Who needs control? A cultural perspective on the process of compensatory control

W. Connor Gibbs, Heejung S. Kim, Aaron C. Kay, David K. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Compensatory control theory (CCT) provides a framework for understanding the mechanisms at play when one's personal control is challenged. The model suggests that believing the world is a structured and predictable place is fundamental, insofar as it provides the foundation upon which people can believe they are able to exert control over their environment and act agentically towards goals. Because of this, CCT suggests, when personal control is threatened people try to reaffirm the more foundational belief in structure/predictability in the world, so that they then have a strong foundation to reestablish feelings of personal control and pursue their goals. This review seeks to understand how the basic assumptions of these compensatory control processes unfold in different cultural contexts. Drawing on research and theorizing from cultural psychology, we propose that cultural models of self and agency, culturally prevalent modes of control, and culture-specific motivations all have implications for compensatory control processes. Culture determines, in part, whether or not personal control deprivation is experienced as a threat to perceiving an orderly world, how/whether individuals respond to low personal control, and the function that responses to restore a sense of order in the world serve. A theoretical model of compensatory control processes across cultures is proposed that has implications for how people cope with a wide range of personal and societal events that potentially threaten their personal control.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12722
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge that this research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant #BCS‐1823824 awarded to the second and fourth authors, and the first author was supported by National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Social and Personality Psychology Compass published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • collectivism
  • compensatory control
  • conjoint agency
  • disjoint agency
  • independent self-construal
  • individualism
  • interdependent self-construal


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