Perception of Control: Is It Real? (2023)

When you perceive you have control, it can improve your overall well-being. And, when you lack perceived control, depression and learned helplessness can develop.

If you’re having trouble dealing with situations or events that are outside your realm of influence, you could change your perception of the event.

You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can adjust how you react.

Sometimes stress can be overwhelming and cause you to feel stuck. Changing your perception of a situation can help you cope better and sometimes even influence your behavior.

Stress can cause your sense of perceived control over what happens to you to wither. But when you can find meaning in your life despite what’s happening, that can help mitigate the effects of stress.

A sense of perceived control occurs when you think about your power over a situation.

Many people understand perceived control in terms of the psychological concept called the locus of control.

In 1966 psychologist Julian Rotter coined the term locus of control to demonstrate the differences between whether we believe an outcome is based on our actions or a result is dependent on concepts such as:

  • fate
  • luck
  • chance

Research indicates that by believing your behavior influences what happens to you or that occurrences in your life are based on your actions, you have an internal locus of control.

On the other hand, you have more of an external locus of control if you believe that the things that happen in your life are due to:

  • destiny
  • good fortune
  • being completely random

The locus of control can exist on a continuum.

Yes, we can control our perception. That doesn’t mean you have to minimize bad things that have happened to you.

An older research review on the control of perception suggests that perceived control is necessary for our biological survival. The research authors indicate that we control our perception through our choices.

Researchers proposed that you have various daily choices that others may not be privy to, and how you make choices determines your perceived control.

The researchers also point out that if you didn’t believe you could make choices that had a successful outcome, there would be no motivation to overcome challenges.

How much you believe you control a situation can impact your overall well-being.

For example, one study of 403 social work students and 324 social workers from Germany found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the students and professionals switched from an internal locus of control to an external locus of control.

Low control = low morale

The research indicated that the high burden of stress over the pandemic weakened internal feelings of control and made many feel powerless.

The authors suggest that this external locus of control had detrimental impacts on both the students’ and professionals’ well-being and that both groups in the study could benefit from implementing coping strategies.

Additional research that examined the impacts of perception of control and mood with 615 participants in Saudi Arabia found that those with a higher perception of control experience fewer mood symptoms associated with depression and bipolar disorder.

The researchers also found that higher levels of cultural values mitigated the negative impact on mood caused by the lower perception of control. This suggests that having higher levels of cultural values can help impact the stress of loss of perceived control.

Sky-high perception of control = illusion of control

In addition to feeling a lack of control, it’s possible to perceive your control as far more significant than it is. This is called illusory control, or the illusion of control.

Illusory control occurs when you overestimate your abilities to predict the outcome of a situation that you have no command over. This happens in the OCD behavior of magical thinking as well.

One example of the illusion of control may be an individual who only believes their football team wins when they wear a specific jersey. You aren’t controlling the situation, but you may believe “your team needs you.”

While the football jersey example is a pretty harmless example of this bias, research from 2021 indicates that people with gambling addictions are more like to have beliefs that fall under the illusion of control. In contrast, this confirmation bias can make you feel hopeful about your choices and what you can handle.

How you experience stress in your life may be related to the amount of control you believe you have. It’s impossible to get through life without experiencing stress, but how you cope with it or perceive it may influence how you deal with stress.

A 2016 study of 282 Korean undergraduate students examined the relationship between life satisfaction and perceived stress.

The research findings indicate that self-efficacy, or the individual’s belief that they can execute a certain task or implement the behaviors to complete a task, partially mediated the effects of stress on life satisfaction.

The authors suggest that the effects of stress aren’t as significant when you feel like you can handle the situation and can steer through the problem.

When you believe you can’t handle a problem, the level of perceived stress is higher and can potentially lead to lower life satisfaction.

According to 2016 research, the perception of control can influence your behavior through a concept called learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness occurs when you believe you have no power to change anything around you and feel your actions can’t change the outcome of what’s happening.

Learned helplessness commonly occurs in individuals with depression or individuals who have experienced complex emotional or physical trauma in childhood or adolescence. Learned helplessness may contribute to a feeling of lack of control over one’s own autonomy or self-efficacy.

If you believe you have no authority over your life, you may be less inclined to make choices that help you move forward.

Alternatively, if you think that you have some governance over what’s happening to you or that you can make your own decisions, that may help you adapt to the challenges between you and your goal.

When you face stress, your perception of how you can handle the situation matters. While everyone experiences stress from time to time, you can adapt by changing your perception.

A sense of perceived control over your life can help you handle stress and improve your overall well-being. Changing your perception of a situation is possible because only you can choose to accept or challenge your thoughts.

If you’re facing a stressful situation, you may consider first exploring alternative thoughts about the situation. If that doesn’t help change your outlook, you may consider learning some new skills to cope with stress.

Additionally, if you’re experiencing depression or learned helplessness, you may consider seeking the support of a mental health professional. You can start the process by checking out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health support.


What is an example of perception of control? ›

Perceptual Control Theory is a theory of human behavior that says we act to keep our perception of the world within acceptable boundaries. For example, we wear a coat not because of the weather, but because we'll feel cold and we don't want to feel cold.

What is meant by perception of control? ›

Perceived control (PC) is defined as the beliefthat one can determine one's own internal states and behavior, influence one's environment, and/or bring about desired outcomes.

Why is perception of control important? ›

Perceived control is associated with emotional well-being, reduced physiological impact of stressors, enhanced ability to cope with stress, improved performance, less pain, and a greater likelihood of making difficult behavior changes (Thompson & Spacapan, 1991).

Is perceived control more important than actual control? ›

It is consistent with observations that the belief or perception of control is more powerful in predicting decision making and behavioral consequences than having objective control (i.e., the actual existence of action-outcome contingencies; Averill, 1973; Abramson et al., 1978; Skinner et al., 1996; Eitam et al., 2013 ...

What is a real example of perception? ›

For example, upon walking into a kitchen and smelling the scent of baking cinnamon rolls, the sensation is the scent receptors detecting the odor of cinnamon, but the perception may be “Mmm, this smells like the bread Grandma used to bake when the family gathered for holidays.”

What is a real life example of perception? ›

One person may perceive a dog jumping on them as a threat, while another person may perceive this action as the pup just being excited to see them. Our perceptions of people and things are shaped by our prior experiences, our interests, and how carefully we process information.

How can I improve my perception of control? ›

The awareness that one's perspective can actively change (which in turn can alter one's mood) is one way to increase perceived control over one's well-being. For example, exploring the connections between one's belief of being a failure and a depressed mood can lead to one to feel more control over mood fluctuations.

What are the three types of perceived control? ›

Three prominent types of control are perceived control (PC), perceived difficulty (PD), and perceived confidence or self-efficacy (SE) for performing the desired behaviour.

How does our perception of control over our life influence our health? ›

According to 2016 research , the perception of control can influence your behavior through a concept called learned helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when you believe you have no power to change anything around you and feel your actions can't change the outcome of what's happening.

What are the two factors used to determine the perception of control? ›

Ajzen (2002) argued that perceived behavioral control is comprised of two highly related (and correlated) variables: perceived self-efficacy (one's belief about their own ability; Bandura, 1991) and perceived controllability (the belief that one's behavior is volitional; Ajzen, 2002).

What is another name for perceived control? ›

Locus of control has since been expanded, and is now called by many different names, including primary/secondary control, sense of control, control beliefs, decisional control, control motivation, self-efficacy, self-directedness, self-determination, choice, decision, mastery, autonomy, helplessness, and explanatory ...

Why do people like to control how others perceive them? ›

People are more motivated to control how others perceived them when they believe that their public images are relevant to the attainment of desired goals, the goals for which their impressions are relevant are valuable, and a discrepancy exists between how they want to be perceived and how other people perceive them.

What happens when an individual perceives a lack of control? ›

Even with the absence of objective control, having the perception of control is sufficient to increase arousal and mobilize action; whereas perceiving the lack or loss of control leads to helplessness despite the presence of objective control (Averill, 1973; Abramson et al., 1978; Skinner et al., 1996).

Why is control important in psychology? ›

Perceived control in psychology is a "person's belief that [they are] capable of obtaining desired outcomes, avoiding undesired outcomes, and achieving goals." High perceived control is often associated with better health, relationships, and adjustment.

Is perceived control the same as self-efficacy? ›

Self-efficacy represents “beliefs in one's capabilities to orga- nize and execute the courses of action required to produce a given attainment” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). Perceived behavioral control represents “people's perception of the ease or difficulty of per- forming the behavior of interest” (Ajzen, 1991, p.

Is perception of reality true or false? ›

Reality is fact. Reality is truth. Reality, however, is not always a known, which is where perception of reality comes in. While reality is a fixed factor in the equation of life, perception of reality is a variable.

Is perception is reality true? ›

Perception does not equal reality. If you dive into the definitions of the two words “perception” and “reality,” you will see that reality excludes perception. Perception: A way of understanding or interpreting things.

What is an example of perception is not reality? ›

For example, humans only see a circumscribed spectrum of colors or hear a defined range of sounds. But, just because we can't perceive a dog whistle doesn't mean it doesn't exist in reality.

What is an easy example of perception? ›

For example, upon walking into a kitchen and smelling the scent of baking cinnamon rolls, the sensation is the scent receptors detecting the odor of cinnamon, but the perception may be “Mmm, this smells like the bread Grandma used to bake when the family gathered for holidays.”

What are the 4 types of perception? ›

The vast topic of perception can be subdivided into visual perception, auditory perception, olfactory perception, haptic (touch) perception, and gustatory (taste) percep- tion.

How is perception different from reality in life? ›

Perception is the way how a person understands something and different people may have different perceptions for the same thing. Realty, on the other hand, is the truth and the actual existence of something. Perception may be controlled by external factors, but reality cannot be controlled by anyone or anything.

What controls human perception? ›

Cerebrum. The largest part of the brain, the cerebrum has two hemispheres (or halves). The cerebrum controls movement, speech, intelligence, emotion, and what we see and hear.

What is the measure of perceived control? ›

The Sense of Agency Scale: A Measure of Consciously Perceived Control over One's Mind, Body, and the Immediate Environment.

What is the four factor model of perceived control? ›

A four-factor model of perceived control: Avoiding, coping, obtaining, and savoring.

What are 4 types of control? ›

The four types of control systems are belief systems, boundary systems, diagnostic systems, and interactive system.

What are the 3 ways of developing self-control? ›

Here are five ways to help improve self-control and build good habits:
  • Remove temptation.
  • Measure Your Progress.
  • Learn How To Manage Stress.
  • Prioritize Things.
  • Forgive Yourself.
Jun 28, 2018

Is the perception that people have control over their own lives? ›

Julian Rotter 78 coined the term “locus of control” to refer to an individual's belief that life events are within personal control (internal locus of control), as opposed to a belief that events are uncontrollable (external locus of control).

Why do humans need to feel in control? ›

Everyone needs to have some sense of control over their lives. This is a natural human desire. Control gives a feeling of order, stability, and safety.

How does perception influence you? ›

Perception refers to how we interpret stimuli such as people, things, or events. Our perception is important to recognize because it is the driving force behind our reaction to things. Heredity, needs, peer group, interests, and expectations all influence our perception.

What are the most important factors influencing one's sense of control? ›

Like other constructs in personality psychology, locus of control falls on a spectrum. Genetic factors may influence one's locus of control, as well as an individual's childhood experiences—particularly the behaviors and attitudes modeled by their early caregivers.

What are the 3 factors that contribute to perceived behavioral control? ›

The TPB posits that behavior is guided by three considerations, perceived consequences of changing behavior (attitude), perceived expectations of others (subjective norm) and perceived facilitators or barriers to the ability to change (perceived behavioral control).

What are the three main factors affecting perception? ›

There are many factors that may influence the perceptions of the perceiver. The three major factors include motivational state, emotional state, and experience. All of these factors, especially motivation and emotion, greatly contribute to how the person perceives a situation.

How do you want people to perceive you? ›

4 Ways You Can Shape How Others Perceive You and Build an Outstanding Personal Brand
  1. Define how you want to be perceived in three adjectives and then embody them. ...
  2. Understand what success looks like and then match (or surpass) it. ...
  3. Strengthen relationships in your workplace. ...
  4. Don't be afraid to take risks.

What is the ability to control called? ›

Some common synonyms of control are authority, command, dominion, jurisdiction, power, and sway. While all these words mean "the right to govern or rule or determine," control stresses the power to direct and restrain.

How do you outsmart a controlling person? ›

Here are several ways to effectively deal with them.
  1. Identify the type of controlling behavior. There are many ways a person can be unscrupulous. ...
  2. Dont believe the lie. ...
  3. Recognize the triggers and patterns. ...
  4. Carefully choose a response. ...
  5. Try, try again until done.
Jan 29, 2016

Do controlling people know they are controlling? ›

Summary. Controlling people attempt to assert power and control over others through manipulative tactics such as blaming, being critical, and shutting others down. They may not be aware they are exhibiting this behavior, which often stems from their own anxiety.

What type of people are controlling? ›

They may not trust anyone else to handle things the way they will. Controlling behaviors can also be a symptom of several personality disorders, such as histrionic p ersonality, borderline personality, and narcissistic personality. These disorders can only be diagnosed by a licensed health care professional.

What is an example of perceived control over the behavior? ›

Perceived behavioural control refers to our own perceptions of our ability to do the behaviour (e.g., 'I'm liable to forget to turn down the thermostat before I leave the house').

What are some examples of control? ›

She hired an accountant to take control of her money. He lost all muscle control in his left arm. The soccer player showed good control of the ball. a teacher with good control of her students The farmer used an organic pest control on his crops.

What is an example of control in psychology? ›

activities." In other words, it is the capability of an individual to act on intentional reasoning, rather than out of emotion or impulse. For example, a student may study for an hour each morning for two months before a test, despite not enjoying studying, in order to improve their results.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ouida Strosin DO

Last Updated: 08/09/2023

Views: 6239

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ouida Strosin DO

Birthday: 1995-04-27

Address: Suite 927 930 Kilback Radial, Candidaville, TN 87795

Phone: +8561498978366

Job: Legacy Manufacturing Specialist

Hobby: Singing, Mountain biking, Water sports, Water sports, Taxidermy, Polo, Pet

Introduction: My name is Ouida Strosin DO, I am a precious, combative, spotless, modern, spotless, beautiful, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.