Controlling ourselves, controlling our world. Psychology's role in understanding positive and negative consequences of seeking and gaining control

Am Psychol. 1996 Dec;51(12):1213-30. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.51.12.1213.


This article begins by examining psychology's contributions to understanding the positive consequences of control for individual mental and physical health. Person-environment control mismatches and the negative personal, interpersonal, and societal consequences of seeking and having control are then discussed. As corrections to mismatches and negative consequences, three methods of analyses are provided. First, definitional and conceptual precision is offered, including a more careful matching of control-related interventions to multidimensional, individual-specific control profiles. Second, therapeutic assessment and interventions are placed within a biopsychosocial model of control. Finally, philosophy of science and paradigmatic issues underlying control theories are highlighted, particularly as they affect psychology's role in examining values toward which control efforts should be directed. These topics are important for people's personal and collective well-being.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Assertiveness*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Psychophysiology
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Social Values