Sometimes you may feel you can influence the way things go, that is, you feel in control. But other times you may feel that you have no control on how things go, that is, you feel out of control.

For example, you might be organising a party, but whenever you try to do something, your friends or your parents take over and make all the decisions.

The degree to which people feel in control over how things go in their lives is often studied as a feeling of "locus of control" Rotter, 1966), an important concept in psychological research.

You can find the original study of locus of control on the PsyToolkit website here.

The spheres of control scale is a more sophistic way of studing locus of control, because people may feel well in control in one domain but not in another. For example, someone may feel well in control of how things go at work, but not in regard on how society developes.

The spheres of control scale distinguishes three spheres:

Sphere 1: Personal control

For example, someone may feel they can manage an exam if they work hard for it.

Sphere 2: Interpersonal control

For example, someone may feel it is easy for them to make friends.

Sphere 3: Socio-political control

For example, people may feel they have no influence on corruption in a society.

Below are scores as tested on 177 Canadian undergraduate students. Each subscale ranges between 10 and 70.

Trait Mean Standard Deviation Scores below the normal range (feeling in less control than the average person) Scores above the normal range (feeling in more control than the average person).

Personal control



< 43.1

> 59.7

Interpersonal control



< 38.0

> 56.2

Socio-political control



< 27.8

> 44.4

Run the demo

It seems that the SOCS can be used for research, but you need to acknowledge the authors and their research paper when writing about it (see references at bottom of page).


This is a simple scale question with some reverse coded items. There are also version 1 and 2, but this is version 3, as published on Professor Paulhus’s page.

Note that for each subscale, there are 30 items. The score of each subscale is the sum of the 10 items on it, resulting in a minimum score of 10 and a maxumum score of 70.

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
scale: agree_socs
- strongly disagree
- disagree
- somewhat disagree
- neither agree nor disagree
- somewhat agree
- agree
- strongly agree

l: socs
t: scale agree_socs
o: width 50%
o: random
q: Indicate how much you agree with each statement
- I can usually achieve what I want if I work hard for it.
- {reverse} In my personal relationships, the other person usually has more control than I do.
- By taking an active part in political and social affairs,   we the people can influence world events.
- Once I make plans, I am almost certain to make them work.
- I have no trouble making and keeping friends.
- The average citizen can have an influence on government decisions.
- {reverse} I prefer games involving some luck over games requiring pure skill.
- {reverse} I'm not good at guiding the course of a conversation with several others.
- {reverse} It is difficult for us to have much control over the things politicians do in office.
- I can learn almost anything if I set my mind to it.
- I can usually develop a personal relationship with someone I find appealing.
- {reverse} Bad economic conditions are caused by world events that are beyond our control.
- My major accomplishments are entirely due to my hard work and ability.
- I can usually steer a conversation toward the topics I want to talk about.
- With enough effort we can wipe out political corruption.
- {reverse} I usually do not set goals because I have a hard time following through on them.
- {reverse} When I need assistance with something, I often find it difficult to get others to help.
- One of the major reasons we have wars is because people don't take enough interest in politics.
- {reverse} Bad luck has sometimes prevented me from achieving things.
- If there's someone I want to meet, I can usually arrange it.
- {reverse} There is nothing we, as consumers, can do to keep the cost of living from going higher.
- Almost anything is possible for me if I really want it.
- {reverse} I often find it hard to get my point of view across to others.
- {reverse} It is impossible to have any real influence over what big businesses do.
- {reverse} Most of what happens in my career is beyond my control.
- {reverse} In attempting to smooth over a disagreement, I sometimes make it worse.
- {reverse} I prefer to concentrate my energy on other things rather than on solving the world's problems.
- {reverse} I find it pointless to keep working on something that's too difficult for me.
- I find it easy to play an important part in most group situations.
- In the long run, we the voters are responsible for bad government on a national as well as a local level.

l: personal_control
t: set
- sum $socs.1 $socs.4 $socs.10 $socs.13 $socs.22 $socs.7 $socs.16 $socs.19 $socs.25 $socs.28

l: interpersonal_control
t: set
- sum $socs.5 $socs.11 $socs.14 $socs.20 $socs.29 $socs.2 $socs.8 $socs.17 $socs.23 $socs.26

l: sociopolitical_control
t: set
- sum $socs.3 $socs.6 $socs.15 $socs.18 $socs.30 $socs.9 $socs.12 $socs.21 $socs.24 $socs.27

l: feedback
t: info
q: Your scores on the spheres of control scale (range from 1 to 7 on each subscale):<br>
Score on the <b>personal control</b> subscale: {$personal_control}
Score on the <b>interpersonal control</b> subscale: {$interpersonal_control}
Score on the <b>sociopolitical control</b> subscale: {$sociopolitical_control}
Write down your scores to compare them later via the PsyToolkit website about the scale.


  • Paulhus, D.L., & Van Selst, M. (1990). The Spheres of Control scale: Ten years of research. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 1029-1036.

  • Spittal, M.J., Siegert, R.J., McClure, J.L., & Walkey, F.H. (2002). The Spheres of Control scale: the identification of a clear, replicable three-factor structure. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 121-131.

  • J.B. Rotter. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, (1, Whole No. 609).

  • Webpage with the original scale document. Click here.