Locus of Control and Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when a person believes that the situations and experiences they continually run into, reaffirm their perspective on their place in the world, and their preconceived beliefs or practices.

locus of controlCase in point: When a person looks at the amount in their paycheck every week and mutters “ Well, I guess we’ll always be middle class.”

Or, when a person tells another before a difficult decision, or conflict, “Well, you had to know that Bob was going to react that way.”

Confirmation bias occurs because we want reassurance that the stories we tell ourselves are the only way reality could possibly be organized. This is why we emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes even physically, resist when we are confronted by a different outcome someone else has experienced in the same situation. The fact of the matter is, we are in charge of our own stories—and the stories that we tell ourselves—but we often don’t believe it.

This dovetails with the locus of control.

Locus of Control: Background and History

Based on studies and research from the 1950s, locus of control says that some people believe they are in control of their lives, and other people believe outside forces determine the direction of their lives and their decision making processes.

locus of control

People with a high internal locus of control believe the world is something they control.

People with a high external locus of control believes the world controls them.

Confirmation bias reinforces the stories of both personality types: If I believe that I’m in charge of my destiny, then I will continually tell myself the ” I’m In Charge Story.” But if I believe that destiny is in charge of me, then I will continually tell myself the “I’m Not In Charge Story.”

Most often, when things are going well, confirmation bias and locus of control concerns become secondary to a good time. But in a difficulty, confrontation or a conflict around things that matter, confirmation bias and locus of control (both internal and external) can serve as drivers that both initiate and continue the conflict spiral.

Locus of Control: 4 Questions

Perceptions, stories, and triggers are the fuel in the car of conflict situations, and the only person who can alter the fuel successfully is you.

locus of control

Here are four challenge questions for determining your conflict story:

  • What did I learn about difficulty, confrontation, control, and conflict from my family?

Family is the world’s first organizational structure. And many of us learned the wrong lessons from those in charge. But the real issue is that we keep confirming the same lessons repeatedly with others.

  • What did I learn about control over my environment when I left the home?

Formal schooling in (at least in the United States) begins at around 4 or 5. This is when true confusion sets in, and when uncomfortable questions get asked about “reality”—and sometimes hushed up.

  • What messages have I had reinforced through my friends, associates, and even the media I chose to consume?

There is a reason that many individuals with high internal loci of control, refuse to watch the news, choose their friends carefully, and are elitist about companies to whom they decide to give their money, time, and talent.

  • What messages am I sending out to the world that is reinforcing difficulty, confrontation, control, and conflict stories that are no longer relevant to my experience?

If you have succeeded in overcoming a poor story, or have moved the needle on your locus of control, revisiting old stories that are no longer relevant is the surest way to experience the same things over again.

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