Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Self efficacy refers to an individual's belief that he or she is capable of performing a task. The higher your
self-efficacy, the more confidence you have in your ability to succeed in a task. So, in difficult situations, we
find that people with low self-efficacy are more likely to lessen their effort or give up altogether whereas
those with high self-efficacy will try harder to master the challenge. In addition, individuals high in self-
efficacy seem to respond to negative feedback with increased effort and motivation; those low in self-
efficacy are likely to lessen their effort when given negative feedback.
The concept of Self Efficacy was developed by Albert Bandura. He has defined self-efficacy as our belief in
our ability to succeed in specific situations. Your sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how you
approach goals, tasks, and challenges. The concept of self-efficacy lies at the center Bandura's social
cognitive theory, which emphasizes the role of observational learning and social experience in the
development of personality. According to Bandura's theory, people with high self-efficacy - that is, those
who believe they can perform well - are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered
rather than something to be avoided.
Self-efficacy is different from self esteem which is one's evaluation of self. It is the extent to which a person
believes he or she is a worthwhile and deserving individual. Self-efficacy is different from expectancy where
expectancy revolves around expected consequences of one's behavior. Self efficacy and locus of
control/attribution is different where attribution/locus are causal judgments, SE is about one's self
Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs
produce these diverse effects through four major processes. They include cognitive, motivational, affective
and selection processes.
A strong sense of efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well-being in many ways. People
with high assurance in their capabilities approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than as
threats to be avoided. Such an efficacious outlook fosters intrinsic interest and deep engrossment in
activities. They set themselves challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to them. They heighten
and sustain their efforts in the face of failure. They quickly recover their sense of efficacy after failures or
setbacks. They attribute failure to insufficient effort or deficient knowledge and skills which are acquirable.
They approach threatening situations with assurance that they can exercise control over them. Such an
efficacious outlook produces personal accomplishments, reduces stress and lowers vulnerability to
In contrast, people who doubt their capabilities shy away from difficult tasks which they view as personal
threats. They have low aspirations and weak commitment to the goals they choose to pursue. When faced
with difficult tasks, they dwell on their personal deficiencies, on the obstacles they will encounter, and all
kinds of adverse outcomes rather than concentrate on how to perform successfully. They slacken their
efforts and give up quickly in the face of difficulties. They are slow to recover their sense of efficacy
following failure or setbacks. Because they view insufficient performance as deficient aptitude it does not
require much failure for them to lose faith in their capabilities. They fall easy victim to stress and
General self-efficacy: stable over time and situations
Specific self-efficacy: specific to task
Impact of Self Efficacy
Choice of behavior
People are partly the product of their environment. Therefore, beliefs of personal efficacy can shape the
course lives take by influencing the types of activities and environments people choose. People avoid
activities and situations they believe exceed their coping capabilities. But they readily undertake challenging
activities and select situations they judge themselves capable of handling. By the choices they make, people
cultivate different competencies, interests and social networks that determine life courses. Any factor that
influences choice behavior can profoundly affect the direction of personal development. This is because the
social influences operating in selected environments continue to promote certain competencies, values, and
interests long after the efficacy decisional determinant has rendered its inaugurating effect.
Career choice and development is but one example of the power of self-efficacy beliefs to affect the course
of life paths through choice-related processes. The higher the level of people's perceived self-efficacy the
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
wider the range of career options they seriously consider, the greater their interest in them, and the better
they prepare themselves educationally for the occupational pursuits they choose and the greater is their
Self-beliefs of efficacy play a key role in the self-regulation of motivation. Most human motivation is
cognitively generated. People motivate themselves and guide their actions anticipatorily by the exercise of
forethought. They form beliefs about what they can do. They anticipate likely outcomes of prospective
actions. They set goals for themselves and plan courses of action designed to realize valued futures.
There are three different forms of cognitive motivators around which different theories have been built.
They include causal attributions, outcome expectancies, and cognized goals. The corresponding theories are
attribution theory, expectancy-value theory and goal theory, respectively. Self-efficacy beliefs operate in each
of these types of cognitive motivation. Self-efficacy beliefs influence causal attributions. People who regard
themselves as highly efficacious attribute their failures to insufficient effort, those who regard themselves as
inefficacious attribute their failures to low ability. Causal attributions affect motivation, performance and
affective reactions mainly through beliefs of self-efficacy.
In expectancy-value theory, motivation is regulated by the expectation that a given course of behavior will
produce certain outcomes and the value of those outcomes. But people act on their beliefs about what they
can do, as well as on their beliefs about the likely outcomes of performance. The motivating influence of
outcome expectancies is thus partly governed by self-beliefs of efficacy. There are countless attractive
options people do not pursue because they judge they lack the capabilities for them. The predictiveness of
expectancy-value theory is enhanced by including the influence of perceived self- efficacy.
It requires a strong sense of efficacy to remain task oriented in the face of pressing situational demands,
failures and setbacks that have significant repercussions. Indeed, when people are faced with the tasks of
managing difficult environmental demands under taxing circumstances, those who are beset by self-doubts
about their efficacy become more and more erratic in their analytic thinking, lower their aspirations and the
quality of their performance deteriorates. In contrast, those who maintain a resilient sense of efficacy set
themselves challenging goals and use good analytic thinking which pays off in performance
Perceived self-efficacy to control thought processes is a key factor in regulating thought produced stress and
depression. It is not the sheer frequency of disturbing thoughts but the perceived inability to turn them off
that is the major source of distress. Both perceived coping self-efficacy and thought control efficacy operate
jointly to reduce anxiety and avoidant behavior.
Low self efficacy can lead people to believe tasks are harder than they actually are. This often results in poor
task planning, as well as increased stress. Observational evidence shows that people become erratic and
unpredictable when engaging in a task in which they have low efficacy. On the other hand, people with high
self efficacy often take a wider picture of a task in order to take the best route of action. People with high
self efficacy are shown to be encouraged by obstacles to greater effort. Self efficacy also affects how people
respond to failure. A person with a high efficacy will attribute the failure to external factors, where a person
with low self efficacy will attribute failure to low ability.
Vulnerability to stress
People's beliefs in their coping capabilities affect how much stress and depression they experience in
threatening or difficult situations, as well as their level of motivation. Perceived self-efficacy to exercise
control over stressors plays a central role in anxiety arousal. People who believe they can exercise control
over threats do not conjure up disturbing thought patterns. But those who believe they cannot manage
threats experience high anxiety arousal. They dwell on their coping deficiencies. They view many aspects of
their environment as fraught with danger. They magnify the severity of possible threats and worry about
things that rarely happen. Through such inefficacious thinking they distress themselves and impair their
level of functioning. Perceived coping self-efficacy regulates avoidance behavior as well as anxiety arousal.
The stronger the sense of self-efficacy the bolder people are in taking on taxing and threatening activities.
Sources of Self-Efficacy
People's beliefs about their efficacy can be developed by four main sources of influence.
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
Mastery experience/ performance leading to attainment
The most effective way of creating a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences. Successes
build a robust belief in one's personal efficacy. Failures undermine it, especially if failures occur before a
sense of efficacy is firmly established.
If people experience only easy successes they come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by
failure. A resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort.
Some setbacks and difficulties in human pursuits serve a useful purpose in teaching that success usually
requires sustained effort. After people become convinced they have what it takes to succeed, they persevere
in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks. By sticking it out through tough times, they
emerge stronger from adversity.
Modeling, seeing people
The second way of creating and strengthening self-beliefs of efficacy is through the vicarious experiences
provided by social models. Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers'
beliefs that they too possess the capabilities master comparable activities to succeed. By the same token,
observing others' fail despite high effort lowers observers' judgments of their own efficacy and undermines
their efforts. The impact of modeling on perceived self-efficacy is strongly influenced by perceived similarity
to the models. The greater the assumed similarity the more persuasive are the models' successes and failures.
If people see the models as very different from themselves their perceived self-efficacy is not much
influenced by the models' behavior and the results its produces.
Modeling influences do more than provide a social standard against which to judge one's own capabilities.
People seek proficient models who possess the competencies to which they aspire. Through their behavior
and expressed ways of thinking, competent models transmit knowledge and teach observers effective skills
and strategies for managing environmental demands. Acquisition of better means raises perceived self-
Social persuasion is a third way of strengthening people's beliefs that they have what it takes to succeed.
People who are persuaded verbally that they possess the capabilities to master given activities are likely to
mobilize greater effort and sustain it than if they harbor self-doubts and dwell on personal deficiencies
when problems arise. To the extent that persuasive boosts in perceived self-efficacy lead people to try hard
enough to succeed, they promote development of skills and a sense of personal efficacy.
It is more difficult to instill high beliefs of personal efficacy by social persuasion alone than to undermine it.
Unrealistic boosts in efficacy are quickly disconfirmed by disappointing results of one's efforts. But people
who have been persuaded that they lack capabilities tend to avoid challenging activities that cultivate
potentialities and give up quickly in the face of difficulties. By constricting activities and undermining
motivation, disbelief in one's capabilities creates its own behavioral validation.
People also rely partly on their somatic and emotional states in judging their capabilities. They interpret their
stress reactions and tension as signs of vulnerability to poor performance. In activities involving strength
and stamina, people judge their fatigue, aches and pains as signs of physical debility. Mood also affects
people's judgments of their personal efficacy. Positive mood enhances perceived self-efficacy, despondent
mood diminishes it. The fourth way of modifying self-beliefs of efficacy is to reduce people's stress
reactions and alter their negative emotional proclivities and is interpretations of their physical states.
It is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are
perceived and interpreted. 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. Physiological indicators of efficacy play an especially influential role in health
functioning and in athletic and other physical activities.
Implications for Workplace
Self Efficacy has the following implications for workplace:
1. High SE people show 28% more performance than controls
2. High SE people are frequently hired by HRD people
3. Training is imparted for developing SE
4. Stress management is being done by training in high SE
5. Leadership training involves developing high SE
Organizational Psychology (PSY510)
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Information on Self-Efficacy; A Community of Scholars: http://des.emory.edu/mfp/self-efficacy.html
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