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  • Sum2013 Self-Efficacy and Social Cognitive Theory
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Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory emphasizes how cognitive, behavioral, personal, and environmental factors interact to determine motivation and behavior (Crothers, Hughes, & Morine, 2008). Each of these three categories plays an important role, and each one differentiating in weight to different individuals. The Social Cognitive Theory is composed of four areas of goal realization: self-observation, self-evaluation, self-reaction and self-efficacy. Together, these all greatly influence motivation. Self-observation can simply be said as observing yourself. There are two important factors regarding self-observation: regularity and proximity.  Regularity means the behavior should be continually observed, and proximity means the behavior should be observed while it occurs, or shortly after. Alone, self-observation is insufficient because motivation depends on one’s expectations of outcomes and efficacy (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). Self-evaluation is the comparison of where you are presently to where you would like to be. This is the stage where much of the goal setting takes place. Self-reaction is the way you feel about your progress. This can either be positive or negative. Negative doesn’t necessarily mean bad; in fact it can motivate and push individuals even farther. If the experience is positive, individuals often raise the bar even higher. Self-efficacy refers to individual’s judgments about their capability to perform particular tasks. Task-related self-efficacy increases the effort and persistence towards challenging tasks; therefore, increasing the likelihood that they will be completed" (Barling & Beattie, 1983).

Looking at the importance of self-efficacy beliefs in the workplace for employee and organizational development we developed scenarios based on Bandura’s (1977) four factors of self-efficacy: positive outcomes, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological feedback (PSU WC, L7,  6).  These four sources have been shown to have a significant impact on the organization, and an individual’s personal motivation and performance according the analyses of Lunenburg (2011).

Self-efficacy vs. Self esteem 

Self-efficacy is the belief about the possibility of ones success, while self esteem is a more general term used to describe a persons confidence level. To be more specific, self-efficacy is a persons belief about how capable they are at preforming a task, while self-esteem explains the individuals personal confidence.   


David is a 28 year old man that is currently working for a computer software company. He was been working there for 5 years. Although he started working for the company as an intern right out of college, he is still working as a entry level software development engineer. The company has been doing well and has intentions of expanding. Due to this expansion new jobs are will be available. David feels like he is ready to move up and become a manager.

Case Study

Positive Outcomes:

David has an extremely high feeling of self-efficacy given his past experiences. David was able to achieve a 3.75 GPA while completing his computer engineering degree and made the Dean’s List several times. During his internship, David was placed in situations where he was in charge of leading group internship projects. David feels that the projects were extremely successful and he has been given more and more responsibility during his five years at the company. Based on his past successes David believes that he is more than ready to be a successful manager and leader for his company.

Vicarious Experiences:

During David’s internship and five years at the company he has seen several other people complete the path he is currently on en route to being a successful manager. When David first started his internship, a man by the name of Mark was completing his second year of working full time for the company. Mark had the same degree and similar college success and was the top intern during his internship. Mark was continually given more responsibility as his experience grew and about half way through his sixth year was promoted to be manager. Mark has gone on to become one of the top managers in the company and is up for promotion with the new expansions taking place. Based on Mark’s success and given that he has had similar experiences to David, David has a high self-efficacy that he will be able to be a successful manager.

Verbal Persuasion:

David has voiced his interest in seeking a management role with the new expansions to his current supervisor. David’s current supervisor told David that he would be a perfect manager candidate, that he would do a great job, and encouraged him to do everything necessary to obtain that position. Also, David received an email from the supervisor he had during his internship. The former supervisor told David that he is extremely confident in David’s competence of computer software engineering and his great uncanny ability to lead. The email also contained several other compliments and encouraged David to pursue a manager position. Due to the persuasion from other people within the company David has high self-efficacy that he will be a successful manager.

Physiological Feedback:

David has spent a lot of time contemplating the potential move to a manager position. Every time that David thinks about this move he feels and strange mix of passion, excitement, calm, and confidence.  David feels a sense of passion and excitement for the type of manager he would be and also some of the programs he would institute to insure his teams productivity. At the same time David feels extremely calm and confident in his abilities to handle whatever situations may arise that manager’s encounter. Due to his physiological responses/feedback coupled with the other sources of self-efficacy, David has a high self-efficacy that he will become a successful manager.


Human behavior can be motivated by a number of factors which can be direct and indirect. One of the biggest contributors to moving someone to action is self-efficacy.  When one believes they can overcome obstacles, setbacks, and failures or achieve greatness through learning a new task or promotion they are less likely to give up until they master the challenge.  The outcomes depend largely on the individual’s perception and beliefs about expectations and outcomes. Those with high self-efficacy will expect to receive favorable reviews, and get the job promotion applied for as opposed to someone with low self-efficacy which would expect a negative outcome.

The degree of one’s self-efficacy may determine whether or not they move to the next level in their education or career regardless of available opportunities. The workplace can help improve employee self-efficacy by providing modeling of effective co-workers, providing feedback, coaching and development, and supportive communication.

The above scenarios show how having all four factors working at the same time can lead to a higher level of self-efficacy and drive motivation for an employee to take action towards greater personal and professional development. While David had the advantage of a predecessor setting an example of how to move up in the organization, and received a high level of encouragement regarding his abilities, it was his own prior successes that had the greatest impact on his motivation to pursue the management position.    

Because of the implications in the workplace, understanding self-efficacy theory is important for employees, human resource personnel and those in leadership positions. Self-efficacy is taken into consideration for hiring, promotions, training and development, as well as, goal setting (Lunenburg, 2011). 


Barling, J. & Beattie, R. (1983). Self-efficacy beliefs and sales performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. 5, 41-51.

Crothers, L. M., Hughes, T. L., & Morine, K. A. (2008). Theory and cases in school-based consultation: A resource for school psychologists, school counselors, special educators, and other mental health professionals. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, New York. Retrieved from

Lunenburg, F. (2011). Self-Efficacy in the Workplace: Implications for Motivation and Performance. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration. Retrieved from

PSU World Campus, 2013, Psych 484 Work Attitudes and Motivation, Lesson 7. Retrieved from

Zimmerman, B., & Schunk, D. (2001). Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement. (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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