Desire for control and personality as predictors of three communication traits in a public speaking context
More details
Hide details
Cape Breton University, Sydney, Canada
Submission date: 2018-03-16
Final revision date: 2019-07-05
Acceptance date: 2019-07-06
Online publication date: 2019-10-21
Publication date: 2019-11-04
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2019;7(3):212–219
Communication in general, and public speaking in particular, are important means to exert influence over other people; control is an enduring motive for communication. People differ substantially in the amount of control they typically want; some seek control and others tend to avoid it. But is the desire for control (DC) redundant with more basic personality traits in predicting individual differences related to public speaking?

Participants and procedure:
This study, conducted with 196 undergraduate students using well-established measures, examines correla-tions among desire for control, the Big Five, and three communication traits specifically referencing public speaking: willingness to communicate, perceived competence, and public speaking anxiety. The measures were administered by questionnaire.

Correlations show that people with higher DC tend to be more willing to communicate and perceive themselves to be more competent and, to a weaker extent, less anxious. Hierarchical multiple regressions show that the role of DC is not redundant with Big Five personality traits in predicting willingness to communicate and self-perceived competence, but also that DC does not significantly add to predicting public speaking anxiety.

Speaking in a public context may be especially attractive to persons with a desire for control who tend to feel both willing and able to communicate. Public speaking anxiety appears less consistently related to individual differences in DC.

Allport, G. W., & Odbert, H. S. (1936). Trait-names: a psycho-lexical study. Psychological Mono-graphs, 47, 1–171.
Amoura, C., Berjot, S., Gillet, N., & Altinas, E. (2014). Desire for control, perception of control: Their impact on motivation and psychological adjustment. Motivation and Emotion, 38, 232–335.
Avtgis, T. Ä., & Rancer, A. S. (1997). Argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness as a function of locus of control. Communication Research Reports, 14, 441–450.
Bochner, A. P., Kaminski, E. P., & Fitzpatrick, M. A. (1977). The conceptual domain of interpersonal communication behavior: a factor-analytic study. Human Communication Research, 3, 291–302.
Burger, J. M. (1990). Desire for control and interpersonal interaction style. Journal of Research in Per-sonality, 24, 32–44.
Burger, J. M. (1992). Desire for control: Personality, social, and clinical perspectives. New York: Ple-num.
Burger, J. M. & Cooper, H. M. (1979). The desirability of control. Motivation and Emotion, 3, 381–393. Retrieved from
Burger, J. M., & Solano, C. H. (1994). Changes in desire for control over time: Gender differences in a ten-year longitudinal study. Sex Roles, 31, 465–472.
Burgoon, J. K., & Hale, J. L. (1984). The fundamental topoi of relational communication. Communica-tion Monographs, 51, 193–214.
Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1985). The NEO personality inventory manual. Odessa, FL: Psycholog-ical Assessment Resources.
Funder, D. C. (2010). The personality puzzle (5th ed.). London: W. W. Norton and Co.
Gebhardt, W. A., & Brosschot, J. F. (2002). Desirability of control: Psychometric properties and rela-tionships with locus of control, personality, coping, mental and somatic complaints in three Dutch samples. European Journal of Personality, 16, 423–438.
Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4, 26–42.
Hensley, W. E., & Batty, P. (1974). The measurement of communication anxiety among students in public speaking courses. Indiana Speech Journal, 7–10.
Howarth, E. (1986). Introversion and neuroticism: a persistent relationship. Psychological Reports, 58, 389–390.
Huang, L. N. (1999). Family communication patterns and personality characteristics. Communication Quarterly, 47, 230–243.
Iba, D. L. (2007). Hardiness and public speaking anxiety: Problems and practices. Doctoral disserta-tion. Denton: University of North Texas.
John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoreti-cal perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.
Kello, J. (2012). Can introverts take the lead? Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, 46, 28–30.
Kuofie, M., Stephens-Craig, D., & Dool, R. (2015). An overview perception of introverted leaders. In-ternational Journal of Global Business, 8, 93–103.
MacIntyre, P. D. (1994). Variables underlying willingness to communicate: a causal analysis. Commu-nication Research Reports, 11, 135–142.
MacIntyre, P. D., Babin, P. A., & Clément, R. (1999). Willingness to communicate: Antecedents and consequences. Communication Quarterly, 47, 215–229.
MacIntyre, P. D., & Donovan, L. A. (2004). Desire for control and communication-related personality variables. Psychological Reports, 94, 581–582.
McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60, 175–215.
McCroskey, J. C. (1970). Measures of communication-bound anxiety. Speech Monographs, 37, 269–277.
McCroskey, J. C. (1982). An introduction to rhetorical communication (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
McCroskey, J. C., Heisel, A., & Richmond, V. P. (2001). Eysenck’s big three and communication traits: Three correlational studies. Communication Monographs, 68, 360–366.
McCroskey, J. C., & McCroskey, L. L. (2013). Self-perceived communication competence scale (SPCC). Measurement Instrument Database for the Social Science. Retrieved from
McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1987). Willingness to communicate. In J. C. McCroskey & J. A. Daly (Eds.), Personality and interpersonal communication (pp. 119–131). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1991). Willingness to communicate: a cognitive view. In M. Booth-Butterfield (Ed.), Communication, Cognition, and Anxiety (pp. 19–37). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Millar, F. E., & Rogers, E. (1976). A relational approach to interpersonal communication. In G. R. Miller (Ed.), Explorations in interpersonal communication (pp. 87–104). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Missioura, O. (2014). Commitment, communication, and leadership determine the leader: a qualitative analysis businessperson characteristics practiced by SME and family business director. China-USA Business Review, 13, 115–130.
Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. (1985). Communication: Apprehension, avoidance, and effective-ness. Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick Publishers.
Rubin, R. B., Perse, E. M., & Barbato, C. A. (1988). Conceptualization and measurement of interper-sonal communication motives. Human Communication Research, 14, 602–628.
Sloan, J., & Slane, S. (1990). Personality correlates of anxiety about public speaking. Psychological Reports, 67, 515–522.
Smith, R. A., Wallston, B. S., Wallston, K. A., Forsberg, P. R., & King, J. E. (1984). Measuring desire for control of health care processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 415–426.
Smith, R. A., Woodward, N. J., Wallston, B. S., Wallston, K. A., Rye, P., & Zylstra, M. (1988). Health care implications of desire and expectancy for control in elderly adults. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 43, 1–7.
Verduyn, P., & Brans, K. (2012). The relationship between extraversion, neuroticism and aspects of trait affect. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 664–669.
Woodward, N. J., & Wallston, B. S. (1987). Age and health care benefits: Self efficacy as a mediator of low desire for control. Psychology and Aging, 2, 3–8.
Wrench, J. S., Brogan, S. M., McCroskey, J. C., & Jowi, D. (2008). Social communication apprehen-sion: The intersection of communication apprehension and social phobia. Human Communication, 11, 401–422.
Yu, H., Li, H., & Gou, X. (2011). The personality-based variables and their correlations underlying will-ingness to communicate. Asian Social Science, 7, 253–257.
Zaccardi, M., Howard, C., & Schnusenberg, O. (2012). Student preparation and personality traits in the job market. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 16, 35–53.