Friday, November 4, 2011

How much control do our characters believe they have?

This next subject is kind of an interesting one to me because it isn't about what is true but more on what a person/character believes. In a study conducted by Julian Rotter in 1966 he designed a scale that would evaluate how much a person believes he/she is in control of his/her fate. The scale was called the I-E Scale, I for internal and E for external. The closer the individual was to the I the more likely they felt like they had control over their fate. The closer an individual is to the E the more likely they felt they had little control of their fate.

"I" people tend to bet on sure things where as "E" people tend to be riskier. "I" more likely to influence the attitudes of others and less likely to be influenced, whereas the opposite was for "E" people.  There was some support that "I" individuals have more self control than "E" people. Further, it was found that "I" individuals achieved more and are able to conform less.

It is worth noting three things that Rotter reported as possible reasons people become an "I" or an "E" individual: Socioeconomic Status, How the individual was parented and culture.

Characters will believe a certain way and if they believe they have control then they will act differently than if they don't feel that they have control. Also I feel that that belief can change in either direction. This will of course lead to stress which we talked about in the last post but it will also influence and change they way they react to situations.

Tidbit: I am the fourth child of seven.


  1. Great post! I believe I'm more of an I person, except for influence. I am easily influenced...

  2. I also can see the I-E scale in my own life perception. Good one! ;D

  3. Control is very important to (and in relation to the interactions between) the two main characters of my current novel. Both would probably say "I", though for very different reasons.

  4. i am def on the E end usually...i think my parents we more Is....i wonder if there is any correlation between parents and child...if they tend to be same or opposite...

    got your email, hit you back in a bit...

  5. Interesting. I am an "I" person but my MC is an "E." I didn't realize it until you brought this study up. I will have to look at his reactions to situations a little more closely. I can see how parenting would create some of the difference. If your parent always told you, "You can be anything you want when you grow up," and didn't force religion on you, you would probably turn out to be an "I" rather than an "E."

  6. I believe I'm definitely the 'I' person. Very interesting study.

    I'm from a large family also. I'm the baby of nine!

  7. What a great thing to think about. I am often frustrated by books that deal a lot with prophecy because it maps out the story before it even begins, but having a prophecy can really affect how much control the MC thinks they have. I love the idea of it doesn't matter how much control they actually have, it only matters how much they think they have.


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