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Self-Efficacy Theory

Self-Efficacy Theory
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You are what you believe yourself to be

- Paulo Coelho 1

Why does believing in yourself matters in most situations? Thinking about your last time facing a challenge, did you feel so confident that you believed you could overcome anything? Or did you feel doubtful about your abilities and skills to tackle the situation? Perhaps your answer reveals the level of self-efficacy within you, which can be explained by the self-efficacy theory. Suppose that you will have to stick around a little longer to learn more about it...

Self-Efficacy Theory Meaning

To better understand the meaning of self-efficacy theory, an initial understanding of self-efficacy is critical.

Self-efficacy defines one's belief in themselves in being capable of accomplishing a particular task or goal.

Specifically, self-efficacy bears a relation to the concept of self-confidence, which determines one's confidence level in themselves.

Is self-efficacy task-specific?

Yes, self-efficacy varies in different situations. Let's assume that you are a marketing manager. If your CEO asks you to pitch the company's next marketing plan, you will definitely feel highly confident in your capability to answer the CEO's request. However, if your CEO asks you to redesign technical components of the company's products, you may then feel quite intimidated.

Thus, self-efficacy theory flourishes upon the assumption that self-efficacy is task-specific.

Self-efficacy theory implies that individuals tend to engage in tasks or activities to an extent to which they perceive themselves to be capable.

Self-Efficacy Theory of Motivation

Straight-forward as it is, the self-efficacy theory of motivation has a rich historical background.

Currently, its modern version includes four components:

  • mastery experiences,
  • vicarious experiences,
  • emotional, physical, and psychological states, and
  • verbal persuasion.

History of Self-Efficacy Theory

Let's learn a bit of history of the self-efficacy theory! In 1977, Albert Bandura, a Canadian-American psychologist, first introduced the term 'self-efficacy' in his paper 'Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change.' 2 According to Bandura, one's own belief in their capability to succeed in a task can affect how they actually handle it in real contexts.

How did Albert Bandura define self-efficacy in his own words?

According to Albert Bandura, self-efficacy could be defined as 'how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations'.2

Since its introduction, Bandura's explanation of self-efficacy theory has provided valuable implications for the studies of motivation. Specifically, within work contexts, not only can the theory influence individuals' physical and mental health, but it can also adjust their career and job satisfaction levels.

How can self-efficacy theory influence individuals' physical and mental health?

Accordingly, the belief and confidence in one's own capabilities can enhance one's cognitive strength. Further, as self-efficacy thrives on one's determination and perseverance, self-efficacy can also help individuals efficiently overcome obstacles in their life.

Components of Self-Efficacy Theory

Alongside the introduction of self-efficacy, Bandura also suggested the four main components of self-efficacy theory, commonly known as the four sources of influence on self-efficacy.2

The four components are:

  • mastery experiences,
  • vicarious experiences,
  • emotional, physical, and psychological states,
  • and verbal persuasion.

Components of Self-Efficacy Theory: Mastery Experiences

According to Bandura, mastery experiences are the most critical sources of influence on self-efficacy.

Mastery experiences are one's previous experiences in accomplishing similar tasks or activities.

If individuals have experienced certain tasks in the past, they are more likely to feel confident and competent in accomplishing similar tasks in the present. However, while good mastery experiences can influence one's self-efficacy positively, bad ones can do exactly the opposite.

Success builds a robust belief in one's personal efficacy. Failures undermine it, especially if failures occur before a sense of efficacy is firmly established

- Albert Bandura 2

How can mastery experiences grow your self-efficacy?

Let's think about your first time going to a job interview. Were you anxious? Did you know what you should prepare for your first interview? Yet, as time flies, you are more and more confident in sailing through or second or third interviews. This is how mastery experiences have built your self-efficacy through practice and learned lessons.

Components of Self-Efficacy Theory: Vicarious Experiences

Individuals not only learn from their own experiences, but they also learn from others' similar experiences.

Vicarious experiences are accumulated by individuals through observing other people's experiences in similar tasks.2

Thus, vicarious experiences lie in individuals' social models, such as their parents, teachers, coaches, or employers. The more positive these role models are, the higher the chances of individuals developing positive self-beliefs.2

How do vicarious experiences demonstrate in real-life contexts?

There have been various inspiring women leaders and activists worldwide who have positively and actively empowered global women in thriving for gender equality at work. Thus, as leading women figures can make it happen, normal women have also believed that they can do it themselves!

Components of Self-Efficacy Theory: Emotional, Physical, and Psychological States

Recently, Bandura's source of emotional, physical, and psychological states has become highly relevant in understanding one's mental well-being.

Emotional, physical, and psychological states represent individuals' well-being conditions that can influence their feelings about their own capabilities.

According to Bandura, individuals only feel good about themselves as long as they are mentally, physically, and psychologically healthy and positive.

People who have a high sense of efficacy are likely to view their state of affective arousal as an energizing facilitator of performance, whereas those who are beset by self-doubts regard their arousal as a debilitator.

- Albert Bandura 2

Components of Self-Efficacy Theory: Verbal Persuasion

Feedback and compliments are critical in building self-efficacy.

Verbal persuasion refers to how encouragement and discouragement from others can shape individuals' self-efficacy in a specific situation.

While positive verbal feedback can consolidate individuals' confidence levels, negative feedback can discourage them from driving the best out of themselves.

For example, during your high school years, teachers constantly complimented you on your high performance in science subjects. Then, you gradually perceived yourself as a good learner in science matters. Thus, you eventually chose to pursue your bachelor's degree in Business and Economics.

Furthermore, the more trustworthy the source of verbal persuasion is, the higher one's level of self-efficacy can get.

How can trustworthy sources of verbal persuasion influence self-efficacy?

Within work contexts, compliments from seniors tend to encourage employees more than those of their subordinates. For example, a compliment from a marketing manager is more valuable and encouraging for a new marketing intern than that of another intern in the marketing department.

Application of Self-Efficacy Theory

Nowadays, self-efficacy theory has provided insights into the understanding and development of numerous aspects, among which the application of self-efficacy theory at workplaces is noticeable.

Accordingly, self-efficacy is interconnected with employees' satisfaction and performance at work.3 Also, it is important to encourage entrepreneurship spirits in business contexts.4

What if you are out of balance in self-efficacy at work?

Self-efficacy reflects the extent to which individuals perceive themselves as being confident. Thus, an out-of-balance self-efficacy is problematic at work. Specifically, if employees are low in self-efficacy, they only believe that they can execute tasks to a specific ceiling. Thus, it is suggested that they may underperform their tasks, given their restricted self-efficacy, while failing to recognize their potential power from within. On the contrary, if employees have too high of self-efficacy, they tend to adopt unrealistic approaches in addressing their tasks.

Thereby, based on Bandura's four sources of influence on self-efficacy, business practitioners have also suggested certain ways to improve employees' self-efficacy at work.

Specifically, businesses can create a healthy and encouraging environment to cultivate their employees' self-efficacy. For instance, as compliments and recognition are central to the development of self-efficacy, modern companies have adopted various recognition rewards programs to drive their employees forward.

What is a concrete way for businesses to create a healthy and encouraging environment?

For example, regarding the mastery experiences component in self-efficacy theory, businesses can develop constructive performance feedback structures. Accordingly, such structures are effective in building organizational cultures that enable individuals to reflect on their experiences and learn from them.

Besides, organizations simultaneously focus on offering various learning opportunities for their employees. In modern workplaces, coaching and mentoring are common practices to foster individuals' vicarious experiences. Accordingly, employees can learn from watching how their coaches or mentors handle specific tasks, thus repeating such behaviors and attitudes in their own projects.

Self-Efficacy Theory Example

Indeed, examples of self-efficacy theory are abundant in our daily lives. In this section, we will have a look at self-efficacy theory examples in four crucial aspects of human activities.

AspectExample

Business

A local agency receives a new request for partnership in a global advertising campaign from a multinational corporation. Although the request is huge and demanding, the agency decides to accept it as it is confident in its human resources capabilities and previous successful experiences.

Education

A university student is thinking about applying for a study scholarship. After the teacher's encouragement and positive pieces of advice, the student gains enough self-efficacy to apply for it.

Parenting

After observing how their friends have become good parents, a couple is ready to welcome their first child based on their vicarious experiences.

Health

An individual is experiencing self-depression. Thus, the individual suffers from constant sleep deprivation, thus undermining the emotional, physical, and psychological states. As a result, the individual believes that he is not good enough to do anything in life.

Table 1 - Self-efficacy theory examples

Criticism of Self-Efficacy Theory

Though self-efficacy theory is popular nowadays, it is also subjected to certain criticisms. Accordingly, there are two main critiques directed toward self-efficacy theory:

  1. Unconvincing research method: Eastman and Marzillier (1984) doubted whether the non-phobic of snakes could produce similar efficacy expectations when two types of snakes: poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes, were considered. According to Eastman and Marzillier (1984), the efficacy expectations in the case of poisonous snakes would be low due to an outcome expectation that the snakes might bite.5

  2. The neglection of the environment: also, Biglan (1997) argued that Bandura's self-efficacy disregarded the role of the environment on an individual. Accordingly, Biglan (1997) criticized that Bandura had entirely ignored the effect of the surrounding environment on individuals' behaviors in his study of self-efficacy.5

Despite its criticism, self-efficacy is significantly beneficial in understanding various life aspects, ranging from relationships and psychology to business and education. Thus, only by believing in yourself can you accept whatever it takes to achieve your goals in life!

Self-Efficacy Theory - Key takeaways

  • Self-efficacy defines one's belief in themselves in being capable of accomplishing a particular task or goal.
  • In 1977, Albert Bandura, a Canadian-American psychologist, first introduced the term 'self-efficacy' in his paper.
  • Self-efficacy theory implies that individuals tend to engage in tasks or activities to an extent to which they perceive themselves to be capable.
  • The four components of self-efficacy theory are mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, emotional and psychological states, and verbal persuasion.

References

  1. Paulo Coelho. In the book: The Witch of Portobello. 2006.
  2. Bandura, Albert (1977), Social Learning Theory Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-hall.
  3. Lunenburg, F. C. Self-efficacy in the workplace: Implications for motivation and performance. International journal of management, business, and administration, 14(1), 1-6. 2011.
  4. Boyd, N. G., & Vozikis, G. S. The influence of self-efficacy on the development of entrepreneurial intentions and actions. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 18, 63-77. 1994.
  5. Business Bliss Consultants FZE. (November 2018). Critical Analysis Of Self-Efficacy Theory. Retrieved from https://nursinganswers.net/essays/critical-analysis-of-self-efficacy-theory-applied-nursing-nursing-essay.php?vref=1

Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Efficacy Theory

A local agency receives a new request for partnership in a global advertising campaign from a multinational corporation. Although the request is huge and demanding, the agency decides to accept that as it is confident in its human resources' capabilities and previous successful experiences.

Self-efficacy theory implies that individuals tend to engage in tasks or activities at an extent to which they perceive themselves to be capable of. 

The four components of self-efficacy theory are mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, emotional and psychological states, and verbal persuasion.

Self-efficacy theory aims at explaining why individuals tend to engage in tasks or activities at an extent to which they perceive themselves to be capable of. 

Self-efficacy defines ones' belief of themselves in being capable of accomplishing a particular task or goal. Since its introduction, Bandura's explanation of self-efficacy theory has provided valuable implications for the studies of motivation.

Since its introduction, Bandura's explanation of self-efficacy theory has provided valuable implications for the studies of motivation. Specifically, within work contexts, not only can the theory influence individuals' physical and mental health, but it can also adjust their career and job satisfaction levels. 

Final Self-Efficacy Theory Quiz

Self-Efficacy Theory Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

Self-efficacy defines ones' belief of ____  in being capable of accomplishing a particular task or goal. 

Show answer

Answer

Themselves

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Question

Is self-efficacy task-specific?

Show answer

Answer

Yes

Show question

Question

Self-efficacy theory implies that individuals tend to engage in tasks or activities at an extent to which they perceive themselves to be ____  of. 

Show answer

Answer

Capable

Show question

Question

In which year did Albert Bandura, a Canadian-American psychologist, first introduced the term 'self-efficacy' 

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Answer

1977

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Question

How many components are there in self-efficacy theory?

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Answer

Four

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Question

Which is NOT a component of self-efficacy theory?

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Answer

Mastery experiences

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Question

Mastery experiences imply one's previous experiences in accomplishing ____ tasks or activities.

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Answer

Similar

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Question

Vicarious experiences are accumulated by individuals through ____  other people's experiences in similar tasks.

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Answer

Observing

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Question

Emotional, physical, and psychological states represents individuals' ____  conditions that can influence their feelings about their own capabilities

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Answer

Well-being

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Question

Is it true that the more trust-worthy the source of verbal persuasion is, the higher one's level of self-efficacy can get?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

Can self-efficacy predict individuals' performance at work?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

If employees have too high self-efficacy, they tend to adopt ____  approaches in addressing their tasks.

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Answer

Unrealistic

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Question

At modern workplaces, coaching and mentoring are common practices to foster individuals' ____  experiences. 

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Answer

Vicarious

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Question

Did Bandura entirely ignore the effect of the surrounding environment on individuals' behaviors in his study of self-efficacy?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

____  verbal feedback can consolidate individuals' confidence levels

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Answer

Positive

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