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«GUIDE FOR CONSTRUCTING SELF-EFFICACY SCALES Albert Bandura A. BANDURA Perceived self-efficacy is concerned with people’s beliefs in their ...»

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Albert Bandura


Perceived self-efficacy is concerned with people’s beliefs in their capabilities to produce given attainments (Bandura, 1997). One cannot be all

things, which would require mastery of every realm of human life. People

differ in the areas in which they cultivate their efficacy and in the levels to

which they develop it even within their given pursuits. For example, a business executive may have a high sense of organizational efficacy but low parenting efficacy. Thus, the efficacy belief system is not a global trait but a differentiated set of self-beliefs linked to distinct realms of functioning. Multidomain measures reveal the patterning and degree of generality of people’s sense of personal efficacy.

There is no all-purpose measure of perceived self-efficacy. The “one measure fits all” approach usually has limited explanatory and predictive value because most of the items in an all-purpose test may have little or no relevance to the domain of functioning. Moreover, in an effort to serve all purposes, items in such a measure are usually cast in general terms divorced from the situational demands and circumstances. This leaves much ambiguity about exactly what is being measured or the level of task and situational demands that must be managed. Scales of perceived selfSelf-Efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents, 307–337 Copyright © 2005 by Information Age Publishing All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

Note that this date is incorrect.

The book was published in 2006.

308 A. BANDURA efficacy must be tailored to the particular domain of functioning that is the object of interest.

Although efficacy beliefs are multifaceted, social cognitive theory identifies several conditions under which they may co-vary even across distinct domains of functioning (Bandura, 1997). When different spheres of activity are governed by similar sub-skills there is some interdomain relation in perceived efficacy. Proficient performance is partly guided by higher-order self-regulatory skills. These include generic skills for diagnosing task demands, constructing and evaluating alternative courses of action, setting proximal goals to guide one’s efforts, and creating self-incentives to sustain engagement in taxing activities and to manage stress and debilitating intrusive thoughts. Generic self-management strategies developed in one realm of activity are serviceable in other activity domains with resulting co-variation in perceived efficacy among them.

Co-development is still another correlative process. Even if different activity domains are not sub-served by common sub-skills, the same perceived efficacy can occur if development of competencies is socially structured so that skills in dissimilar domains are developed together.

For example, students are likely to develop similarly high perceived selfefficacy in dissimilar academic subjects, such as language and mathematics in superior schools, but similarly low perceived efficacy in ineffective schools, which do not promote much academic learning in any subject matter.

And finally, powerful mastery experiences that provide striking testimony to one’s capacity to effect personal changes can produce a transformational restructuring of efficacy beliefs that is manifested across diverse realms of functioning. Extraordinary personal feats serve as transforming experiences.

The conceptual and methodological issues regarding the nature and structure of self-efficacy scales are discussed in detail in Chapter 2 in the book Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control and will not be reviewed here. The present guide for constructing self-efficacy scales supplements that conceptual and empirical analysis.

Content Validity

Efficacy items should accurately reflect the construct. Self-efficacy is concerned with perceived capability. The items should be phrased in terms of can do rather than will do. Can is a judgment of capability; will is a statement of intention. Perceived self-efficacy is a major determiGuide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales 309 nant of intention, but the two constructs are conceptually and empirically separable.

Perceived self-efficacy should also be distinguished from other constructs such as self-esteem, locus of control, and outcome expectancies. Perceived efficacy is a judgment of capability; self-esteem is a judgment of selfworth. They are entirely different phenomena. Locus of control is concerned, not with perceived capability, but with belief about outcome contingencies—whether outcomes are determined by one’s actions or by forces outside one’s control. High locus of control does not necessarily signify a sense of enablement and well-being. For example, students may believe that high academic grades are entirely dependent on their performance (high locus of control) but feel despondent because they believe they lack the efficacy to produce those superior academic performances.

Another important distinction concerns performance outcome expectations. Perceived self-efficacy is a judgment of capability to execute given types of performances; outcome expectations are judgments about the outcomes that are likely to flow from such performances. Outcome expectations take three different forms (Bandura, 1986). They include the positive and negative physical, social, and self-evaluative outcomes. Within each form, the positive expectations serve as incentives, the negative ones as disincentives. The outcomes people anticipate depend largely on their judgments of how well they will be able to perform in given situations.

Perceived efficacy plays a key role in human functioning because it affects behavior not only directly, but by its impact on other determinants such as goals and aspirations, outcome expectations, affective proclivities, and perception of impediments and opportunities in the social environment (Bandura, 1995, 1997). Efficacy beliefs influence whether people think erratically or strategically, optimistically or pessimistically. They also influence the courses of action people choose to pursue, the challenges and goals they set for themselves and their commitment to them, how much effort they put forth in given endeavors, the outcomes they expect their efforts to produce, how long they persevere in the face of obstacles, their resilience to adversity, the quality of their emotional life and how much stress and depression they experience in coping with taxing environmental demands, and the life choices they make and the accomplishments they realize. Meta-analyses across different spheres of functioning confirm the influential role of perceived self-efficacy in human self-development, adaptation, and change (Boyer et al., 2000; Holden, 1991;

Holden, Moncher, Schinke, & Barker, 1990; Moritz, Feltz, Fahrbach, & Mack, 2000; Multon, Brown, & Lent, 1991; Sadri & Robertson, 1993; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998).


Domain Specification and Conceptual Analysis ofSelf-Efficacy Multicausality

The construction of sound efficacy scales relies on a good conceptual analysis of the relevant domain of functioning. Knowledge of the activity domain specifies which aspects of personal efficacy should be measured.

Consider the self-management of weight as an example. Weight is determined by what people eat, by their level of exercise, which burns calories and can raise the body’s metabolism, and by genetic factors that regulate metabolic processes. A comprehensive self-efficacy assessment would be linked to the behavioral factors over which people can exercise some control. This would include perceived capability to regulate the foods that are purchased, to exercise control over eating habits, and to adopt and stick to an increased level of physical activity. Behavior is better predicted by people’s beliefs in their capabilities to do whatever is needed to succeed than by their beliefs in only one aspect of self-efficacy relevant to the domain. In the present example, perceived self-efficacy will account for more of the variation in weight if the assessment includes perceived capability to regulate food purchases, eating habits, and physical exercise than if it is confined solely to eating habits.

The preceding example further illustrates how different facets of perceived efficacy operating within a domain may weigh in more heavily in different phases of a given pursuit. Perceived efficacy to purchase healthful foods that make it easier to manage one’s weight accounts for daily caloric and fat intake prior to treatment when self-regulatory skills are infirm. After self-regulatory skills are developed, however, perceived efficacy to curb overeating maintains reduced caloric and fat intake, and perceived efficacy to manage what one brings home fades in importance.

Apparently, savory foods are not a problem as long as one can eat them in moderation. If negative affect triggers overeating, assessment of perceived efficacy for affect regulation will explain additional variance in selfmanagement of weight. Thus, multifaceted efficacy scales not only have predictive utility but provide insights into the dynamics of self-management of behavior.

If self-efficacy scales are targeted to factors that, in fact, have little or no impact on the domain of functioning, such research cannot yield a predictive relation. If, for example, relaxation does not affect drug use, then perceived self-efficacy to relax will be unrelated to consumption of drugs because the causal theory is faulty. Under these circumstances, negative findings will reflect faulty theory rather than limitations of self-efficacy beliefs. In short, self-efficacy scales must be tailored to activity domains and assess the multifaceted ways in which efficacy beliefs operate within the selected activity domain. The efficacy scales must be linked to Guide for Constructing Self-Efficacy Scales 311 factors that, in fact, determine quality of functioning in the domain of interest.

Gradations of Challenge Perceived efficacy should be measured against levels of task demands that represent gradations of challenges or impediments to successful performance. Self-efficacy appraisals reflect the level of difficulty individuals believe they can surmount. If there are no obstacles to overcome, the activity is easily performable and everyone is highly efficacious.

The events over which personal influence is exercised can vary widely.

It may entail regulating one’s own motivation, thought processes, performance level, emotional states, or altering environmental conditions. The content domain should correspond to the area of functioning one seeks to manage. The nature of the challenges against which personal efficacy is judged will vary depending on the sphere of activity. Challenges may be graded in terms of level of ingenuity, exertion, accuracy, productivity, threat, or self-regulation required, just to mention a few dimensions of performance demands.

Many areas of functioning are primarily concerned with self-regulatory efficacy to guide and motivate oneself to get things done that one knows how to do. In such instances, self-regulation is the capability of interest. The issue is not whether one can do the activities occasionally, but whether one has the efficacy to get oneself to do them regularly in the face of different types of dissuading conditions. For example, in the measurement of perceived self-efficacy to stick to a health-promoting exercise routine, individuals judge how well they can get themselves to exercise regularly under various impediments, such as when they are under pressure from work, are tired or depressed, are in foul weather, or when they have other commitments or more interesting things to do (see Appendix).

Constructing scales to assess self-regulatory efficacy requires preliminary work to identify the forms the challenges and impediments take.

People are asked in open-ended interviews and pilot questionnaires to describe the things that make it hard for them to perform the required activities regularly. The identified challenges or impediments are built into the efficacy items. In the formal scale, participants judge their ability to meet the challenges or to surmount the various impediments. Sufficient gradations of difficulties should be built into the efficacy items to avoid ceiling effects.


Response Scale

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