Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Albert Bandura and the Exercise of Self-Efficacy

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Albert Bandura and the Exercise of Self-Efficacy

Article excerpt

Albert Bandura and the Exercise of Self-Efficacy Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control Albert Bandura. New York: W. H. Freeman ( 1997, 604 pp., $46.00 (hardcover).

Enter the term "self-efficacy" in the on-line PSYCLIT database and you will find over 2500 articles, all of which stem from the seminal contributions of Albert Bandura. It is difficult to do justice to the immense importance of this research for our theories, our practice, and indeed for human welfare. Self-efficacy (SE) has proven to be a fruitful construct in spheres ranging from phobias (Bandura, Jeffery, & Gajdos, 1975) and depression (Holahan & Holahan, 1987) to career choice behavior (Betz & Hackett, 1986) and managerial functioning (Jenkins, 1994). Bandura's Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control is the best attempt so far at organizing, summarizing, and distilling meaning from this vast and diverse literature.

Self-Efficacy may prove to be Bandura's magnum opus. Dr. Bandura has done an impressive job of summarizing over 1800 studies and papers, integrating these results into a coherent framework, and detailing implications for theory and practice. While incorporating prior works such as Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) and "Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency" (Bandura, 1982), Self-Efficacy extends these works by describing results of diverse new research, clarifying and extending social cognitive theory, and fleshing out implications of the theory for groups, organizations, political bodies, and societies. Along the way, Dr. Bandura masterfully contrasts social cognitive theory with many other theories of human behavior and helps chart a course for future research. Throughout, B andura' s clear, firm, and self-confident writing serves as the perfect vehicle for the theory he espouses.

Self-Efficacy begins with the most detailed and clear explication of social cognitive theory that I have yet seen, and proceeds to delineate the nature and sources of SE, the well-known processes via which SE mediates human behavior, and the development of SE over the life span. After laying this theoretical groundwork, subsequent chapters delineate the relevance of SE to human endeavor in a variety of specific content areas including cognitive and intellectual functioning; health; clinical problems including anxiety, phobias, depression, eating disorders, alcohol problems, and drug abuse; athletics and exercise activity; organizations; politics; and societal change.

In Bandura's words, "Perceived self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments" (p. 3). People's SE beliefs have a greater effect on their motivation, emotions, and actions than what is objectively true (e.g., actual skill level). Therefore, SE beliefs are immensely important in choice of behaviors (including occupations, social relationships, and a host of day-to-day behaviors), effort expenditure, perseverance in pursuit of goals, resilience to setbacks and problems, stress level and affect, and indeed in our ways of thinking about ourselves and others.

Bandura affirms many times that humans are proactive and free as well as determined: They are "at least partial architects of their own destinies" (p. 8). Because SE beliefs powerfully affect human behaviors, they are a key factor in human purposive activity or agency; that is, in human freedom. Because humans shape their environment even as they are shaped by it, SE beliefs are also pivotal in the construction of our social and physical environments. Bandura details over two decades of research confirming that SE is modifiable via mastery experiences, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion, and interpretation of physiological states, and that modified SE strongly and consistently predicts outcomes. SE beliefs, then, are central to human self-determination.


One major strength of Self-Efficacy is Bandura's ability to deftly dance from forest to trees and back again to forest, using specific, human examples and concrete situations to highlight his major theoretical premises, to which he then returns. …

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