In this lesson, we'll introduce Albert Bandura and his work, and we'll focus on his theory of self-efficacy. In addition, we'll explore how self-efficacy theory relates to social-cognitive psychology.
Who Was Albert Bandura?
Albert Bandura was a well-known social-cognitive psychologist who is famous for postulating the theory of self-efficacy, but we'll get back to that theory later. Let's take a brief look at his life and career.
Bandura was born in 1925 in Alberta, Canada, and as of this writing, he's still alive and well, living in the United States. He is best-known for his work in social-cognitive psychology, or the branch of psychology that deals with people learning from observing others and interacting with them. One of Bandura's most famous theories is his theory of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy literally means the belief of a person that his or her actions are effective or make a difference. In this lesson, we'll discuss this theory in-depth and we'll see how it relates to psychology on the whole.
Self-Efficacy Theory Explained
The basic idea behind self-efficacy is that when individuals feel their actions can influence the outcome of a given situation, several things happen. For one, they feel much better about themselves. Second, they feel that they have a sense of power and control over what happens in the world. And finally, they don't float hopelessly from one activity to the other. In short, they actually act, think, and feel differently than people who have no self-efficacious beliefs.
This is all related to motivation, or the drive to perform, because it revolves around the beliefs that peoples' feelings and actions are based more on what they believe to be true rather than what may or may not be objectively true. Does that make sense? In other words, a person who has self-efficacy believes that his feelings and actions actually have influence over the outcome of a given situation.
For example, think of the following mantra: 'If I work hard, I will be successful.' Someone who is not self-efficacious believes that no matter how hard he works, his situation will never change. He will be stuck at a dead-end, low-paying job forever. Someone with self-efficacy, on the other hand, is going to believe that if he or she works hard at his job, he or she will be promoted to a better-paying position. Get it now? This example is kind of simplistic, but it does drive the point home. The person with self-efficacy believes that his thoughts and actions will have some influence over the outcome.
When forming self-efficacy judgments about different situations, people tend to rely on four factors:
1. Performance and accomplishments: Successful performance and accomplishments will raise feelings of self-efficacy, while failures will diminish them.
2. Experience gained by observing others: This is usually referred to as modeling, which is when someone mirrors their behavior off of others. When people see others experience success, they themselves are motivated to experience success.
3. Social persuasion: This usually comes in the form of being coached or getting feedback on one's performance.
4. Emotions: Just as positive emotions can increase feelings of self-efficacy, negative emotions (such as anxiety or fear) can decrease these feelings.
Still following? When you put all four of these factors together, you come up with the ingredients that go into a person forming his or her own self-efficacious ideas. At least one of these factors must be present in order for someone to decide that his thoughts or actions will be effective. Make sense?
Relation to Social Cognition
You might be wondering, at this point, how all of this self-efficacy talk is related to social-cognitive psychology, which is what Bandura studied and is an expert on in the first place. For one thing, one of the main ideas behind social-cognitive psychology is that processes such as self-reflection, which means thinking about one's actions and thought processes, and forethought, or thinking about the consequences of actions ahead of time, aren't unconscious, as someone like Freud would have had you believe. Instead, it is possible for people to use these processes to change their cognition, or thoughts. For another, people are capable of influencing their motivation, as this is not an unconscious thing either.
So, knowing that none of these events is unconscious and that people can consciously change their desires, thought patterns, and motivation should help you to understand that feelings of self-efficacy can also be consciously changed. In other words, it's all a conscious thing! And this also applies to groups, such as sports teams, schools, and entire corporations. Ever heard of a corporate vision statement? This is an example of self-efficacy in action.
Let's take a few moments to review what we've learned.
Self-efficacy can be defined as the belief that one's (or a group's) thoughts and actions can manipulate or influence the outcome of a given situation. Albert Bandura is a well-known social-cognitive psychologist who is famous for postulating this theory; and his specialty, social cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that deals with people learning from observing others and interacting with them.
There are four factors that influence a person's formation of self-efficacy: performance, persuasion, social observation, and emotions. Like Bandura, social-cognitive psychologists believe that internal factors such as motivation, which is the drive to perform; self-reflection, which is thinking about one's actions and thought processes; and forethought, which is thinking about the consequences of actions ahead of time, are conscious actions that can be controlled by the individual. Because people have control over these factors, self-efficacious beliefs and actions can be altered over time.