Self-Efficacy: Sources and Consequences

Bandura (1977, 1997) presented four broad antecedents of self-efficacy beliefs: mastery experiences, vicarious modelling (or influences), verbal persuasion, and physiological and affective states. According to Bandura, the strongest antecedents of self-efficacy beliefs are mastery experiences in a given task, activity, or domain —that is, having experienced some personal-, normative-, or task-referenced 'success' in the endeavour in question. In addition, though, self-efficacy beliefs may also be bolstered by (a) observing similar models successfully performing, or coping with, task-related demands (vicarious modelling/influence); (b) having important others convey positive competence-based feedback about our capabilities (verbal persuasion); and (c) being in an optimal physiological (e.g., heartbeat, breathing rate) or affective (e.g., happy, calm) state. It is also worth noting that imaginal experiences (e.g., mental rehearsal, imagery techniques) have separately been described as an additional source of self-efficacy beliefs (Maddux, 1995).

An appreciation of the sources of self-efficacy beliefs provides valuable insight into the ways through which researchers and practitioners might intervene to bolster athletes' or exercisers' beliefs in their capabilities. The motive for developing such strategies, however, is grounded in the array of positive outcomes with which self-efficacy beliefs have often been shown to be associated. Sport and exercise psychologists have long investigated the differences between successful and unsuccessful athletes/exercisers, with a particular research emphasis devoted to understanding how self-efficacious athletes and exercisers differ from their counterparts who experience greater self-doubt. A central tenet within the self-efficacy theory is that strong self-efficacy beliefs play a significant role in driving adaptive motivational and behavioural outcomes (see Bandura, 1997). At a between-person level (i.e., across individuals), those with strong self-efficacy perceptions have been shown to report increased physical activity participation in a variety of healthy (e.g., Bauman et al., 2012; Chen, Sun, & Dai, 2017; Gillison et al., 2017; Wang, Fan, Zhao, Yang, & Fu, 2016) and specific populations, such as those living with multiple sclerosis (Casey et al., 2018) and those living with psychosis and diabetes (Gorczynski, Vancampfort, & Patel, 2018). Self-efficacy has also been shown to be associated with better performance in sport (Baretta, Greco, & Steca, 2017; Moritz, Feltz, Fahrbach, & Mack, 2000), increased motivation toward learning a behaviour (Colquitt, LePine, & Noe, 2000; Salas & Cannon-Bowers, 2001), greater effort (George, 1994; Hutchinson, Sherman, Martinovic, & Tenenbaum, 2008), increased use of sport-related mental skills (e.g., attentional control, self-talk, relaxation, imagery, goal-setting, and emotional control; Ortega & Wang, 2018), and more positive affective states in sport and exercise (George, 1994; Rudolph & Butki, 1998). Self-efficacious individuals have also been shown to demonstrate greater optimism (Kavussanu & McAuley, 1995), anticipate less negative outcomes (Cartoni, Minganti, & Zelli, 2005), set more challenging goals (Boyce & Bingham, 1997; Kane, Marks, Zaccaro, & Blair, 1996), react less negatively to adversity or failure (Brown, Malouff, & Schutte, 2005), overcome barriers to physical activity (Smith, Williams, O'donnell, & McKechnie, 2017), and display resilience in the face of negative feedback (Nease, Mudgett, & Quiñones, 1999). Finally, self-efficacy may also align with increased health-related quality of life in people with cardiovascular disease (Banik, Schwarzer, Knoll, Czekierda, & Luszczynska, 2018) and with mental and physical health in older adults (Mudrak, Stochl, Slepicka, & Elavsky, 2016).

In sum, perceptions of agency are recognized in many prominent motivational and behavioural theories, and, as Bandura prophesized in the title of his 1977 article, the construct has indeed provided a 'unifying' framework to drive research efforts in sport and exercise. As a result, well-established evidence exists regarding the development and implications associated with self-efficacy, particularly at the between-person level. The abundance of research attention directed to this construct over the last four decades, however, does not mean that self-efficacy research has become dormant today. In fact, there have been several interesting findings presented in recent years to challenge and/or advance what is known about the construct. Detailed overviews of many of these issues are provided in recent work (interested readers are encouraged to consult Bandura, 2012, 2015; Jackson, Beauchamp, & Dimmock, 2020), and it is neither necessary nor practical for us to restate those criticisms and challenges here. Instead, for the rest of this chapter, we direct our attention to highlighting one specific issue (or, more appropriately, group of related issues) that has been the subject of increasing debate in the self-efficacy literature in recent years—that is, the existence and implications of self-efficacy 'miscalibration'.

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