Why do some people seem to be chronic “blamers” while other people accept the tough situations the world throws at them? Is it possible that those with a certain psychological profile exhibit a greater propensity towards blame? If so, a possible place to begin looking is within a concept called “locus of control.” Largely attributed to Julian Rotter’s work in the 1960’s, locus of control essentially means that some people view their experiences as a result of forces outside of themselves (an external locus of control) while other people believe that they control their own destiny (an internal locus of control). For example, one traveler (external locus of control) who just missed his airline flight might believe that the cause was due to the traffic jam on the way to the airport, the long lines at security, and the date being Friday the 13th. At the same time the other traveler (internal locus of control) who missed the same flight is saying to herself, “I knew I shouldn’t have hit the ‘snooze’ button on my alarm for the third time.”
Rotter proposed that we all lie somewhere along a continuum. Those at the “external” extreme believe that events occurring in their lives are largely beyond their influence, and that fate, or destiny, or the gods, or luck, determine what happens. Those at the “internal” extreme believe that events are primarily due to the actions they’ve taken to shape those outcomes. Most people do not lie at the extremes, but probably do have a tendency to lean one way or the other. (There are several fun and informative online surveys you can take - some free, some not - to determine your own locus of control.) Try the one at:
What might this have to do with blame? In general, those with an internal locus of control are less likely to blame others when things go wrong. They believe that their own actions have contributed to or shaped the current problem in some way and are quick to begin looking for how to change the situation instead of blaming. Those with an external locus of control are more likely to blame forces outside of themselves for the problem. They believe that some person or event is responsible for the problem and that they are merely the victims of circumstance.
Bert and Ernie were each recently issued speeding tickets while driving along a 4-lane boulevard in a commercial district. The speed zone was 25 miles-per-hour. They were both ticketed for going 40. Both were frustrated. However, Bert (an external) blamed the municipality for setting such a low speed limit on such a wide-open street; he blamed the officer for not considering the lack of other traffic at the time; he blamed the person whom he was driving to meet (if not for that appointment he wouldn’t have been there); and he blamed all the other speeding drivers who didn’t get ticketed. Ernie (an internal) said to himself, “Dang, I finally got caught.”
Next time you find yourself blaming someone else for your misfortune, think about whether you are feeling in charge of your destiny or feeling a victim of circumstance. Then, think about what you could have done to alter the situation.