Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Education (MEd)




Arden Frandsen


Rotter's (1954, 1960, 1964) social learning theory suggests that a reinforcement acts to strengthen an expectancy. These expectancies may differ from situation to situation; however, it is postulated (Rotter, 1960) that they bear a direct relationship to the potential occurrence of a behavior. Furthermore,

" is presumed that the relationship between goal preference (reinforcement value) and behavior can be determined only by introducing the concept of the individual's expectancy, on the basis of past history, that the given behavior will actually lead to a satisfying outcome rather than to punishment, failure, or, more generally, to negative reinforcement." (Rotter, 1960, p. 305)

An outgrowth of this idea is the current research regarding internal versus external control of reinforcement. Basically, this centers on two general hypotheses. 1. That if a reinforcement is seen to be controlled by the individual, it will strengthen the expectancy and that if it fails to occur from this behavior, it will weaken the expectancy. 2. That if the reinforcement is seen to be under the control of external factors, i. e. luck, fate, or powerful others, the expectancy will neither increase as much by the reinforcement occurring, nor decrease as much by its nonoccurrence

Recent research suggests that internal versus external control (1-E) of reinforcement is a personality variant, as well as an important variant in learning and extinction. This, combined with recent refinement of 1-E measurement tools, would seem to bring this postulate into the realm of educational concern.

The purpose of this report is a review of the I-E literature in an attempt to determine what, if any, implications research of I-E has for education.

Rotter defines internal control and external control in the following manner.

"When a reinforcement is perceived by the subject as following some action of his own but not being contingent upon his action, then, in our culture, it is typically perceived as the result of luck, chance, fate, as under the control of powerful others, or as unpredictable because of the great complexity of the forces surrounding him. When the event is interpreted in this way by an individual, we have labeled this a belief in external control. If the person perceives that the event is contigent upon his own behavior or his own relatively perm anent characteristics, we have termed this a belief in internal control." (Rotter, 1966, p. 1)

Crowne and Liverant (1963), Battle and Rotter (1963), Gore and Rotter (1963), Phares (1965), Lefcourt and Ladwig (1965), and Strickland (1965) are all in agreement with this definition and this report will approach internal versus external (I-E) control as Rotter (1966) has defined it.

Often in discussions in the research, the phrase skill-chance is used in place of internal control and external control. Any usage of these words in this report will follow the Rotter (1966) definition of internal and external control (I-E).



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