. They are ability, effort, task difficulty and luck. Weiner believed that the causes of attribution as three dimensional. They are the locus of control, stability, and controllability. This highlights that locus of control fall under attribution theory.

What is Locus of Control?

Julian Rotter introduced locus of control theory. He believes that while some people restrict the control of their behaviour and actions to themselves, others give it to the surrounding environment. Once again, just as the attribution theory, this can be categorized into two.

• Internal locus of control

• External locus of control

When individuals take responsibility for their actions and have a strong belief that they are accountable for their actions, these individuals have an internal locus of control. However, there are individuals who believe that their actions are controlled by greater powers such as fate, destiny, and gods. These individuals have an external locus of control.

Difference Between Attribution Theory and Locus of Control

What is the difference between Attribution Theory and Locus of Control?

• Attribution theory deals with how individuals interpret events and how behaviour and thoughts are linked.

• This can happen in two ways as internal and external attribution.

• When speaking of achievements, the causes of attribution are three dimensional.

• They are the locus of control, stability and controllability.

• So locus of control is only one cause of attribution when it comes to achievements.

• It refers to the belief that individual behaviour is either controlled by internal factors or external factors.