Locus of Control: How Region & Gender Influence Your Sense of Control

The degree to which a person believes in destiny is largely formed by their culture.

It can also be influenced by location, gender, ethnicity, and many other factors that impact a person’s primary socialization and conditioning.

Last week, we discussed the role culture plays in the locus of control.

This week, we’ll continue that discussion, fleshing out the roles location and gender have in a person’s sense of control over his/her own life.

Location, Location, Location

In John H. Sims and Duane D. Baumann’s study, “The Tornado Threat: Coping Styles of the North and South,” a survey was taken across two U.S. states: the state of Illinois and the state of Alabama.

The objective of the survey was to identify why these two states reacted differently in preparing for natural disasters, specifically tornadoes.

Alabama often has an alarmingly higher number of fatalities (23 in 2019, for example) than Illinois (0 in 2019).

One factor that may be contributing to that difference in coping with tornadoes is the locus of control.

After surveying four counties, a majority of Alabama residents demonstrated an external locus, while a majority of Illinois residents demonstrated an internal locus.

Considering the locus of control dictates to what degree a person/group feels they have control over their own fate, the line of logic suggests that preparation for natural disasters would differ across these two states according to the group’s collective locus.

More precautions would be taken by Illinois residents whose internal locus of control would make them proactive in reacting to tornado warnings, as they believe they have control over the outcome, while residents of Alabama, with their external locus of control, are more prone to leaving fate up to the whims of nature.

The conclusion, then, is that a region’s collective locus of control can influence the number of fatalities caused by natural disasters – and likely influence many other things related to our sense of control or lack thereof.

Gender

Gender also comes into play in regards to one’s locus of control.

One example of this can be found in M. A. Hamedoglu’s “The Effect of Locus of Control and Culture on Leader Preferences.”

In testing undergraduate students from Western and Eastern cultures, this study found that men are more often of an external locus of control, giving preference to autocratic leadership styles, while women are geared more toward an internal locus of control, preferring democratic leadership styles.

This collective locus regarding gender can impact everything from leadership preference to conflict resolution to one’s sense of accountability.

Next week, we’ll talk about how individuals across cultures try to control their fate, whether their locus of control is external or internal.

Contact vs. No Contact Cultures: A Guide to Touching

If you’re a man, how would you greet another man? Probably just a shake of the hand, right?

How would you greet a woman? If you’re from the West, probably the same.

You’d offer your hand without a second thought. But, considering the different body contact norms across cultures, you shouldn’t assume sameness when it comes to greetings.

Sometimes, cross-cultural matters of gender are quite sensitive and, depending on the culture, even same-gender greetings may require some specific behaviors.

If you don’t want to do something taboo in your new culture, as a monkey, watch and learn. Or, better yet, prepare yourself beforehand by reading up on gender norms in this “guide to touching.”

Touching Across Genders

In certain cultures, particularly in traditional ones, touching when greeting is only acceptable when of the same gender.

Generally, same-gender contact (male-to-male and female-to female) is acceptable in many cultures. But what about male-to-female contact?

Physical contact between men and women in African countries and in Muslim majority countries is often seen as taboo.

Moreover, in traditional societies, PDA is unacceptable, and you’ll rarely see a man and a woman holding hands in public or greeting each other with physical contact.

In some regions, the latter is acceptable if the man and woman are family.

Left Hand/Right Hand

You should also consider which hand you greet someone with.

If you are left handed, and normally reach out to shake with your dominant hand, hold up a minute.

When in Africa or Muslim majority countries, many will consider this left-handed shake disrespectful, because the left hand is considered the “dirty” hand.

Because clean water for hand-washing isn’t always readily available in some regions, tasks in these cultures are separated between the left and right, with the left hand being responsible for dirty tasks…even cleaning oneself after using the toilet.

Not only that, but in Islam, a preference is always given to the right hand.

DohaNews states why:

“This follows in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, who favored his right hand for such actions [eating meals and greeting people].”

When Muslims perform wadu – purifying themselves ritually before prayer – they follow a sequence while washing, always prioritizing the right side.

Imam Talib Shareef told PBS:

“That cleanliness is a process. It starts with your intentions. In basic terms it’s, ‘I intend to make the ablution in preparation to stand in obedience before my Lord.’”

Being as the right hand is given such preference, touching or greeting someone with the left hand would be considered very rude, regardless of whether or not the right hand is busy at the time.

Knowledge of these differences in cross-gender contact and right hand/left hand norms can make the difference between success across cultures or a terrible first impression.