Self-Efficacy- Definition & Theory

توضیح مختصر: Learn what self-efficacy is and how it affects your motivation to accomplish specific tasks. Learn about Albert Bandura's contribution to the concept of self-efficacy and how it has shaped contemporary psychology.

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The Power of Self-Efficacy

There is an old and frequently told story of a track coach who wanted to teach his team to run faster. No matter what the coach did, no one seemed able to beat his or her best time. One night, unbeknownst to the team, the coach moved the finish line, effectively making the track 10 feet longer. The next day, the runners clocked slower times than they usually did (because the track was now 10 feet longer).

Discouraged, because they knew they could do better, the runners practiced and practiced until they could again achieve their old times. At this point, the coach let them in on the secret that he had moved the finish line and informed them that they were now running faster. The coach demonstrated that, when the runners thought they couldn’t go any faster, they didn’t, and when they knew they could do better, they did. The coach proved the power of self-efficacy.

Bandura’s Self-Efficacy

Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as an individual’s belief that he or she will be able to accomplish a specific task. He believed that an essential component to accomplishing something is our confidence that we can. Bandura referred to self-efficacy as the mind’s self-regulatory function ; it tells us when to try and when to stop. If you do not believe something is possible, you are less likely to attempt the task and more likely to give up early if you do.

Henry Ford Quote

Self-efficacy drives your motivation; just as you have different degrees of motivation depending on the task, so also do you have different levels of self-efficacy. You may have high self-efficacy when it comes to your job because you have done it for a long time. You may have low self-efficacy in regards to school because you struggled to make passing grades. The level of self-efficacy you have when you begin a task has a great deal to do with whether you will successfully complete it.

SE Graph

The Four Sources

It’s a logical assumption that, if completing an activity is related to our belief that we can accomplish the task, then increasing our self-efficacy should enable us to be more successful at finishing the things we attempt. This begs the question, ‘Where does self-efficacy come from?’ If we can understand where self-efficacy comes from, then we can take steps to increase it.

According to Bandura, self-efficacy is a constantly evolving process from childhood to old age. Self-efficacy increases as an individual becomes more confident that he or she can accomplish a task. Some tasks, such as academic achievement or athletic ability, tend to reinforce self-efficacy when you are a child. Other activities, such as musical intelligence or public-speaking ability, tend to reinforce self-efficacy as you grow into adulthood.

Bandura claimed that there were four sources for self-efficacy:

  • Mastery
  • Modeling
  • Persuasion
  • Physiological Factors

To improve your self-efficacy, it is necessary to address one or more of these sources.

Four Sources of Self-Efficacy

Bandura believed that the best way to develop self-efficacy toward a particular task was through mastery of the subject. Success leads toward additional successes, and failure can cast doubt on the outcome of future attempts. When you succeed at something, you are more likely to attempt it again.

Knowing that a task is doable is key to successfully completing it. Most people are unlikely to undertake activities they believe are impossible. Bandura wrote that seeing others similar to yourself succeed reinforces the belief that you can also accomplish the same task.

Receiving positive feedback from others is a great way to build self-efficacy. When someone tells you that you’ve done a good job, you are likely to remember the praise and repeat the activity in the future. Bandura also taught that receiving negative feedback has a greater effect on lowering self-efficacy than receiving positive feedback has on raising it.

Many people believe they experience anxiety and stress as a result of their low self-efficacy. Sometimes, it’s the other way around; anxiety and stress can be the cause of their low self-efficacy. Your mood and stress levels have a lot to do with how likely you are to be successful at a particular task. If your mood is down, your confidence and self-efficacy are also typically low.

Self-Efficacy in Practice

Although best known for his work in cognitive psychology, Bandura’s theories have touched virtually every contemporary school of thought used today. Self-efficacy theory has been adopted by numerous mental professionals, including humanistic psychologists, cognitive psychologists, Gestaltists, and psychoanalysts. Self-efficacy theory is used in the treatment of substance abuse, phobias, personality disorders, and mood disorders, just to name a few applications.

In addition to the mental health field, self-efficacy has worked into the mainstream with numerous applications found across multiple disciplines. Self-efficacy techniques are used by hospitals to expedite patient recovery, in weight-loss clinics to facilitate change, and in business to motivate employees. Many people believe that Bandura’s theories have touched and altered more lives than any other psychology theory thus far.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review:

Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as an individual’s belief that he or she will be able to accomplish a specific task. He believed that an essential component to accomplishing something is our confidence that we can.

Bandura referred to self-efficacy as the mind’s self-regulatory function ; it tells us when to try and when to stop. If you do not believe something is possible, you are less likely to attempt the task and more likely to give up early if you do.

Bandura claimed that there were four sources for self-efficacy:

  • Mastery
  • Modeling
  • Persuasion
  • Physiological Factors

To improve your self-efficacy, it is necessary to address one or more of these sources.