Mousetrap, it’s a Locus of Control.
Handling an active mousetrap surfaces two very distinctive reaction from our participants – on one hand, there is the almost nonchalant attitude, and on the other hand, too fearful to even consider how embarrassing one’s reaction is.
The differences in these polarize reactions are more than a matter of being able to bear some pain or having confidence in handling the mousetrap. It has plenty to do with the belief in who has more control over each other. Human or Mousetrap?
Locus of Control was part of psychologists Julian B. Rotter’s theory on Social Learning. Developed in the 50s, its original intent was to study human personalities. Over the years, its application stretched into the domain of industry and organizational psychology.
Locus of Control refers to an individual’s perception on how much influence one has over events in his/her life. Spread on a continuum is a set of dichotomies – Internal and External Locus of Control.
Those who have high internal locus of control believes that they are the responsible of most, if not all, happenings and occurrences in their life. Outcome and future are dictated by their deeds and actions. On the opposite, people who are highly external believe forces outside of their control determine their fate. They are not in-charge of their destiny.
Because they believe success is within their control, those skewed towards internal control are more likely to put in extra effort and by and large, self-motivated and approach activities with more optimism. On the contrary, external believers see their endeavors independent of the outcome, and thus, would likely question the need for additional effort, if there were any at all to start with. They are generally more pessimistic.
Internal locus of control does carry more positives over external, but like everything else, there are potential perils that should not be overlooked. Firstly, not everything is within our powers. By trying to control too much, we could become overly aggressive towards others. Second, we might ignore aspects outside of our grasp that are highly significant. And lastly, we might falsely perceive success or failure as our own doing (some parallels between this point and Attribution Theory).
So back to the mousetrap. Participants react according to how they feel. The feeling of fear and anxiety when handling a mousetrap derives from the anticipation of the worse possible scenario – getting hurt by it. But the matter of fact is, the only way to be hurt by the mousetrap is when it is not properly dealt with. We are the one that handles the functioning mechanisms. So long as the instructions are correctly followed, no harm will occur. In other words, we are in control over the situation and we dictate the outcome – pain or not pain. To succeed in this activity of Mousetrap, it is then essential for one to have high internal locus of control, and believe that they are the difference maker. At the end of the day, the mousetrap is just a … mousetrap. Why should we allow it to control how we feel?
This activity is a great metaphor of the life we face everyday. We all live in the same world and are presented the same challenges. There are of course many aspects of life that are not within our powers to control – like weather phenomena, economic crisis and epidemics. But, we can always control how we react and respond to the situation and influence ourselves and maybe, those close to us.
Look at your hands now; this is where you find success.