An Educational Note on Locus of Control and Personality Type in the Formation of Students' Attitudes toward Economic Institutions

Article excerpt

There is substantial and growing evidence that economic and political institutions pky a central role in determining the rate of economic growth and development. The determinants of economic and political institutions across cultures and governments is less well understood, but are in part the consequence of beliefs and attitudes toward alternative forms of economic organuation. Boulding (1969) suggests that the link between economic and political attitudes and the social process is an important topic for economic education research. Pro-market attitudes have been shown to impact success in the principles economics course (Breeden and Lephardt, 2002). Research on locus of control and personality types as influences in the formation of students' attitudes toward economic institutions is consistent with that research direction.

Specifically addressed in this study is the role of personality type and locus of control in the formation of attitudes toward economic and political institutions. The measure of economic and political attitudes is obtained from responses to two personality tests, the Locus of Control and Myers-Briggs. The attitudes toward economic and political institutions were obtained from responses to questions on economic conservatism. The elicited economic beliefs are then correlated with self-reported locus of control responses and self-reported personality types. The 214 survey respondents consisted of first and second year college students enrolled in a university-required macroeconomics principles class at a regional state university. The unique data set allows the empirical estimation of the relationships of interest. The empirical results provide preliminary support for the conclusion that these measures partially determine students' beliefs and attitudes about economic institutions. However, the overall explanatory power of the attitudinal measures is rather weak. This suggests an opportunity for research to develop measures of attitudes involving a locus of economic control as well as an individual's economic predisposition.

Locus of control and personality type

The locus of control concept (Rotter, 1966,1990) was devised to assess the extent to which an individual believes they can control events. The Internal-External Locus of Control Scale (I-E) requires choices between statements conveying internal locus of control and those conveying external locus of control. Internal locus of control indicates an individual believes they have a command of their environment. They see a reasonable chance of success and are not troubled by change, even if change is seen as being from external causes. They believe they can influence the impact of change and feel confident with their coping skills. Individuals with a strong external locus of control are more inclined to believe that success is from luck, accident or coincidence.

According to Jungian psychological theory, information is received and processed differently by different personality types (Jung, 1971). In the area of economic decision-making personality type is significantly related to the framing on choices involving risk (Parker and Spears, 2002). Piettykowski (1995) finds that personality types are correlated with the social dimension of market exchange. An individual's personality type has predictive power for situational behavior and predisposition to actions. When personality traits are linked to practices through which the individual defines wants and formulates decisions, they impact political and economic institutions.

Personality types are also related to economic education. Borg and Shapiro (1966) and Ziegert (2000) show that personality type influences students' success in understanding economic decision-making. Their analysis of learning and teaching styles investigates the relationship between personality types and propensity for studying economics.

One of the more common approaches used to measure personality is the Myers-Briggs-Type Indicators: Extravert or Introvert, Sensor or Intuitive, Thinker or Feeler, and Judger and Perceiver. …