SELF-EFFICACY: THE EXERCISE OF CONTROL
An outline composed by Gio Valiante
CHAPTER 2 - THE NATURE AND STRUCTURE OF SELF-EFFICACY (36)
Self-efficacy is a differentiated set of beliefs linked to distinct realms of functioning, concerned with
- self-regulation of thought processes
- affective and physiological states
Perceived Self-efficacy as a Generative Capability (36)
- "Perceived self-efficacy is concerned not with the number of skills that you have,
but with what you believe you can do with what you have under a variety of
- Different people with similar skills often perform differently.
- Same person may perform poorly or extraordinarily depending on
fluctuations in beliefs of personal efficacy.
- Example: Driving Efficacy
- Do not ask questions about decontextualized perceived efficacy for
- Can you turn an ignition key?
- Can you shift that automatic transmission?
- Can you turn a steering wheel?
- Can you accelerate and stop?
- Can you blow a horn?
- Rather, ask about the generative capability to maneuver and
automobile in various situations:
- Can you maneuver through congested city traffic?
- Can you maneuver around vehicles on crowded expressways
- Can you drive down narrow twisting mountain roads?
- Attainment efficacy is a better predictor of performance than subfunction
- Self-regulatory efficacy -- how well subskills are enlisted, orchestrated, and
sustained -- is also an important contributor to the belief in attainment efficacy
- efficacy beliefs may be high for subskills but low for their use in stressful
- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts
- Thus, self-efficacy is concerned with the orchestration of skills.
Individuals as Active Producers rather than Passive Foretellers of Performance (38)
- Performances do not happen, we bring them about. People contribute to, not
merely predict their performance.
- People who doubt their capabilities
- shy away from difficult tasks.
- give up quickly.
- have low aspirations.
- dwell on deficiencies, formidableness of tasks.
- focus on adverse consequences of failure.
- thus, they undermine their efforts by
- diverting attention from effective thinking.
- being slow to recover from setbacks.
- falling easy victims to stress and depression.
- People with strong belief in capabilities
- approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered (not threats to ve
- fosters interest.
- set challenging goals and maintain commitment to those goals.
- have high effort.
- thus they:
- think strategically.
- attribute failure to insufficient effort.
- quickly recover after failure.
- reduce stress.
The Self-efficacy Approach to Personal Causation (38)
Specificity in constructing items (not omnibus, global, decontextualized items)
"Omnibus measures create problems of predictive relevance as well as obscurity about
what is being assessed"(40)
Multi Dimensionality of Self-efficacy Belief Systems (42)
- "Measures of personal efficacy must be tailored to domains of functioning
and represent gradations of task demands" (42)
- Measure self-efficacy in terms of particularized judgements of capability
- Across realms of activities.
- Under differing levels of task demands within an activity domain.
- Under differing situational circumstances.
Structure of Self-Efficacy Scales (42)
"Self-efficacy scales should measure people's beliefs in their abilities to fulfill different
levels of task demands within the psychological domain selected for study. Including a
wide range of task demands identifies the upper limits of people's beliefs as well as
gradations of strength of perceived self-efficacy below that point" (44).
- Efficacy beliefs differ in level, generality, and strength.
- In developing efficacy scales, researchers must draw on conceptual
analysis and expert knowledge of what it takes to succeed in a given
- The nature of the challenges against which personal efficacy can be
judged vary by
- Level of ingenuity
- Self-regulation required
- "With self-regulation, the issue is not whether one can do them
occasionally but whether one has the efficacy to get oneself to do
them regularly in the face of varied dissuading conditions" (43).
- Preliminary inquiry to construct scales:
- People are asked to describe things that make it hard for them
to perform the required activities regularly.
- Sufficient impediments and challenges should be built into
efficacy items to avoid ceiling effects.
- Wide range of activities versus certain domains
- Generality can vary on a number of dimensions
- Degree of similarity of activities
- Modalities in which capabilities are expressed
- Qualitative features of situations
- characteristics of the person toward whom behavior is
- "Within the network of efficacy beliefs, the most fundamental are
those around which people structure their lives" (43).
- weak versus strong efficacy beliefs
- The stronger the sense of personal efficacy, the greater the
perseverance and the higher the likelihood that the chosen activity
will be performed successfully.
- Measuring strength of self-efficacy beliefs:
- Can do rather than will do items
- 100 point scale intervals of 10 (cannot do) 50 (moderately
certain) 100 (certain can do)
- In the case of self-regulatory efficacy, people judge their
assurance that they can perform the activity regularly over
designated periods of time (44).
Effects of Self-Assessment (46)
"Numerous tests for reactive effects of self-assessment show that people's affective
reactions and performance attainments are the same regardless of whether they do or do
not make prior efficacy judgements" (46).
Omnibus versus Domain-Linked Measures (47)
"The evidence is relatively consistent in showing that perceived self-efficacy is a good
predictor, whereas locus of control is either a weak predictor or is non-predictive" (47).
- Efficacy beliefs predict:
- Academic performance
- Proneness to anxiety
- Pain tolerance
- Metabolic control in diabetes
- Political participation
- Three levels of generality of assessment: (49)
- The most specific level measures perceived self-efficacy for a particular
performance under a specific set of conditions
- The intermediate level measures perceived self-efficacy for a class of
performances within the same activity domain under a class of conditions
sharing common properties.
- The most general measures belief in personal efficacy without specifying
the activities or the conditions under which they must be performed.
- "For example to evaluate the impact of a team's sense of efficacy on its
performance in a championship playoff game, one should measure the
player's perceived delf-efficacy to execute different aspects of the game
against the [articular opponent they have to face rather tan against the whole
array of teams in the league or some unspecified opponent" (49).
Discriminative Generalization of Self-Appraisal (50)
"Efficacy beliefs are structured by experience and reflective thought rather than being
simply a disjoined collection of highly specific self-beliefs" (51).
- Five processes through which mastery experiences can produce some generality in
- Similar subskills
- Thus, one ought to focus on the common features when tackling a
- Self-regulatory skills
- Diagnosing task demands
- Constructing and evaluating alternative courses of action
- Setting proximal goals to guide one's efforts
- Creating self incentives to sustain engagement and manage stress
and debilitating intrusive thoughts
- Generalizable coping skills
- Self-protective skills
- Weight loss
- Stress management
- Generality is achieved by structuring activities and highlighting
- The framing creates self-efficacy links between activities
- "Powerful mastery experiences that provide striking testimony to
one's capacity to effect personal change can also produce a
transformational restructuring of efficacy beliefs that is manifested
across diverse realms of functioning, e.g. snake phobics" (53).
- However, avoid a Holy Grail of Generality . . .(53)
Self-efficacy Causality (54)
Do efficacy beliefs act as causal factors in human functioning?
- Dual Causal Linkage(54)
- "In the case of the efficacy mediator, people can report their beliefs. This
observable indicant enables us to understand the origin and function of
efficacy beliefs" (54).
- The efficacy-action link can be corroborated in two ways:
- The first is by verifying micro-level relations between particular
efficacy beliefs and corresponding actions.
- The optimal cutoff criterion must be determined empirically for
different domains of functioning
- Because efficacy strength incorporates efficacy level as well as
gradations of certainty above any threshold value, efficacy strength
is generally a more sensitive and informative measure than efficacy
- There are conditions where the micro-level congruence procedure is
unsuitable for verifying the effects of efficacy beliefs(55)
- In some instances, the modality through which efficacy is
exercised differs from modality in which effects are
- Efficacy judgement is made about an intermediary activity
that, in due time, produces a result of a different sort
- Self-efficacy is judged for different performance attainments,
and the effect is level of motivation
- The link between perceived self-efficacy and subsequent performance
attainments is verified by macro level relations that correlate aggregated
self-efficacy beliefs with aggregate academic performance.
- Diverse Tests of Causality (56)
- Perceived self-efficacy is raised to different preselected levels, and its
effects on behaviors are measured. Then perceived efficacy was raised to
higher levels and behavior was measured again at the new level.
- Results: higher levels of perceived self-efficacy were accompanied
by higher performance attainments (56)
- Introducing trivial factors that do not affect competence but do affect self-efficacy
- Results: efficacy influenced performance by influencing motivation.
- Bogus feedback unrelated to performance
- Results: group who were led to believe they were stronger performed
better by spurring greater physical effort.
- Bogus normative comparisons
- Results: changing beliefs of where they fell compared to most
decreased their pain tolerance
- A procedure that impairs functioning is applied, but in ways that raise
- Results: when people's coping efficacy is strengthened, they
approach situations more assured and make better use of the skills
that they have.
- Testing multivariate relations between relevant determinants and
performance attainments by regression analysis.
- Personal enablement is achieved by equipping people with knowledge,
subskills, and self-affirming experiences in the exercise of control(60)
Sources of Discordance Between Efficacy Judgement and Action (61)
- Deficient assessment
- Ambiguity of task demands
- Violation of propositions about conditions under which thought is related to action
- Genuine discordance between self-referent thought and action.
Limited Scope of Self-efficacy Assessment (61)
- "Most behavior has multiple determinants and self-efficacy theory is often tested
in a factor that exerts only partial influence over the behavior of interest" (62).
- "Because human functioning is multifaceted and self-efficacy assessment is rarely
inclusive of all facets, the contribution of efficacy beliefs to adaptation and change
is probably underestimated in forma tests. Thus, we should be cautious about
interpreting the explained variance in performance by perceived self-efficacy in
any given study as its maximum contribution" (62).
Mismatch Between Self-Efficacy and the Performance Domains (63)
- "Efficacy beliefs must be measured closely with the performance domain to be
- Attainment efficacy is more predictive than means efficacy" (63).
Faulty Assessments of Self-Efficacy or Performance (63)
- In many spheres of functioning, people know full well how to perform the needed
behavior. Here the relevant efficacy beliefs concern self-regulatory capabilities -
can people get themselves to stick with the behavior given the many dissuading
conditions they will encounter (64).
- In familiar activities that must be performed regularly to achieve desired results, it is perceived self-regulatory efficacy, rather than perceived efficacy for the activity per se, that is most relevant (64)
- Relation of efficacy beliefs to performance can be reduced by faulty assessment:
- Complex patterns of behavior do not lend themselves to assessment
- Global judgements mask the diversity of behavior "people do not behave
Ambiguity of Task Demands (64)
- One must have knowledge of the task demands because activities differ in
- Difficulty and subskills
- Cognitive demands and memory
- Strength, endurance, and stress
- Same activity taps differing skills under different circumstances; thus, all
must be accounted for
- Some performances are judged socially, not objectively
- Ethnic, racial, social factors, gender sway performance judgements
- The most common disparity is when judgement exceeds performance
- Exaggeration of one's capabilities
- Inadequate knowledge of task demands -- this is especially prevalent in
Indefinite Aims and Deficient Performance Information (66)
- One must have definite aims and feedback about performance
- Especially problematic when one's performances are not personally
observed athletic skills, social settings, conversations, teaching (surprise
- Social judgements, again, cause mismatches between efficacy beliefs and
- Performance feedback can vary on a number of dimensions
- Intrinsically generated or provided externally
- Focus on certain aspects of performance or just final results as failure or
- Rudimentary categorical feedback or gradations (pass/fail -VS- percentile)
- Intermittent or regularly -- "There is little basis for adjusting effort and
action if one does not know where one should be going or what one is
Temporal Disparities (67)
- Time between assessment of efficacy and performance is important.
- Close temporal proximity is essential for accuracy
- Longitudinal studies are problematic when past efficacy beliefs are used to
predict current performance
- The key is not time, but whether efficacy beliefs have changed over that
- Efficacy strength is likely to waiver as performance draws near
Consequences of Misjudgement (68)
- When things matter, accurate self-appraisals serve as valuable guides for action
- Thus, high stakes tasks are useful in academics as well, I would guess, in
other realms. Golf = important tournament or playing with friends
- Depends, also on the nature of the task and the severity of consequences
Disincentives and Performance Constraints (68)
- People may possess skills needed but have no incentives to act
- Faulty equipment may affect performance ( in the case of an artist or athlete
- Physical or social constraints impose limits
Statistical Overcontrol (68)
- Behavior is not a cause of behavior
- Correlations between prior and subsequent behavior reflect the degree of
commonality of their determinants
- Statistical controls are not removing the "effects" of past performance, but
rather the effects of the determinants governing past performance
- Using past performance as a proxy of ability
- Confounds ability and notability facts
- Past performance itself is affected by beliefs of personal efficacy
- Controlling for past performance without regard for determinants
governing it obscures rather than clarifies factors regulating human
Faulty Self-Knowledge (70)
- Some cases, appraisal of efficacy is reasonably accurate while under other
circumstances, faulty judgements can arise from a variety of sources
- New undertakings (limited familiarity/experience)
- Distortion of self-appraisal due to personal factors
- Point of initial perception, cognitive processing, or recall of relevant
- Distortions in memory of efficacy-relevant experiences and circumstances
under which they occurred (selective recall of personal success or failure)
Veridicality of Self-Appraisal: Self-Aiding or Self-Limiting? (70)
- Performance as the index of ability should be tempered, b/c performance is
- Motivational factors
- Self-regulatory factors
- Affective, nonability determinants
- Sensitivity of performance to notability determinants depends on
- Level of skill development
- Complexity of activity
- Environmental uncertainties
- Value of accurate self-appraisal is largely doe to the nature of the task at hand
- Overconfidence and Underconfidence
- Swimming in harsh surf
- Taking a math test
- Navigating a treacherous strip of mountainous road
- "People's regrets often center on risks not taken, on
opportunities forsaken and relationships not cultivated" (71)
- People generally overestimate their capabilities
- Evidence reveals that an optimistic sense of personal efficacy
is needed for accomplishment and positive well-being.
Affective and Motivational Benefits of Optimistic Self-Efficacy Belief (72)
- The road to innovation is heavily strewn with difficulty
- More likely to bring about social rejection
- Must be well equipped to deal with hardships and persevere against tough
- The novelist Saroyan accumulated more than a thousand rejections
before his first literary piece was published.
- James Joyce's The Dubliners was rejected by 22 publishers.
- Gertrude Stein submitted poems to editors for 20 years before one
was finally accepted.
- Fifteen publishers rejected a manuscript by e.e. Cummings.
- A Paris art dealer refused Picasso shelter when he asked if he could
bring his art in from out of the rain.
- Van Gogh sold only one painting in his life.
- Stravinsky was run out of town by an enraged audience after the first
performance of the Rites of Spring.
- Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the more widely rejected architects
for much of his career.
- Hollywood initially rejected Fred Astaire as "a balding, skinny actor
who can dance a little."
- Walt Disney's proposed theme park was rejected by Anaheim on the
grounds that it would only attract riffraff.
- Scientists often reject theories that are ahead of their time.
- The moral of rejection is that rejections should not be accepted too
readily as indications of personal failings. To do so is self-limiting(73).
- People who are socially anxious are often just as socially skilled as
the more sociable ones. But socially active people judge themselves
much more adept than they really are(74).
- Consummate survivors have a Phoenix-like ability to bounce back
- An optimistic sense of efficacy fosters psychological well-being and
Differential Function of Preparatory and Performance Efficacy (75)
There is a difference between the strength of efficacy beliefs during skill development
and the use of established skills to manage situational demands.
- Skill development phase
- Highly efficacious people often underestimate difficulty level
- Little incentive to invest effort
- "Too much confidence has deceived many a one" - Salomon
- Already developed skills
- Strong efficacy is essential to mobilize and sustain effort
- "One cannot execute well what one knows while wrestling with self-doubt"
Self-Affirmation versus Self-Deception (77)
- False notions should be distinguished from commitment to accomplishments that
have low probability
- Humanity has been advanced more bu persisters that by pessimists
- Self-belief does not ensure success, but self disbelief assuredly spawns
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far
one can go"
T.S. Eliot (77)
Warning! Chapters are still under construction.