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OverviewofSocialCognitiveTheory

andofSelfEfficacy

FrankPajares
EmoryUniversity

SocialCognitiveTheory
In1941,MillerandDollardproposedatheoryofsociallearningandimitationthatrejectedbehavioristnotionsofassociationisminfavorof
drivereductionprinciples.Itwasatheoryoflearning,however,thatfailedtotakeintoaccountthecreationofnovelresponsesorthe
processesofdelayedandnon reinforcedimitations.In1963,BanduraandWalterswrote SocialLearningandPersonalityDevelopment,
broadeningthefrontiersofsociallearningtheorywiththenowfamiliarprinciplesofobservationallearningandvicariousreinforcement.Bythe
1970s,however,Bandurawasbecomingawarethatakeyelementwasmissingnotonlyfromtheprevalentlearningtheoriesofthedaybut
fromhisownsociallearningtheory.In1977,withthepublicationof"Selfefficacy:TowardaUnifyingTheoryofBehavioralChange,"he
identifiedtheimportantpieceofthatmissingelement selfbeliefs.
WiththepublicationofSocialFoundationsofThoughtandAction:ASocialCognitiveTheory,Bandura(1986)advancedaviewofhumanfunctioning
thataccordsacentralroletocognitive,vicarious,self regulatory,andself reflectiveprocessesinhumanadaptationandchange.Peopleare
viewedasself organizing,proactive,selfreflectingandselfregulatingratherthanasreactiveorganismsshapedandshepherdedby
environmentalforcesordrivenbyconcealedinnerimpulses.Fromthistheoreticalperspective,humanfunctioningisviewedastheproductofa
dynamicinterplayofpersonal,behavioral,andenvironmentalinfluences.Forexample,howpeopleinterprettheresultsoftheirownbehavior
informsandalterstheirenvironmentsandthepersonalfactorstheypossesswhich,inturn,informandaltersubsequentbehavior.Thisisthe
foundationofBandura's(1986)conceptionof reciprocaldeterminism,theviewthat(a)personalfactorsintheformofcognition,affect,and
biologicalevents,(b)behavior,and(c)environmentalinfluencescreateinteractionsthatresultina triadicreciprocality.Banduraalteredthelabel
ofhistheoryfromsociallearningtosocial"cognitive"bothtodistanceitfromprevalentsociallearningtheoriesofthedayandtoemphasize
thatcognitionplaysacriticalroleinpeople'scapabilitytoconstructreality,selfregulate,encodeinformation,andperformbehaviors.

Thereciprocalnatureofthedeterminantsofhumanfunctioninginsocialcognitivetheorymakesitpossiblefortherapeuticandcounseling
effortstobedirectedatpersonal,environmental,orbehavioralfactors.Strategiesforincreasingwellbeingcanbeaimedatimproving
emotional,cognitive,ormotivationalprocesses,increasingbehavioralcompetencies,oralteringthesocialconditionsunderwhichpeoplelive
andwork.Inschool,forexample,teachershavethechallengeofimprovingtheacademiclearningandconfidenceofthestudentsintheir
charge.Usingsocialcognitivetheoryasaframework,teacherscanworktoimprovetheirstudents'emotionalstatesandtocorrecttheirfaulty
selfbeliefsandhabitsofthinking(personalfactors),improvetheiracademicskillsandself regulatorypractices(behavior),andaltertheschool
andclassroomstructuresthatmayworktounderminestudentsuccess(environmentalfactors).
Bandura'ssocialcognitivetheorystandsinclearcontrasttotheoriesofhumanfunctioningthatoveremphasizetherolethatenvironmental
factorsplayinthedevelopmentofhumanbehaviorandlearning.Behavioristtheories,forexample,showscantinterestinselfprocesses
becausetheoristsassumethathumanfunctioningiscausedbyexternalstimuli.Becauseinnerprocessesareviewedastransmittingrather
thancausingbehavior,theyaredismissedasaredundantfactorinthecauseandeffectprocessofbehaviorandunworthyofpsychological
inquiry.ForBandura,apsychologywithoutintrospectioncannotaspiretoexplainthecomplexitiesofhumanfunctioning.Itisbylookinginto
theirownconsciousmindthatpeoplemakesenseoftheirownpsychologicalprocesses.Topredicthowhumanbehaviorisinfluencedby
environmentaloutcomes,itiscriticaltounderstandhowtheindividualcognitivelyprocessesandinterpretsthoseoutcomes.Morethana
centuryago,WilliamJames(1890/1981)arguedthat"introspectiveobservationiswhatwehavetorelyonfirstandforemostandalways"(p.
185).ForBandura(1986),"atheorythatdeniesthatthoughtscanregulateactionsdoesnotlenditselfreadilytotheexplanationofcomplex
humanbehavior"(p.15).
Similarly,socialcognitivetheorydiffersfromtheoriesofhumanfunctioningthatoveremphasizetheinfluenceofbiologicalfactorsinhuman
developmentandadaptation.Althoughitacknowledgestheinfluenceofevolutionaryfactorsinhumanadaptationandchange,itrejectsthe
typeofevolutionismthatviewssocialbehaviorastheproductofevolvedbiologybutfailstoaccountfortheinfluencethatsocialand
technologicalinnovationsthatcreatenewenvironmentalselectionpressuresforadaptivenesshaveonbiologicalevolution(Bussey&Bandura
1999).Instead,thetheoryespousesabidirectionalinfluenceinwhichevolutionarypressuresalterhumandevelopmentsuchthatindividuals
areabletocreateincreasinglycomplexenvironmentalinnovationsthat,"inturn,createnewselectionpressuresfortheevolutionofspecialized
biologicalsystemsforfunctionalconsciousness,thought,language,andsymboliccommunication"(p.683).Thisbidirectionalinfluenceresultsin
theremarkableinterculturalandintraculturaldiversityevidentinourplanet.
Socialcognitivetheoryisrootedinaviewofhumanagencyinwhichindividualsareagentsproactivelyengagedintheirowndevelopmentand
canmakethingshappenbytheiractions.Keytothissenseofagencyisthefactthat,amongotherpersonalfactors,individualspossessself
beliefsthatenablethemtoexerciseameasureofcontrolovertheirthoughts,feelings,andactions,that"whatpeoplethink,believe,andfeel
affectshowtheybehave"(Bandura,1986,p.25).Banduraprovidedaviewofhumanbehaviorinwhichthebeliefsthatpeoplehaveabout
themselvesarecriticalelementsintheexerciseofcontrolandpersonalagency.Thus,individualsareviewedbothasproductsandas
producersoftheirownenvironmentsandoftheirsocialsystems.Becausehumanlivesarenotlivedinisolation,Banduraexpandedthe
conceptionofhumanagencytoincludecollectiveagency.Peopleworktogetheronsharedbeliefsabouttheircapabilitiesandcommon
aspirationstobettertheirlives.Thisconceptualextensionmakesthetheoryapplicabletohumanadaptationandchangeincollectivistically
orientedsocietiesaswellasindividualistically orientedones.
Environmentsandsocialsystemsinfluencehumanbehaviorthroughpsychologicalmechanismsoftheselfsystem.Hence,socialcognitive
theorypositsthatfactorssuchaseconomicconditions,socioeconomicstatus,andeducationalandfamilialstructuresdonotaffecthuman
behaviordirectly.Instead,theyaffectittothedegreethattheyinfluencepeople'saspirations,self efficacybeliefs,personalstandards,
emotionalstates,andotherself regulatoryinfluences.Inall,thissocialcognitiveviewofhumanandcollectivefunctioning,whichmarkeda
departurefromtheprevalentbehavioristandlearningtheoriesoftheday,wastohaveaprofoundinfluenceonpsychologicalthinkingand
theorizingduringthelasttwodecadesofthetwentiethcenturyandintothenewmillennium.
FundamentalHumanCapabilities
RootedwithinBandura'ssocialcognitiveperspectiveistheunderstandingthatindividualsareimbuedwithcertaincapabilitiesthatdefinewhat
itistobehuman.Primaryamongthesearethecapabilitiestosymbolize,planalternativestrategies(forethought),learnthroughvicarious

behaviordirectly.Instead,theyaffectittothedegreethattheyinfluencepeople'saspirations,self efficacybeliefs,personalstandards,
emotionalstates,andotherself regulatoryinfluences.Inall,thissocialcognitiveviewofhumanandcollectivefunctioning,whichmarkeda
departurefromtheprevalentbehavioristandlearningtheoriesoftheday,wastohaveaprofoundinfluenceonpsychologicalthinkingand
theorizingduringthelasttwodecadesofthetwentiethcenturyandintothenewmillennium.
FundamentalHumanCapabilities
RootedwithinBandura'ssocialcognitiveperspectiveistheunderstandingthatindividualsareimbuedwithcertaincapabilitiesthatdefinewhat
itistobehuman.Primaryamongthesearethecapabilitiestosymbolize,planalternativestrategies(forethought),learnthroughvicarious
experience,selfregulate,andselfreflect.Thesecapabilitiesprovidehumanbeingswiththecognitivemeansbywhichtheyareinfluentialin
determiningtheirowndestiny.
Humanspossessanextraordinarycapacityto symbolize.Bydrawingontheirsymboliccapabilities,theycanextractmeaningfromtheir
environment,constructguidesforaction,solveproblemscognitively,supportforethoughtfulcoursesofaction,gainnewknowledgeby
reflectivethought,andcommunicatewithothersatanydistanceintimeandspace.ForBandura,symbolsarethevehicleofthought,anditis
bysymbolizingtheirexperiencesthattheycanprovidetheirliveswithstructure,meaning,andcontinuity.Symbolizingalsoenablespeopleto
storetheinformationrequiredtoguidefuturebehaviors.Itisthroughthisprocessthattheyareabletomodelobservedbehavior.
Throughtheuseofsymbols,individualssolvecognitiveproblemsandengageinself directednessand forethought.Peopleplancoursesof
action,anticipatethelikelyconsequencesoftheseactions,andsetgoalsandchallengesforthemselvestomotivate,guideandregulatetheir
activities.Itisbecauseofthecapabilitytoplanalternativestrategiesthatonecananticipatetheconsequencesofanactionwithoutactually
engaginginit.
Peoplelearnnotonlyfromtheirownexperiencebutbyobservingthebehaviorsofothers.Thisvicariouslearningpermitsindividualstolearn
anovelbehaviorwithoutundergoingthetrialanderrorprocessofperformingit.Inmanysituation,itkeepsthemfromriskingcostlyand
potentiallyfatalmistakes.Theobservationissymbolicallycodedandusedasaguideforfutureaction.Observationallearningisgovernedby
theprocessesofattention,retention,production,andmotivation.Attentionreferstoone'sabilitytoselectivelyobservetheactionsofamodel.
Fortheirpart,observedbehaviorscanbereproducedonlyiftheyareretainedinmemory,aprocessmadepossiblebythehumancapabilityto
symbolize.Productionreferstotheprocessofengagingintheobservedbehavior.Finally,ifengagingintheobservedbehaviorproduces
valuedresultsandexpectation,theindividualismotivatedtoadoptthebehaviorandrepeatitinthefuture.
Individualshaveself regulatorymechanismsthatprovidethepotentialforself directedchangesintheirbehavior.Themanneranddegree
towhichpeopleself regulatetheirownactionsandbehaviorinvolvetheaccuracyandconsistencyoftheirself observationandself monitoring,
thejudgmentstheymakeregardingtheiractions,choices,andattributions,and,finally,theevaluativeandtangiblereactionstheymaketo
theirownbehaviorthroughtheself regulatoryprocess.Thislastsubfunctionincludesevaluationsofone'sownself(theirself concept,self
esteem,values)andtangibleselfmotivatorsthatactaspersonalincentivestobehaveinself directedways.
ForBandura(1986),thecapabilitythatismost"distinctlyhuman"(p.21)isthatof self reflection,henceitisaprominentfeatureofsocial
cognitivetheory.Throughselfreflection,peoplemakesenseoftheirexperiences,exploretheirowncognitionsandself beliefs,engageinself
evaluation,andaltertheirthinkingandbehavioraccordingly.

SelfefficacyBeliefs
Ofallthethoughtsthataffecthumanfunctioning,andstandingattheverycoreofsocialcognitivetheory,are self efficacybeliefs,"people's
judgmentsoftheircapabilitiestoorganizeandexecutecoursesofactionrequiredtoattaindesignatedtypesofperformances"(p.391).Self
efficacybeliefsprovidethefoundationforhumanmotivation,well being,andpersonalaccomplishment.Thisisbecauseunlesspeoplebelieve
thattheiractionscanproducetheoutcomestheydesire,theyhavelittleincentivetoactortopersevereinthefaceofdifficulties.Much
empiricalevidencenowsupportsBandura'scontentionthatselfefficacybeliefstouchvirtuallyeveryaspectofpeople'slives whetherthey
thinkproductively,self debilitatingly,pessimisticallyoroptimisticallyhowwelltheymotivatethemselvesandpersevereinthefaceof
adversitiestheirvulnerabilitytostressanddepression,andthelifechoicestheymake.Self efficacyisalsoacriticaldeterminantofself
regulation.
Ofcourse,humanfunctioningisinfluencedbymanyfactors.Thesuccessorfailurethatpeopleexperienceastheyengagethemyriadtasksthat
comprisetheirlifenaturallyinfluencethemanydecisionstheymustmake.Also,theknowledgeandskillstheypossesswillcertainlyplaycritical
rolesinwhattheychoosetodoandnotdo.Individualsinterprettheresultsoftheirattainments,however,justastheymakejudgmentsabout
thequalityoftheknowledgeandskillstheyposses.Imagine,forexample,astudentwhohasjustreceivedagradeofBonatermpaper.In
andofitself,attainingagradeofBhasnoinherentcausalproperties.Whatcanwepredictabouthowreceivingsuchagradewillaffecta
student?An"Astudent"whoworkedhardonthatassignmentwillviewthatBinwaysquitedissimilarfromthatofa"Cstudent"whoworked
equallyhard.Fortheformer,theBwillbereceivedwithdisappointmentforthelatter,theBislikelytobereceivedwithelation.Thestudent
accostumedtoA'sislikelytohavehiswritingconfidencebruisedtheC acquaintedstudentissuretohavehisconfidenceboosted.
Bandura's(1997)keycontentionsasregardstheroleofself efficacybeliefsinhumanfunctioningisthat"people'slevelofmotivation,affective
states,andactionsarebasedmoreonwhattheybelievethanonwhatisobjectivelytrue"(p.2).Forthisreason,howpeoplebehavecanoftenbe
betterpredictedbythebeliefstheyholdabouttheircapabilitiesthanbywhattheyareactuallycapableofaccomplishing,fortheseself efficacy
perceptionshelpdeterminewhatindividualsdowiththeknowledgeandskillstheyhave.Thishelpsexplainwhypeople'sbehaviorsare
sometimesdisjoinedfromtheiractualcapabilitiesandwhytheirbehaviormaydifferwidelyevenwhentheyhavesimilarknowledgeandskills.
Forexample,manytalentedpeoplesufferfrequent(andsometimesdebilitating)boutsofself doubtaboutcapabilitiestheyclearlypossess,
justasmanyindividualsareconfidentaboutwhattheycanaccomplishdespitepossessingamodestrepertoireofskills.Beliefandrealityare
seldomperfectlymatched,andindividualsaretypicallyguidedbytheirbeliefswhentheyengagetheworld.Asaconsequence,people's
accomplishmentsaregenerallybetterpredictedbytheirself efficacybeliefsthanbytheirpreviousattainments,knowledge,orskills.Ofcourse,
noamountofconfidenceorselfappreciationcanproducesuccesswhenrequisiteskillsandknowledgeareabsent.
Itbearsnotingthatselfefficacybeliefsarethemselvescriticaldeterminantsofhowwellknowledgeandskillareacquiredinthefirstplace.The
contentionthatself efficacybeliefsareacriticalingredientinhumanfunctioningisconsistentwiththeviewofmanytheoristsandphilosophers
whohavearguedthatthepotentaffective,evaluative,andepisodicnatureofbeliefsmakethemafilterthroughwhichnewphenomenaare
interpreted(e.g.,Aristotle,James,Dewey,Kant,Maslow,NisbettandRoss,Rokeach).
People'sself efficacybeliefsshouldnotbeconfusedwiththeirjudgmentsoftheconsequencesthattheirbehaviorwillproduce.Typically,of
course,self efficacybeliefshelpdeterminetheoutcomesoneexpects.Confidentindividualsanticipatesuccessfuloutcomes.Studentsconfident
intheirsocialskillsanticipatesuccessfulsocialencounters.Thoseconfidentintheiracademicskillsexpecthighmarksonexamsandexpectthe
qualityoftheirworktoreappersonalandprofessionalbenefits.Theoppositeistrueofthosewholackconfidence.Studentswhodoubttheir
socialskillsoftenenvisionrejectionorridiculeevenbeforetheyestablishsocialcontact.Thosewholackconfidenceintheiracademicskills
envisionalowgradebeforetheybeginanexaminationorenrollinacourse.Theexpectedresultsoftheseimaginedperformanceswillbe
differentlyenvisioned:socialsuccessorgreatercareeroptionsfortheformer,socialisolationorcurtailedacademicpossibilitiesforthelatter.
Becausetheoutcomesweexpectarethemselvestheresultofthejudgmentsofwhatwecanaccomplish,ouroutcomeexpectationsare
unlikelytocontributetopredictionsofbehavior.Moreover,efficacyandoutcomejudgmentsaresometimesinconsistent.Ahighsenseof
efficacymaynotresultinbehaviorconsistentwiththatbelief,however,iftheindividualalsobelievesthattheoutcomeofengaginginthat
behaviorwillhaveundesiredeffects.Astudenthighlyself efficaciousinheracademiccapabilitiesmayelectnottoapplytoaparticular
universitywhoseentrancerequirementsaresuchastodiscourageallbutthehardiestsouls.Lowself efficacyandpositiveoutcome
expectationsarealsopossible.Forexample,studentsmayrealizethatstrongmathematicsskillsareessentialforagoodGREscoreand
eligibilityforgraduateschool,andthis,inturn,mayensureacomfortablelifestyle,butpoorconfidenceinmathabilitiesarelikelytokeepthem
awayfromcertaincoursesandtheymaynotevenbotherwiththeGREorgraduateschool.Inthesocialarena,ayoungmanmayrealizethat
pleasingsocialgracesandphysicalattractivenesswillbeessentialforwooingtheyounglasswhohascaughthiseye,which,inturn,maylead
toaromanticinterludeandevenalastingrelationship.If,however,hehaslowconfidenceinhissocialcapabilitiesanddoubtshisphysical
appearance,hewilllikelyshyawayfrommakingcontactandhencemissapotentiallypromisingopportunity.
Becauseindividualsoperatecollectivelyaswellasindividually,selfefficacyisbothapersonalandasocialconstruct.Collectivesystemsdevelop
asenseofcollectiveefficacyagroup ssharedbeliefinitscapabilitytoattaingoalsandaccomplishdesiredtasks.Forexample,schools
developcollectivebeliefsaboutthecapabilityoftheirstudentstolearn,oftheirteacherstoteachandotherwiseenhancethelivesoftheir
students,andoftheiradministratorsandpolicymakerstocreateenvironmentsconducivetothesetasks.Organizationswithastrongsenseof
collectiveefficacyexerciseempoweringandvitalizinginfluencesontheirconstituents,andtheseeffectsarepalpableandevident.
HowSelfEfficacyBeliefsInfluenceHumanFunctioning

appearance,hewilllikelyshyawayfrommakingcontactandhencemissapotentiallypromisingopportunity.
Becauseindividualsoperatecollectivelyaswellasindividually,selfefficacyisbothapersonalandasocialconstruct.Collectivesystemsdevelop
asenseofcollectiveefficacyagroup ssharedbeliefinitscapabilitytoattaingoalsandaccomplishdesiredtasks.Forexample,schools
developcollectivebeliefsaboutthecapabilityoftheirstudentstolearn,oftheirteacherstoteachandotherwiseenhancethelivesoftheir
students,andoftheiradministratorsandpolicymakerstocreateenvironmentsconducivetothesetasks.Organizationswithastrongsenseof
collectiveefficacyexerciseempoweringandvitalizinginfluencesontheirconstituents,andtheseeffectsarepalpableandevident.
HowSelfEfficacyBeliefsInfluenceHumanFunctioning
Selfefficacybeliefscanenhancehumanaccomplishmentandwellbeingincountlessways(see thispage).Theyinfluencethechoicespeople
makeandthecoursesofactiontheypursue.Individualstendtoselecttasksandactivitiesinwhichtheyfeelcompetentandconfidentand
avoidthoseinwhichtheydonot.Unlesspeoplebelievethattheiractionswillhavethedesiredconsequences,theyhavelittleincentiveto
engageinthoseactions.Howfarwillaninterestinarchitecturetakeastudentwhofeelshopelessingeometry?Whateverfactorsoperateto
influencebehavior,theyarerootedinthecorebeliefthatonehasthecapabilitytoaccomplishthatbehavior.
Selfefficacybeliefsalsohelpdeterminehowmucheffortpeoplewillexpendonanactivity,howlongtheywillperseverewhenconfronting
obstacles,andhow resilienttheywillbeinthefaceofadversesituations.Thehigherthesenseofefficacy,thegreatertheeffort,persistence,
andresilience.Peoplewithastrongsenseofpersonalcompetenceapproachdifficulttasksaschallengestobemasteredratherthanas
threatstobeavoided.Theyhavegreaterintrinsicinterestanddeepengrossmentinactivities,setthemselveschallenginggoalsandmaintain
strongcommitmenttothem,andheightenandsustaintheireffortsinthefaceoffailure.Moreover,theymorequicklyrecovertheirsenseof
efficacyafterfailuresorsetbacks,andattributefailuretoinsufficienteffortordeficientknowledgeandskillsthatareacquirable.
Selfefficacybeliefsalsoinfluenceanindividual'sthoughtpatternsandemotionalreactions.Highselfefficacyhelpscreatefeelingsofserenityin
approachingdifficulttasksandactivities.Conversely,peoplewithlowselfefficacymaybelievethatthingsaretougherthantheyreallyare,a
beliefthatfostersanxiety,stress,depression,andanarrowvisionofhowbesttosolveaproblem.Asaconsequence,self efficacybeliefscan
powerfullyinfluencethelevelofaccomplishmentthatoneultimatelyachieves.Thisfunctionofselfbeliefscanalsocreatethetypeofself
fulfillingprophecyinwhichoneaccomplisheswhatonebelievesonecanaccomplish.Thatis,theperseveranceassociatedwithhighself efficacy
islikelytoleadtoincreasedperformance,which,inturn,raisesone'ssenseofefficacyandspirit,whereasthegivinginassociatedwithlow
selfefficacyhelpsensuretheveryfailurethatfurtherlowersconfidenceandmorale.
Themediationalrolethatjudgmentsofself efficacyplayinhumanbehaviorisaffectedbyanumberoffactors.Theremaybedisincentivesand
performanceconstraintsthatis,evenhighlyself efficaciousandwell skilledpeoplemaychoosenottobehaveinconcertwiththeirbeliefsand
abilitiesbecausetheysimplylacktheincentivetodoso,becausetheylackthenecessaryresources,orbecausetheyperceivesocial
constraintsintheirenvisionedpathoroutcome.Insuchcases,efficacywillfailtopredictperformance.Anindividualmayfeelcapablebutdo
nothingbecausehefeelsimpededbytheserealorimaginaryconstraints.
Itisnotunusualforindividualstoover orunderestimatetheirabilitiesandsuffertheconsequencesofsucherrorsofjudgment.These
consequencesofmisjudgmentplayapartinthecontinualprocessofefficacyselfappraisals.Whenconsequencesareslight,individualsmay
notfeeltheneedtoreappraisetheirabilitiesandmaycontinuetoengageintasksbeyondtheircompetence.Insuchsituations,the
relationshipbetweenefficacyjudgmentsandsubsequentbehaviorwillbemuddledbythemisjudgmentofskills.Selfefficacymustalsobe
checkedperiodicallytoassesstheeffectofexperiencesoncompetence,forthedegreeofrelationshipbetweenselfefficacyandactionis
affectedbytemporaldisparities.Banduraarguedthatbecausestrongself efficacybeliefsaregenerallytheproductoftimeandmultiple
experiences,theyarehighlyresistantandpredictable.Weakselfefficacybeliefs,however,requireconstantreappraisaliftheyaretoserveas
predictors.Both,ofcourse,aresusceptibletoapowerfulexperienceorconsequence.
Althoughselfefficacybeliefsexerciseapowerfulinfluenceonhumanaction,anumberoffactorscanaffectthestrengthoftherelationship(see
thispage).Itcannotbeoveremphasizedthat,whenexploringtherelationshipbetweenefficacyandbehavior,wemustbecertaintomeasure
theselfefficacybeliefsrelevanttothebehaviorinquestion,andvice versa.Faultyassessmentofself perceptsorperformancewillcreatean
ambiguousrelationship.Bandura(1986)hasarguedthat"measuresofself preceptmustbetailoredtothedomainofpsychologicalfunctioning
beingexplored"(p.396).Itisimportanttoknowtheprecisenatureoftheskillsrequiredtosuccessfullyperformaparticularbehavior,for
misweightingrequisitesubskillsresultsindiscrepanciesbetweenselfefficacyandbehavior,andtheproblemisworsenedwhenindividualsare
calledontomakeefficacyjudgmentsabouttheirowncognitiveskills.Similarly,whenindividualsareuncertainaboutthenatureoftheirtask,
theirefficacyjudgmentscanmisleadthem.Tasksperceivedasmoredifficultordemandingthantheyreallyareresultininaccuratelowefficacy
readings,whereasthoseperceivedaslessdifficultmayresultinoverconfidence.Individualsoftenperceivetheirabilitiesasonlypartially
mastered,feelingmorecompetentaboutsomecomponentsthanaboutothers.Howtheyfocusonandappraisethesecomponentswill
stronglyaffecttheirsenseofefficacyaboutthetasktobeundertaken.
Ifobscureaimsandperformanceambiguityareperceived,senseofefficacyisoflittleuseinpredictingbehavioraloutcomes,forindividualsdo
nothaveaclearideaofhowmuchefforttoexpend,howlongtosustainit,andhowtocorrectmisstepsandmisjudgments.Theaimsofatask
andtheperformancelevelsrequiredforsuccessfulexecutionmustbeaccuratelyappraisedforselfefficacyjudgmentstoserveasuseful
regulatorsandpredictorsofperformance.Thisfactorisespeciallyrelevantinsituationswhereanindividual's"accomplishmentissociallyjudged
byilldefinedcriteriasothatonehastorelyonotherstofindouthowoneisdoing"(Bandura,1986,p.398).Insuchsituations,peoplelackthe
experiencetoaccuratelyassesstheirsenseofefficacyandhavenooptionbuttogaugetheirabilitiesfromknowledgeofotherexperiences,
oftenaverypoorindicatorandpredictoroftherequiredperformance.Thisfaultyselfknowledgecanhaveunpredictableresults.
HowSelfEfficacyBeliefsAreCreated
Individualsformtheirself efficacybeliefsbyinterpretinginformationprimarilyfromfoursources(see thispage).Themostinfluentialsourceis
theinterpretedresultofone'spreviousperformance,or masteryexperience.Individualsengageintasksandactivities,interprettheresultsof
theiractions,usetheinterpretationstodevelopbeliefsabouttheircapabilitytoengageinsubsequenttasksoractivities,andactinconcert
withthebeliefscreated.Typically,outcomesinterpretedassuccessfulraiseselfefficacythoseinterpretedasfailureslowerit.Ofcourse,
peoplewhopossessalowsenseofefficacyoftendiscounttheirsuccessesratherthanchangetheirselfbelief.Evenafterindividualsachieve
successthroughdoggedeffort,somecontinuetodoubttheirefficacytomountasimilareffort.Consequently,masteryexperiencesareonlyraw
data,andmanyfactorsinfluencehowsuchinformationiscognitivelyprocessedandaffectsanindividual'sselfappraisal.
Inadditiontointerpretingtheresultsoftheiractions,peopleformtheirself efficacybeliefsthroughthevicariousexperienceofobservingothers
performtasks.Thissourceofinformationisweakerthanmasteryexperienceinhelpingcreateself efficacybeliefs,butwhenpeopleare
uncertainabouttheirownabilitiesorwhentheyhavelimitedpriorexperience,theybecomemoresensitivetoit.Theeffectsofmodelingare
particularlyrelevantinthiscontext.especiallywhentheindividualhaslittlepriorexperiencewiththetask.Evenexperiencedandself
efficaciousindividuals,however,willraisetheirselfefficacyevenhigherifmodelsteachthembetterwaysofdoingthings.Vicariousexperience
isparticularlypowerfulwhenobserversseesimilaritiesinsomeattributeandthenassumethatthemodel'sperformanceisdiagnosticoftheir
owncapability.Forexample,agirlwillraiseherperceivedphysicalefficacyonseeingawomanmodelexhibitphysicalstrengthbutnotafter
seeingamalemodeldoso.Inthiscase,genderistheattributeforassumedsimilarity.Observingthesuccessesofsuchmodelscontributesto
theobservers'beliefsabouttheirowncapabilities("Iftheycandoit,socanI!").Conversely,watchingmodelswithperceivedsimilarattributes
failcanunderminetheobservers'beliefsabouttheirowncapabilitytosucceed.Whenpeopleperceivethemodel'sattributesashighly
divergentfromtheirown,theinfluenceofvicariousexperienceisgreatlyminimized.Itbearsnotingthatpeopleseekoutmodelswhopossess
qualitiestheyadmireandcapabilitiestowhichtheyaspire.Asignificantmodelinone'slifecanhelpinstillself beliefsthatwillinfluencethe
courseanddirectionthatlifewilltake.
Individualsalsocreateanddevelopself efficacybeliefsasaresultofthesocialpersuasionstheyreceivefromothers.Thesepersuasionscan
involveexposuretotheverbaljudgmentsthatothersprovide.Persuadersplayanimportantpartinthedevelopmentofanindividual'sself
beliefs.Butsocialpersuasionsshouldnotbeconfusedwithknee jerkpraiseoremptyinspirationalhomilies.Effectivepersuadersmustcultivate
people'sbeliefsintheircapabilitieswhileatthesametimeensuringthattheenvisionedsuccessisattainable.And,justaspositivepersuasions
mayworktoencourageandempower,negativepersuasionscanworktodefeatandweakenselfefficacybeliefs.Infact,itisusuallyeasierto
weakenself efficacybeliefsthroughnegativeappraisalsthantostrengthensuchbeliefsthroughpositiveencouragement.
Somaticandemotionalstatessuchasanxiety,stress,arousal,andmoodstatesalsoprovideinformationaboutefficacybeliefs.Peoplecan
gaugetheirdegreeofconfidencebytheemotionalstatetheyexperienceastheycontemplateanaction.Strongemotionalreactionstoatask
providecuesabouttheanticipatedsuccessorfailureoftheoutcome.Whentheyexperiencenegativethoughtsandfearsabouttheir
capabilities,thoseaffectivereactionscanthemselveslowerself efficacyperceptionsandtriggeradditionalstressandagitationthathelp
ensuretheinadequateperformancetheyfear.Ofcourse,judgmentsofself efficacyfromsomaticandemotionalstatesarenotnecessarily
linkedtotaskcues.Individualsinadepressedmoodlowertheirefficacyindependentoftaskcues.Onewaytoraiseselfefficacybeliefsisto
improvephysicalandemotionalwell beingandreducenegativeemotionalstates.Becauseindividualshavethecapabilitytoaltertheirown

weakenself efficacybeliefsthroughnegativeappraisalsthantostrengthensuchbeliefsthroughpositiveencouragement.
Somaticandemotionalstatessuchasanxiety,stress,arousal,andmoodstatesalsoprovideinformationaboutefficacybeliefs.Peoplecan
gaugetheirdegreeofconfidencebytheemotionalstatetheyexperienceastheycontemplateanaction.Strongemotionalreactionstoatask
providecuesabouttheanticipatedsuccessorfailureoftheoutcome.Whentheyexperiencenegativethoughtsandfearsabouttheir
capabilities,thoseaffectivereactionscanthemselveslowerself efficacyperceptionsandtriggeradditionalstressandagitationthathelp
ensuretheinadequateperformancetheyfear.Ofcourse,judgmentsofself efficacyfromsomaticandemotionalstatesarenotnecessarily
linkedtotaskcues.Individualsinadepressedmoodlowertheirefficacyindependentoftaskcues.Onewaytoraiseselfefficacybeliefsisto
improvephysicalandemotionalwell beingandreducenegativeemotionalstates.Becauseindividualshavethecapabilitytoaltertheirown
thinkingandfeeling,enhancedselfefficacybeliefscan,inturn,powerfullyinfluencethephysiologicalstatesthemselves.AsBandura(1997)has
observed,peopleliveinpsychicenvironmentsthatareprimarilyoftheirownmaking.
Thesourcesofself efficacyinformationarenotdirectlytranslatedintojudgmentsofcompetence.Individualsinterprettheresultsofevents,
andtheseinterpretationsprovidetheinformationonwhichjudgmentsarebased.Thetypesofinformationpeopleattendtoandusetomake
efficacyjudgments,andtherulestheyemployforweightingandintegratingthem,formthebasisforsuchinterpretations.Thus,theselection,
integration,interpretation,andrecollectionofinformationinfluencejudgmentsofself efficacy.
SelfEfficacyandHumanAttainment
TheRomanpoetVirgilobservedthat"theyareablewhothinktheyareable."TheFrenchnovelistAlexanderDumaswrotethat,whenpeople
doubtthemselves,theymaketheirownfailurecertainbythemselvesbeingthefirsttobeconvincedofit.Thereisnowampleevidenceto
suggestthatVirgilandDumaswereabsolutelycorrect.
SinceBandurafirstintroducedtheconstructofselfefficacyin1977,researchershavebeenverysuccessfulindemonstratingthatindividuals'
selfefficacybeliefspowerfullyinfluencetheirattainmentsindiversefields(seeStajkovicandLuthans1998,formetaanalysisofresearchon
therelationshipbetweenself efficacybeliefsandachievementoutcomes).Inhis1997book,SelfEfficacy:TheExerciseofControl,Banduraset
forththetenetsofhistheoryofselfefficacyanditsapplicationstofieldsasdiverseaslife coursedevelopment,education,health,
psychopathology,athletics,business,andinternationalaffairs.Inthisvolume,Banduraalsofurthersituatedself efficacywithinasocial
cognitivetheoryofpersonalandcollectiveagencythatoperatesinconcertwithothersociocognitivefactorsinregulatinghumanwell beingand
attainment.Healsoaddressedthemajorfacetsofagency thenatureandstructureofself efficacybeliefs,theiroriginsandeffects,the
processesthroughwhichsuchself beliefsoperate,andthemodesbywhichtheycanbecreatedandstrengthened.Inaddition,Bandura
reviewedavastbodyofresearchoneachoftheseaspectsofagencyindiverseapplicationsofthetheory.Asearchfortheterm"self efficacy"
inmostacademicdatabasesrevealsthat,bytheyear2000,over2500articleshadbeenwrittenonthisimportantpsychologicalconstruct.
Selfefficacyhasgeneratedresearchinareasasdiverseasmedicine,athletics,mediastudies,business,socialandpoliticalchange,
psychology,psychiatry,andeducation.Inpsychology,ithasbeenthefocusofstudiesonclinicalproblemssuchasphobias,depression,social
skills,assertiveness,smokingbehavior,andmoraldevelopment.Self efficacyhasbeenespeciallyprominentinstudiesofeducational
constructssuchasacademicachievement,attributionsofsuccessandfailure,goalsetting,socialcomparisons,memory,problemsolving,career
development,andteachingandteachereducation.Ingeneral,researchershaveestablishedthatselfefficacybeliefsandbehaviorchanges
andoutcomesarehighlycorrelatedandthatselfefficacyisanexcellentpredictorofbehavior.ThedepthofthissupportpromptedGrahamand
Weiner(1996)toconcludethat,particularlyinpsychologyandeducation,selfefficacyhasproventobeamoreconsistentpredictorof
behavioraloutcomesthanhaveanyothermotivationalconstructs.Clearly,itisnotsimplyamatterofhowcapableoneis,butofhowcapable
onebelievesoneselftobe.

ReferencesandSuggestedReading
Bandura.A.(1977).Selfefficacy:Towardaunifyingtheoryofbehavioralchange.PsychologicalReview,84,191215.
Bandura,A.(1978a).Reflectionsonselfefficacy.AdvancesinBehaviouralResearchandTherapy,1,237269.
Bandura,A.(1978b).Theselfsysteminreciprocaldeterminism.AmericanPsychologist,33,344358.
Bandura.A.(1982).Selfefficacymechanisminhumanagency.AmericanPsychologist,37,122147.
Bandura,A.(1984).Recyclingmisconceptionsofperceivedselfefficacy.CognitiveTherapyandResearch,8,231255.
Bandura,A.(1986).Socialfoundationsofthoughtandaction:Asocialcognitivetheory.EnglewoodCliffs,NJ:PrenticeHall.
Bandura,A.(1989).Humanagencyinsocialcognitivetheory.AmericanPsychologist,44,11751184.
Bandura,A.(1991).Socialcognitivetheoryofself regulation.OrganizationalBehaviorandHumanDecisionProcesses,50,248287.
Bandura,A.(1993).Perceivedselfefficacyincognitivedevelopmentandfunctioning.EducationalPsychologist,28,117148.
Bandura,A.(Ed.)(1995).Selfefficacyinchangingsocieties.NewYork:CambridgeUniversityPress.
Bandura,A.(1997).Selfefficacy:Theexerciseofcontrol.NewYork:Freeman.
Bandura,A.(2001).Socialcognitivetheory:Anagentiveperspective.AnnualReviewofPsychology,52,126.
Bussey,K.,&Bandura,A.(1999).Socialcognitivetheoryofgenderdevelopmentanddifferentiation.PsychologyReview,106,676713.
Graham,S.,&Weiner,B.(1996).Theoriesandprinciplesofmotivation.InD.C.Berliner&R.C.Calfee(Eds.).Handbookofeducational
psychology(pp.6384).NewYork:Simon&SchusterMacmillan.
James,W.(1981).Theprinciplesofpsychology.Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversityPress.
Miller,N.E.,&Dollard,J.(1941).Sociallearningandimitation.NewHaven,CT:YaleUniversityPress.
Pajares,F.(1996).Selfefficacybeliefsinacademicsettings.ReviewofEducationalResearch,66,543578.
Pajares,F.(1997).Currentdirectionsinselfefficacyresearch.InM.Maehr&P.R.Pintrich(Eds.).Advancesinmotivationandachievement
(Vol.10,pp.149).Greenwich,CT:JAIPress.
Pajares,F.,&Schunk,D.H.(2001).Selfbeliefsandschoolsuccess:Selfefficacy,selfconcept,andschoolachievement.InR.Riding&S.
Rayner(Eds.),Selfperception(pp.239266).London:AblexPublishing.
Schunk,D.H.(1991).Selfefficacyandacademicmotivation.EducationalPsychologist,26,207231.
Schunk,D.H.,&Pajares,F.(2002).Thedevelopmentofacademicselfefficacy.InA.Wigfield&J.Eccles(Eds.),Developmentof
achievementmotivation(pp.1631).SanDiego:AcademicPress.
Stajkovic,A.D.,&Luthans,F.(1998).Selfefficacyandworkrelatedperformances:Ametaanalysis.PsychologicalBulletin,124,240261.
Zimmerman,B.J.,&Schunk,D.H.(inpress).AlbertBandura:Themanandhiscontributionstoeducationalpsychology.InZimmerman,
B.J.,&Schunk,D.H.(Eds.).Educationalpsychology:Acenturyofcontributions.Mahwah,NJ:LawrenceErlbaum.

Schunk,D.H.,&Pajares,F.(2002).Thedevelopmentofacademicselfefficacy.InA.Wigfield&J.Eccles(Eds.),Developmentof
achievementmotivation(pp.1631).SanDiego:AcademicPress.
Stajkovic,A.D.,&Luthans,F.(1998).Selfefficacyandworkrelatedperformances:Ametaanalysis.PsychologicalBulletin,124,240261.
Zimmerman,B.J.,&Schunk,D.H.(inpress).AlbertBandura:Themanandhiscontributionstoeducationalpsychology.InZimmerman,
B.J.,&Schunk,D.H.(Eds.).Educationalpsychology:Acenturyofcontributions.Mahwah,NJ:LawrenceErlbaum.

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