Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Peter F. Merenda


The initial purpose of this study was to explore the reported relationship between subjective, debilitating anxiety and an individual’s perception that he lacks significant control over life situations.

While much previous research suggests the existence of' a positive relationship between anxiety and the variable Rotter has termed external locus of control (LC), these studies have utilized many different measures.

A more refined purpose of the present study thus became the clarification of these constructs through a factor—analytic approach to the following questions: (1) Precisely how are 'anxiety’ and perceived ‘locus of control’ operationally defined by some of the more widely used instruments?; (2) Are the constructs of anxiety and LC unitary or multidimensional?; (3) If there are several components or dimensions in the two constructs, do they contribute differentially to a linear relationship?

In the first stage of this research, a 155-item inventory was constructed of 95 anxiety items and 60 LC items drawn from several sources. This instrument was administered to University of Rhode Island undergraduates yielding a sample of 213 subjects. Following principal components analysis (PCA) of the two sets of items respectively, component scores for each subject were generated and a canonical correlation performed.

In stage two of the research, 41 anxiety items and 31 LC items were selected on the basis of component loadings of .40 or higher and lack of significant loadings on any other component. A second PCA was run on each set, and Cronbach alpha coefficients of reliability obtained for each scale.

In order to obtain a measure of external reliability for these scales and also to test the stability of the component pattern, a second instrument was compiled consisting of these 70 items. This was administered to a new group of U.R.I. undergraduates, yielding a sample of 268 subjects, and readministered to this same group of students four to five weeks later. In all, 202 students participated in both administrations. A single PCA was done on all 70 items combined, with a varimax rotation. Finally, test-retest coefficients and Cronbach alphas were obtained for the three components that most clearly emerged.

By far the strongest and most reliable component that emerges is a "general anxiety" component which appears to agree well with Cattell's ‘O’ factor, and indeed contains items from his anxiety scale, as well as the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (TMAS) and the Eysenck neuroticism scale (EPI).

While there is evidence for the multidimensionality of Rotter's supposedly unitary I-E scale, the clearest component that emerges is externality, particularly a belief in control by chance or fate. Both the results of the canonical correlation and the single PCA of the 70-item inventory show clear and significant relationships between anxiety and externality on the one hand, and ego strength and internality on the other.



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