Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Role of Locus of Control and Self-Esteem on Prosocial Behavior


            The role of two personality attributes: locus of control and self-esteem on person’s prosocial responses was studied among 100 students of Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur studying in Master in Arts, 50 males and 50 females each. Samples were selected randomly and administered a battery of three tools to measure locus of control, self-esteem and prosocial behavior. Correlation coefficient revealed that prosocial behavior and locus of control didn’t show significant relationship. The values of correlation were found to be significantly positive on self-esteem and prosocial behavior. Students with high self-esteem responded more prosocially than students with low self-esteem. Self-esteem and external locus of control have negative relationship. Internal seemed to possess high self-esteem. Finally, gender differences were not found with respect to prosocial behavior, locus of control and self-esteem.


In observing our own or others behaviors, we can recognize consistent personality characteristics. At the same time we can also recognize the variability of behavior over time and across situations. The issue of whether to focus attention on the person or on the situation can be viewed as an aspect of a broader issue the reactive significance of internal and external determinants of behavior. Almost all psychologists of the recent world emphasize the importance of internal and external determinants of behavior, of organism and environment. Clear differences in emphasis and interpretation emerge different fields and theorists within psychology. Obviously there is individual and environment, person and situation, nature and nurture, yet the tendency has remained to emphasize one or another set of variables.

            The subject matter of this study has been variously labeled as helping, altruism, and prosocial behavior. Many investigators use these terms interchangeably. Prosocial behavior is the term often used to represent culturally prescribed moral actions such as sharing, helping someone in need, co-operating with others, and expressing sympathy. To a certain extent, the difference between internal interpretations of altruism is associated with differences between studies conducted by personality psychologists and studies conducted by social psychologists. In general, the personality psychologists tend to be more concerned with characteristics of the situation. Another difference between these two positions is that one position emphasizes motives and the other eliciting conditions. Internal views speak of motives for helping others and being altruistic whereas the more social psychological investigations emphasize the conditions that elicit helping behavior. Such different theoretical emphases have important research implications. Whereas the external, social psychological view leads to the study of a specific act by people in a specific situation, an internal view would lead to study of patterns of behavior that are characteristic of the individual or as in the case of the ethnologists, to patterns of behavior characteristic of members of the species.

            Is helpfulness a personality trait that some people simply help individuals who give assistance in a variety of setting? Or does it have more to do with the specific situation so that a person who helps in one situation is not necessarily more likely to help in another? Or does more helpful person think differently than non helpful person? What might be the basis for such individual differences in prosocial behavior? Attention here has focused on two areas of personality: locus of control and self-esteem.

            Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they are masters of their own fate. Locus of control divides people into internal and external (I-E) personality attributes. Internals are people who take responsibility for their own actions and believe that they have control over their own destiny where as externals believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces. They attribute success or failure to outside forces like luck, chance, God, difficulties, situations and powerful others (Rotter, 1966).

Self-esteem is the way one feels about oneself, including the degree which one posses self-respect and self-acceptance. Self-esteem is the sense of personal worth and competence that person associates with their self-concepts. Self-esteem is the self-evaluation made by an individual and one's attitude toward oneself along a positive negative-dimension (Baron & Byrne, 2004). It is an individual's degree of liking or disliking themselves and the extent to which a person believes oneself is a worthwhile and desiring individual.

Review of Literature

            Researchers have found significant associations between personality variables and prosocial behaviors across different contexts (Carlo et al., 1991). It is clear that the specific characteristics of situations play a major role in determining how people react to others in need. A number of these investigators are quite skeptical about the role of personality variables. Some have offered reasons why personality factors might not be as closely related to prosocial behavior as we might expect (Latane & Darley, 1970). Researchers have shown certain personality traits are likely to prompt altruistic responses. Individuals high in need for social approval respond best to rewards such as praise and similar signs of appreciation when they are rewarded in this way for prosocial acts, helpfulness increases on subsequent occasions (Deutsch & Lamberti, 1986). People high in interpersonal trust engage in more prosocial acts than do people who tend to distrust others (Cadenhead & Richman, 1996). Those scoring highest on machiavellianism are least likely to show prosocial tendencies (McHoskey, 1999).

Rushton J.P. (1981) concluded from his several studies that there is stable pattern of individual difference in prosocial behavior. There was consistency in prosocial behavior across different situation and behavior. Prosocial behavior was correlated with different aspects of behavior such as moral reasoning, nurturance, sensitive-attitude, social responsibility, empathy and prosocial norms.  People high in prosocial disposition are expected to behave prosocially over a diverse range of situations.

Locus of control on prosocial behavior

A study done by Midlarsky and Midlarsky (1973) has shown that an internal locus of control facilitates helping behavior. In their study they told male subjects that they were participating in an armed forces research project to develop tests for selecting pilots. Each subject worked with someone who was really an assistance of the experimenter. Each pair was told that if one finishes the task before the other, one can help his partner. In essence, Midlarsky & Midlarsky found that internally oriented subjects were more likely to help their partners than were external subjects.

Self-esteem on prosocial behavior

One study done by Rigby and Slee in 1993 measures three dimensions of interpersonal relations among Australian school children were hypothesized as reflecting tendencies (a) to bully others, (b) to be victimized by others, and (c) to relate to others in a prosocial and cooperative manner. School children from two secondary schools answered 20 questions assessing styles of interpersonal relations which revealed that low levels of self-esteem were found among children who reported being more victimized than others, and high self-esteem among children practicing more prosocial behavior (Rigby & Slee, 1993).


            Random sampling procedure was used. One hundred Students of art faculty studying in Masters Level in Tribhuwan University, Kirtipur were randomly selected as a participant for the study. A battery of three tests was administered to measure prosocial behavior, locus of control and self-esteem. Hindi Version of Self Report Altruism Scale was used to measure prosocial behavior, developed by Khanna R., Singh P., and Rushton J.P. in 1992. Rotter’s Locus of Control Scale was used to measure locus of control, which was developed by Julian Rotter in 1966. Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale was used to measure self-esteem which was formulated by Rosenberg in 1965 to measure adolescent's global idea of self-worth and self-acceptance.


Relationship between locus of control and prosocial behavior

The study revealed that there is no significant relationship between locus of control and prosocial behavior. The correlation coefficient r =0.031 indicates low in magnitude of either external or internal locus of control has nominal effect on person's prosocial actions.

Relationship between self-esteem and prosocial behavior

There is positive relationship between self-esteem and prosocial behavior. The correlation coefficient r = 0.162 shows that increase in self-esteem increases person's prosocial behavior. Relationship between locus of control and self-esteem

A negative relationship is found between locus of control and self-esteem. The correlation coefficient r = -0.179 reveals that increase in self-esteem score may decrease in locus of control score. High score in self-esteem indicates high level of self-esteem and low score in locus of control indicates high in internal locus of control.


The hypothesis which predicted people with internal locus of control would show more prosocial behavior than with external locus of control did not show any significant relationship. It provided the evidences that either external or internal locus of control has nominal effect on person's prosocial behavior. Whether people are helpful or not helpful depends upon different dispositional variables. Both situational factors and personality attributes can be found in person’s prosocial behavior. People with high self-esteem were found to be more prosocial than people with low self-esteem.  Many studies pointed out that people with high self-esteem are more helpful in the emergency situations (Rigby & Slee, 1993). People with high self-esteem hold positive evaluations of themselves. They are satisfied with their abilities. People who have high self-esteem feel more competent and less chance to affect from environmental factors than individuals with low self-esteem.

The hypothesis internal locus of control and high self-esteem will be positively correlated was supported by the findings. The association between locus of control and self-esteem indicated that people with internal locus of control have shown higher degree of self-esteem. Those who believe in themselves or own abilities rather than luck or fate hold more positive attitude toward oneself (Samuel, 1981; Phares, Ritchie & Davis, 1968). The hypothesis regarding gender differences in prosocial behavior, locus of control and self-esteem did not find any support in this study.

This study has concluded several findings. The University students were found average in prosocial behavior, middle side of the internal-external dimension and average in the self-esteem. This study supported that people's thinking pattern (internal or external) has not affected the persons helping behavior. People with high self-esteem seem to act more prosocially than people with low self-esteem. People with high self-esteem tend to posses internal locus of control. Evidences suggest that there are not gender differences in prosocial behavior, locus of control and self-esteem respectively.


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