The Evolving Nature of the Computer Self-Efficacy Construct: An Empirical Investigation of Measurement Construction, Validity, Reliability and Stability over Time

Article excerpt


This paper reports an empirical study intended to provide detailed comparisons amongst and between the varieties of available measures of computer self-efficacy (CSE). Our purpose is to ascertain their relative abilities to isolate the CSE construct from other related constructs and to capture variance in performance attributed to changes in CSE level. In addition, we investigate the importance of ensuring the measure being used is sufficiently aligned with the task domain of interest. Finally, we explore the stability of CSE measures as they relate to the current state of evolution within the computing domain. Marakas, Yi, and Johnson (1998) proposed a framework for the construction of instruments intended to measure the CSE construct that we have adopted as a basis for this series of investigations.

To that end, we advance and test a set of hypotheses derived from the Marakas et al. (1998) framework. Results of the analyses support the need for adherence to the tenets of the proposed framework as well as provide evidence that CSE measures suffer from degradation of their explanatory power over time. Further, this study brings forth the importance of appropriately validating measures of CSE using approaches intended for a formative rather than a reflective construct. These results suggest that the common practices of instrument validation and reuse of long-standing instruments to measure CSE may not be the most effective approach to the study of the construct. Implications for future research are discussed.

Keywords: computer self-efficacy, social cognitive theory, measurement validation, computer performance, training, formative versus reflective constructs


The computer self efficacy (CSE) construct, logically and theoretically derived from Bandura's (1977a, 1977b, 1986, 1997) broader concept of self-efficacy, is defined as "an individual's perception of efficacy in performing specific computer-related tasks within the domain of general computing" (Marakas et al. 1998, p. 127). More than simply an ability assessment, CSE reflects a dynamic composite of multiple factors, including not only perceived ability, but motivational and adaptation aspects as well (Gist and Mitchell, 1992; Wood and Bandura, 1989). The CSE construct is related to, but conceptually different from, other behavioral constructs commonly found in IS research such as ease of use, computer anxiety, and outcome expectancy. Originally conceptualized at the task-specific level, CSE has recently been hypothesized to be far more complex than previously suggested by earlier studies (cf. Compeau and Higgins, 1995a), and studies have established the construct at both the application-specific level (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.) and at a more general computing level (Bandura, 1997; Marakas et al., 1998).

Several researchers have developed and validated measures of CSE for use in studies that either focus on CSE as the primary construct of interest or as an ancillary construct related to the focus of the research. These measures have been used by a variety of disciplines including education (Brown, Lent, and Larkin, 1989; Delcourt and Kinzie, 1993), healthcare (Henderson, Deane, and Ward, 1995), computer training (Compeau and Higgins, 1995a; Johnson and Marakas, 2000), computer use (Burkhardt and Brass, 1990; Compeau and Higgins, 1995a), technology adoption (Hill, Smith, and Mann, 1987) and computer performance (Gist, Schwoerer, and Rosen, 1989; Webster and Martocchio, 1995), among many others. An even more varietal range of disciplines has investigated the broader, root construct self efficacy as originally conceptualized by Bandura (1977a, 1977b).

Adherence to Theory

One common denominator amongst the array of generally accepted measures of the broader construct has been adherence, either stated or identifiable, to the root theoretical concepts set forth by Bandura (1977a, 1977b) with regard to development of effective measures of the self-efficacy construct. …