Psychologist Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory lays emphasis on the observational learning, social experience, and reciprocal determinism in the development of personality. The concept of Self-efficacy lies at the heart of this theory. According to Bandura, a person’s attitudes, abilities, and cognitive skills comprise his/her self-system. This system plays a major role in how we perceive situations and how we behave in response to different situations. Self-efficacy is an essential part of this self-system.
According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” (1995, p. 2). Thus, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. These beliefs are the main determinants of how people think, behave, and feel (1994).
Ever since Bandura published his seminal 1977 paper, “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change,” the topic of self-efficacy has been a favourite among the educators and psychologists as it has ben found to have an impact on everything from psychological states to behavior to motivation.
Role of Self-Efficacy
While all people are able to identify goals they want to accomplish, things they would like to change, and the things they would like to achieve yet most of them find putting plans into action a difficult tasks. It is self-efficacy of a person that determines how those tasks, goals and challenges are approached.
Characteristics of People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:
• View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered.
• Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate.
• Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities.
• Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments.
Characteristics of People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
• Avoid challenging tasks.
• Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities.
• Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes.
• Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities
Sources of Self-Efficacy
The self-efficacy beliefs begin to form in early childhood as children deal with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth, but continues to evolve throughout life as people acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding (Bandura, 1992). The four major sources of self-efficacy are as follows:
1. Mastery Experiences: According to Bandura (1994), “The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences”. When we perform a task successfully, it strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. On the other hand, failing to deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.
2. Social Modeling: When we observe another person completing a task successfully, it leads to self-efficacy belief in us. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities master comparable activities to succeed” (1994).
3. Social Persuasion: Bandura asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. For example, when someone applauds our efforts and encourage, it helps is strive towards attaining our goal. If we receive verbal encouragement from others, it helps us in overcoming feeling of self-doubt and focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.
4. Psychological Responses: Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. The emotional states, moods, stress levels and physical reactions have an impact on how an individual feels about his/her personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes anxious and nervous in the face of speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy. However, Bandura also notes “it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted” (1994). Thus, by learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood in the face of difficult or challenging tasks, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
Bandura, A. (1992) Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanisms. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere.
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior,4. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71-81.
Bandura, A. (1995). Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge University Press.