In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Self-Efficacy

  • Introduction
  • Reference Resource
  • Journals
  • Social Cognitive Theory
  • Education

Psychology Self-Efficacy
James E. Maddux, Evan Kleiman, Jennifer T. Gosselin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0088


Self-efficacy theory was first described by Albert Bandura in 1977 in an article in the journal Psychological Review titled “Self-Efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change” (cited under General Overviews). Bandura defined self-efficacy beliefs (or expectancies) as the beliefs regarding one’s ability to perform the tasks that one views as necessary for attaining valued goals. He proposed that self-efficacy beliefs are among the most important determinants of human behavior and offered self-efficacy theory as a unifying theory for all types of behavior change, including the effects of psychological interventions and psychotherapy. He contrasted self-efficacy expectancies, concerning one’s abilities to perform behaviors, with outcome expectancies, which are concerned with the expected results of the behaviors that one performs. Bandura proposed that self-efficacy beliefs are the most important and powerful of the two in influencing people’s decisions to attempt or not attempt certain behaviors and to persist in the face of obstacles. Bandura proposed that self-efficacy beliefs developed from four main sources: (1) performance attainments and failures—what we try to do and how well we succeed or not; (2) vicarious performances—what we see other people do; (3) verbal persuasion—what people tell us about what we are able or not able to do; and (4) imaginal performances—what we imagine ourselves doing and how well or poorly we imagine ourselves doing it. Since the publication of the 1977 article, self-efficacy theory has guided thousands of studies in psychological and related fields such as social work, public health, education, medicine, nursing, communications, organizational behavior, and management. These studies have examined the role of self-efficacy beliefs in just about every imaginable behavior of interest or relevance to human beings. The list of topics selected for this article is not exhaustive. These topics were selected because they have been among the most frequent topics of research. In addition, the readings listed in this article were chosen because they are either reviews or summaries on the research on that topic or representative of the types of studies that address the topic. Finally, preference was given to more recent studies because they represent current knowledge and contain in their references sections citations of previous studies that need not be listed here.

General Overviews

This section provides articles, book chapters, and books that provide general overviews of self-efficacy theory and reviews of self-efficacy research. The reader who is unfamiliar with self-efficacy theory and research should begin with one or two of the journal articles or chapters before tackling one of the books.

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