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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1980, 111, 299-300.


University of New South Wales, Australia


Factor analyses (1) of Rotter's Locus of Control scale generally are made of the items administered in Likert form. Perhaps for this reason, they seem to have overlooked an important feature of the original forced-choice scale: its concentration on belief in luck. Nine out of 23 items mention belief in luck, whereas the remaining items scatter over a wide variety of themes. Perhaps because of this, the belief in luck items show a disproportionate contribution to what the scale as a whole measures. From the item-to-total correlations provided by Rotter (2), one may calculate that the average correlation of a belief in luck item is .300 against .214 for the other items. The forced-choice format favored by Rotter does nonetheless have its problems (3), and there are good reasons for favoring Likert format. In the following study, therefore, 10 items with the highest item-to-total correlation in Rotter's original analysis were selected. The half of each pair judged to be the most natural or plausible expression of attitude was then administered in Likert format. This represented an attempt to remain true to the balance of emphasis in Rotter's original scale without making the assumptions inherent in forced-choice format.

The items were administered together with other short scales designed to measure other well-known social science constructs. The sample was a quota sample of the people of Sydney (N = 87). All scales were subjected to item analysis with a view to eliminating weak items and thus maximizing reliability. The final reliabilities thus attained were as follows: Achievement motivation .73 (10 items); Alienation .72 (10 items); Authoritarianism .60 (8 items); Locus of control .57 (7 items); Neuroticism .71 (6 items); Social desirability .71 (8 items); Machiavellianism .54 (8 items); Dogmatism .53 (8 items). After the item analysis only one item not reflecting belief in luck remained in the Locus of Control scale.

Believers in luck were found to have the following traits: not achievement motivated (r = -.281); highly alienated (.554); not authoritarian (-.208); neurotic (.360); and Machiavellian (.404). The only nonsignificant correlations were with social desirability and dogmatism. The only significant correlation with a non-scale variable was with political party preference. Believers in luck tended to vote Australian Labor Party (-.232). They were, in other words, socialist sympathizers.

These results generally mirror what has been found with the original I-E scale. Like "external controllers," believers in luck are to the Left politically and characterized by various forms of psychological maladjustment (4). It should be noted that their authoritarianism was measured by items from the Ray "Directiveness" scale (5) -- a scale with no mental health implications. All other scales used were, however, entirely conventional. Full details of all scales and items used can be obtained gratis from the author. The fact that belief in chance virtually alone gives all the results normally attributed to the full I-E scale confirms the view that belief in chance or luck is the real core of the concept. In fact, Rotter's scale might well be seen as measuring "Belief in luck and its empirical correlates." This is certainly less impressive than "Belief in internal/external control," but it may be more frank.


(1) Collins, B. E. Four components of the Rotter internal-external scale. J. Personality & Social Psychology 1974, 29, 381-391.

(2) Rotter, J. B. Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs 1966, 80, No. 609.

(3) Ray, J.J. (1973) Task orientation and interaction orientation scales. Personnel Psychology 26, 61-73.

(4) Thomas, L. E. The I-E scale, ideological bias, and political participation. J. Personality 1970, 38, 273-286. Tolor, A., & LeBlanc, R. F. Personality correlates of alienation. J. Consulting & Clinical Psychology 1971, 37, 444.

(5) Ray, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

Sociology, The University of New South Wales P.O. Box 1, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia 2033

* Received in the Editorial Office, Provincetown, Massachusetts, on April 16, 1979. Copyright, 1980, by The Journal Press.


For convenience, the ten IE items used are listed below. The "internal" items are marked R and are scored 1, 2 or 3 for Yes, ? or No. The remaining items are scored 3, 2 or 1 for the same answers. The scale score is the sum of the item scores.

1. Do you think people's misfortunes result almost entirely from the mistakes they make themselves? R
2. Do you believe that in the long run people get the respect they deserve in this world? R
3. Do you think that becoming a success is a matter of hard work -- with luck having little or nothing to do with it? R
4. Do you think that without the right breaks one cannot become an effective leader?
5. Is it difficult for you to believe that chance or luck plays an important role in your life? R
6. Do you believe that how many friends you have depends simply on how nice a person you are? R
7. Do you think that most people don't realize the extent to which their lives are controlled by accidental happenings?
8. As far as world affairs are concerned, do you think most of us are victims of forces we can neither understand nor control?
9. Do you think that who gets to be boss often depends on who was lucky enough to be in the right place first?
10. Do you think that many times in life one might just as well decide what to do by flipping a coin?

Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here and here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.

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