Albert BanduraAlbert Bandura has an article about self-efficacy that I have read over and over again. I’ll summarize my own take-aways from it with the hopes that you’ll be interested enough to go see what he REALLY said.

Self-efficacy is a sense of personal effectiveness, a belief that I have the power through my performance to affect the outcomes that matter to me. Self-efficacy beliefs have a big impact on how people think, feel, motivate themselves, behave, and thus perform in a given setting.

There are four ways that people grow in self-efficacy, arranged below from the most effective down to the least — but still effective.

  1. Personal mastery: Taking on something that is a little beyond your personal sense of what you can do and then succeeding at it. Personal comment: I was unhappy to discover when I left work temporarily after the birth of my first child that a sense of personal mastery starts to seep away without new experiences. I had thought you got it and then kept it. Not so.
  2. Vicarious mastery: Observing people like yourself achieving personal mastery. The more they are like you, the more self-efficacy you gain. Personal comment: Aha! This is the reason that role models matter so much for women in technical work places — and for under-represented minorities everywhere.
  3. Social persuasion: “Come on, you can do it. Yes you can.”
  4. Interpreting stress reactions in a positive way: self-efficacious people view performance stress as energizing; those without self-efficacy find performance stress debilitating and a sign that they will fail. Personal comment: I still get butterflies in my stomach when I’m about to give a talk. I no longer experience them as a sign that I am going to mess up. Now they are the signals that I’m getting excited about meeting an audience.

When you look for ways to make the people around you more masterful at what they do — your co-workers, employees, children, spouse, friends, etc. — remember Albert Bandura and self-efficacy.



Filed under Extraordinary people, Positive Interventions, Self-efficacy

5 responses to “Self-efficacy

  1. Pingback: A Specific Application of Self-Determination Theory: Managing Diabetes « Positive Psychology Reflections

  2. I enjoyed reading your article on self-efficacy.

    I agree that personal mastery is the most effective way to grow your self-efficacy. But there’s a dilemma.

    For example, people with low self-efficacy for public speaking (believing that they cannot speak publically) tend to have low personal mastery for public speaking (behaviorally avoiding public speaking engagements).

    So how do you obtain the necessary personal mastery for public speaking if you’re too frightened to do it?

    Will merely watching people who are similar to you speak publically lessen your fear? Perhaps yes, but for many people, merely watching others doesn’t lessen their fear.

    If modeling (vicarious mastery) doesn’t work for these people, what will? These are people who clearly interpret their stress reactions in a negative way, who don’t believe others telling them “You can do it.”

    How will these people ever grow their self-efficacy (believing that they can speak publically) through personal mastery (skillfully doing public speeches) if they keep fearfully running away from doing public speeches?

  3. Kathryn Britton


    I don’t think there are any easy answers. I think many times in life we have to act ahead of our confidence and let it catch up. That’s where that old line, “Fake it till you make it” comes from. I often think of the cat-seeing-a-lion-in-the-mirror picture —

    A long time ago, I gave my first presentation to a large audience and stumbled a little over my first words. I then looked out over the audience and said, “I’m a little nervous. I think I’ll just start over.” Then I did, and relaxed and enjoyed the talk. The only problem was that people kept coming up to me for the rest of the conference to say, “You didn’t need to be nervous!” So I’m not sure I’d recommend the approach. It was, though, one step along the road to becoming more able to speak up.

    Not everybody wants or needs to become a public speaker. For those who do, there’s no way other than just doing it — and remembering that every other public speaker, no matter how excellent, had to start out nervous too.


  4. If you ever want to read a reader’s feedback 🙂 , I rate this article for four from five. Decent info, but I just have to go to that damn yahoo to find the missed parts. Thank you, anyway!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s