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Perceived Control - Correlates Of Perceived Control

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Researchers examining diverse outcomes, and using various definitions of control, repeatedly find a relationship between perceived control and numerous positive outcomes. For example, individuals who possess a strong sense of control are wealthier and more educated, have better memories and higher intellectual functioning, are more physically active, enjoy better health, and live longer than those with a weak sense of control. Control is also associated with positive psychological outcomes, including greater life satisfaction, a more positive self-concept, greater well-being, and feeling young for one's age. Cross-sectional research cannot exclude the possibility that the above correlates produce a sense of perceived control; for example, greater wealth may lead to stronger control beliefs. Studies that do offer evidence for control as a causal agent indicate that a strong sense of perceived control is beneficial to an individual; however, little is known about possible negative effects of control.

Negative outcomes associated with control occur when there is a lack of fit between the person and the environment. For example, people who want low control may be dissatisfied with a situation that encourages them to take control. Further, encouraging perceptions of control may have harmful effects (e.g., frustration or helplessness) if a person lacks ability or if the situation does not allow control (as in some institutional settings).

It may be that global control beliefs are generally adaptive, whereas domain-specific control beliefs may or may not be adaptive, depending on the controllability of the domain. For example, interpersonal relationships at a minimum involve two people (and, when considering an entire social network, consist of an intricate web of social ties); thus the controllability over these relationships will vary, with control shared across the network. In this case, it would be reasonable to expect that a person with a moderate sense of perceived control could build and utilize a successful network, whereas someone holding strong beliefs about his or her control over other people in the network—for example, a partner or family member—may be exposed to social conflict or disappointment. While it may be harmful to exert efforts to control an event that is truly uncontrollable, a strong sense of control will be adaptive if it is assumed that most of the situations people face throughout their lives, as well as their responses to them (i.e., how one copes), are to some extent controllable or of unknown controllability (e.g., illness and disease).

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