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Do you usually strive to work hard and finish challenging tasks? Or do you give up easily? Do you believe in yourself to reach a career or fitness goal, or do you not believe in yourself to fulfil challenging goals or issues that life comes up with?

Self-Efficacy TheoryRobert Cocquyt/dollar photo club

Hannah got into a famous engineering college. She was excited and was looking forward to all the classes and assignments. She believed in her capability to perform hard calculations and understand tough concepts as well.

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their capability to do tasks and actions about their well-being and life. It is the belief a person has in their ability to succeed. In the example given above, Hannah seems to have high self-efficacy as she believes in her capability to perform hard tasks in higher studies.

Who Is Albert Bandura?

Albert Bandura, a Canadian American psychologist, and professor introduced the concept of self-efficacy. He noticed that people had belief in their ability to impact their own situations. He believed that self-efficacy impacts an individual’s coping methods and the way they work towards their goals and dreams.

He also described self-efficacy as a self-sustaining trait, because when a human goes through a hard time and comes out of it stronger, it increases their belief in their own self, thereby increasing self-efficacy to achieve his goal. Bandura termed it as “task self-efficacy”.

Types Of Assessment Tools

Measurement of self-efficacy is related to three dimensions: magnitude, strength and generality that a human possess to achieve a goal. Self-efficacy can be assessed or measured by using scales.

  • Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale – Morris Rosenberg developed the Rosenberg Self-esteem scale during the 1960s. This scale is used by social psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, medical doctors and others to assess self-esteem in various populations such as adolescents, adults, etc.
  • Bandura’s General Self-Efficacy Scale – Schwarzer and Jerusalem developed the self-efficacy scale. This scale measures self-efficacy of coping strategies in certain critical situation that an individual can exhibit. It measures optimistic beliefs about coping with challenging demands in life. Bandura termed it as “coping self-efficacy”. It has 10 items, assessing self-efficacy in a general context. It is usually used with a population of people above 12 years of age.

There are other self-efficacy scales as well, that measure self-efficacy in children or parents or even in the context of school, college, work or exercise.

Sources Of Self-Efficacy

Bandura gave 4 sources of self-efficacy; these are ways in which self-efficacy can be developed.

1. Mastery Experiences:

This is the most effective way to develop self-efficacy. This source refers to tough experiences or challenges that an individual endures successfully. Success in tasks can help in building a strong sense of self-efficacy. Failure can cause the opposite effect, and lead to low self-efficacy, especially when a strong sense of self-efficacy is not developed yet.

Easy successes are not recommended here, successes that take effort and perseverance are more likely to help in developing a sense of self-efficacy. When people go through challenging events and survive, it enhances self-efficacy.

2. Vicarious Experiences By Social Role Models:

When individuals watch people in their environment succeed at tough tasks, it reinforces their belief that they can, too, succeed through effort and work. Watching people fail can have the opposite effect, by reducing belief in one’s ability to succeed.

These people (models) will have more impact if they are like the individual. If they are not very similar to the individual, it will have little to no impact on their self-efficacy. Positive role models, models who are confident and self-assured, can have a good impact on an individual’s self-efficacy.

3. Social Persuasion:

Verbal persuasion and encouragement could also help in building self-efficacy. Compliments or words of encouragement can help in supporting one’s self-efficacy.

For example, Jatin is a primary school teacher. Today, he encouraged a child to continue pursuing his passion for music. This verbal encouragement increased the child’s belief in his abilities.

4. Somatic And Emotional States:

Somatic and emotional states impact how an individual perceives himself or herself. If an individual feels breathless or agitated due to stress, he or she is less likely to believe in his or her abilities. Moods can also have an impact on an individual’s sense of self-efficacy.

What is important is how these states are perceived. If an individual perceives initial agitation as a sign of getting ready to take action, he or she could feel a high sense of self-efficacy. Perceiving makes a difference.

Reciprocal Determinism

Bandura gave the concept of reciprocal determinism, which has 3 factors that affect behaviors, namely, cognitive, environmental and personal factors.

Behavioral (cognition) factors refer to behaviors that may be rewarded or reprimanded.

For example, a good grade will lead to praise, thereby increasing self-efficacy.

Environmental factors refer to an individual’s immediate physical and social environment, including his or her family and friends.

For example, if a child’s family appreciates their small achievements, they will start developing self-efficacy.

Personal factors include an individual’s characteristics or traits.

For example, a confident individual is more likely to have self-efficacy than a non-confident person.

Another contributor, James Maddux stated that there was another way to develop self-efficacy, which was called imaginal experiences. These imaginal experiences are about imagining future success in depth to build stronger belief and self-efficacy. Imagining every part of the challenge and how to solve it, with all the sensory parts involved, could help in building efficacy.

How Self-Efficacy Affects Human Function?

  • Self-efficacy affects motivation in people. People with self-efficacy are more motivated to initiate and maintain their efforts in tasks, as they believe that they will overcome a particular challenge or finish a specific task. People with low self-efficacy tend to have low motivation since they do not strongly believe in their ability to overcome a challenge or finish a task effectively.
  • Self-efficacy affects healthy behaviors as well. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to continue doing exercise and follow nutritious diets as they believe in themselves and know that doing these things will lead to a healthy outcome. They are also more likely to be successful in quitting habits that are detrimental to their health such as smoking or drinking.
  • Self-efficacy also affects thought patterns and responses in individuals. People with low self-efficacy will not be in the best mood if they are met with a challenging task and could assume the task to be harder than it is. On the other hand, people with high self-efficacy would start to plan solutions and become more active after coming to terms with a challenging goal.

High Self-Efficacy Vs Low Self-Efficacy

High self-efficacy refers to believing in yourself and your ability to deal with challenging goals, tasks or issues in life. High self-efficacy is related to high self-esteem and confidence.

People with high self-efficacy tend to believe in their abilities to achieve tough goals such as exercise regimes, hard diets or even difficult career goals. This ability to believe in oneself makes them confident and charismatic. It also leads to success and joy.

People with low self-efficacy do not have enough belief in their abilities to surpass challenging goals and troubles in life. This affects their self-esteem and confidence.

They are likely to not take up challenging roles or jobs and stay in their comfort zone. This often makes them blame their situations or surroundings and leads them to not take accountability for themselves.

Applications Of Self-Efficacy

1. Self-efficacy has a strong impact on sports and fitness regimes. When people strongly believe in their ability to perform a game or a particular exercise, they can do wonders.

This self-efficacy acts as a motivator and a form of encouragement towards the game or exercise, further enhancing a person’s overall physical health, well-being and body image.

2. Self-efficacy can also be used in the context of education. It can help teachers, as they have a challenging job of teaching and motivating students. When teachers believe in their ability to do a challenging job, they are motivated and boosted to do so.

Students also need self-efficacy to perform better in curricular as well as co-curricular activities. Verbal persuasion and encouragement by parents and teachers can help in building and maintaining self-efficacy in children, leading to better performance in school.

3. Self-efficacy also applies to workplace contexts. It can help in boosting employees’ performance and increasing productivity. When employees believe in their ability to perform a particular job or task, they can increase and maintain their performance.

A lot of new businesses or start-ups are built through the sense of self-efficacy in individuals.

4. Self-efficacy can also be applied to healthy behaviors. When people believe in their potential to engage in healthy behaviors, such as maintaining a balanced diet, sleeping on time or exercising regularly, they are more likely to do so.

Also low self-efficacy in patients can be spotted by their failure to follow prescribed diets and exercise regimens. This generally leads to worsening of their health conditions.

5. Self-efficacy has also been used in the treatment of depression, anxiety and stress management. It can also prevent anxiety and depression.

When people believe in their abilities to endure a challenge or situation, they feel less stressed, which impacts their anxieties and emotional states. Feeling in control can help people in lowering anxiety symptoms.

How To Cultivate Self-Efficacy In Early Childhood?

Parents, teachers and friends can help in cultivating self-efficacy in children. They can try the following things:

  • Helping Them Set Realistic Goals: Parents can teach goal-setting and ask them to take one step at a time, leading to the last step of the goal. Realistic, practical goals are more likely to lead to success, thereby increasing one’s confidence in self.
  • Celebrating Wins: Celebrating small and big wins is another way to build self-efficacy in children. When a child receives praise or small rewards for building blocks appropriately or crossing a road safely, he or she will start believing in himself or more.
  • Teaching Positive Talk: Parents and teachers can teach children to think from a positive and productive perspective when they encounter problems or challenges. Reframing negative situations into positive ones could help them in learning this technique, leading to more effective outcomes.
  • Allowing Them To Make Mistakes: Some mistakes should be allowed for children so that they learn to get back up and deal with failure. Teach them that losses, failures and mistakes are lessons to learn and move forward with.
  • Teach Them Control: Parents and teachers can teach children that success is something that they can have some control over, through effort and hard work. Teach them to take responsibility to study and do hard tasks, to achieve success or good marks. When they receive good marks or grades through hard work, it will reinforce them towards a path of self-efficacy and esteem.

Research Evidence


Albert Bandura conducted an experiment to test self-efficacy in the treatment of phobias.


  • 2 groups were made. One group directly interacted with snakes (the phobia) and the second group saw others interacting with the snake (vicarious experience).
  • Bandura wanted to see which group had lesser fear post this experiment.


  • It was found that participants who had interacted with the snake directly had lesser fear and higher efficacy than the other group.
  • Mastery or personal experience proved to be more efficient in developing efficacy than social models or observation.

Theoretical Approaches

  • Social Cognitive Theory: Albert Bandura developed the social cognitive theory. Self-efficacy also stems from this theory. This theory is about how we learn through observing other people and how our personality develops through social experiences. Self-efficacy also develops through observing others and gaining social experiences.
  • Self-Concept Theory: Another theory that includes self-efficacy as a factor is the self-concept theory. The theory is based on the idea that our perception of our own self develops through other’s lenses and how they see us.
  • Social Learning Theory: This theory is based on the idea that we develop skills by being part of a group. This theory states that people learn through observing, imitating and modelling each other. Self-efficacy is also a part of this theory as it includes learning through observing and imitating others.

Ways To Improve Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy can be developed by starting with smaller, basic goals. Setting these goals can be motivating and then reaching these goals can help develop more esteem and confidence, leading to self-efficacy. Achieving small goals can make way for setting and achieving bigger goals.

  • Challenging tasks or issues can be positively reframed to sound more achievable and realistic. A negative issue can be looked at from a positive perspective so that it can be dealt with more productively.
  • Self-efficacy can also be boosted by celebrating small successes or wins by rewarding yourself with positive self-talk or a small gift. This reinforcement could boost an individual’s self-esteem, leading to more belief in oneself to achieve bigger goals.
  • Looking at the whole picture could also help people in building self-efficacy. People with high self-efficacy also fail at some tasks, but they look at those failures as learning lessons and move forward. They seek the bigger picture instead of holding on to failures. Hence, learning from failures and losses and moving forward towards other goals is a self-efficacy building tool.
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Khaled Alyami January 3, 2020, 7:16 pm

    This is very interesting and helpful.
    Thank you

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