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Self-Efficacy Beliefs and Expectancies – Psychology Essay

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2020

Self-efficacy is a theoretical measure of an individual’ belief that he or she can attain certain goals and handle certain tasks (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). It is important in every aspect of human conduct and endeavor. Self-efficacy determines the beliefs and expectancies of an individual in the control of situations and circumstances. It affects human function in several fields including motivation, health behaviors, academic achievement, and choices (Phan, 2012).

It determines how individuals approach tasks, challenges, goals, and other life situations. Factors that affect self-efficacy include social persuasion, physiological factors, and experience (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). Individuals with high self-efficacy have positive approaches towards problems and challenges. They view them as things that should be mastered rather than shunned. People with high self-efficacy believe that they can perform well and succeed. Moreover, they have high expectations of their potential and they rarely think of failure because they believe in their potential (Machumu, 2011).

The expectancy theory states that an individual choose to act in a certain way or to make a certain decision because of the outcomes they expect to achieve. People choose certain behavior s based on the desirability of expected results (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). The theory is based on use of mental processes to make decisions. According to Bandura, there are four main sources of self-efficacy. These include mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological state (Machumu, 2011).

Mastery experience refers to individual responses with regard to success and failure. For example, if a student passes an evaluation test in class, the experience of passing that test will be enough to convince them that they will pass the second test. That success will make them believe in their ability to pass the second test, and will thus expect good results. Vicarious experiences emanate from observing the experiences of other people. An individual develops the belief that they can achieve highly by observing other people overcome challenges (Machumu, 2011).

The belief is created by the success of other people. Verbal persuasion involves use of verbal words to convince someone that they can attain their goals. People get motivated through verbal advice and thereby develop beliefs that they can handle tasks. This raises their expectations of what they anticipate. Positive messages raise an individual’s efficacy expectations while negative messages lower the expectations (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). Finally, physiological states such as anxiety and sweating are reflections of an individual’s level of self-efficacy. People become nervous when they face challenges that they think they cannot overcome. The belief that one cannot overcome a challenge or attain a goal affects the performance of the individual.

Expectancy refers to the belief that the effort applied towards a certain task will give desired results (Machumu, 2011). It is usually founded on factors such as self-confidence, complexity of a task, past experiences in achieving goals and handling tasks, and perception. Individuals perceive goals and tasks as difficult when they set very high goals that fail to match their beliefs and potential. When individuals expect too much of themselves, their perceptions change. A strong perception of self-efficacy motivates individuals to work hard and to persevere.

However, it may affect performance and the outcome. Individuals with high self-efficacy may forego prior preparation because of the belief that they will automatically attain their goals (Machumu, 2011). High levels of self-efficacy are responsible for perseverance and pertinacity because individuals hold the belief that they possess the potential to attain success. On the other hand, individuals with low levels of self-efficacy possess negative perceptions.

They perceive tasks and goals as difficult, and therefore hold the belief that they cannot achieve the desired outcomes (Machumu, 2011). This creates anxiety and fear in them, thus narrowing their expectations. They equate their negative perceptions and low expectations to failure. While individuals with low efficacy equate failure to inability, individuals with high self-efficacy equate failure to inadequate effort.

According to the expectancy theory, people behave and act according to their expectations or beliefs and personal evaluations of situations (Machumu, 2011). Individuals choose behaviors or actions based on expected outcomes, and their value. Therefore, human behavior, attitudes, choices, and decisions are subject to individual expectations (Phan, 2012). Self-efficacy determines people’s expectations or belief. If an individual has high self-efficacy, he or she will believe in his/her abilities and will have great expectations. However, if an individual has low self-efficacy, he/she will not believe in his or her ability, and will have low expectations that will affect performance (Phan, 2012).

Belief is an important building block of self-efficacy. People who believe in their ability to achieve goals are confident and usually harbor great expectations (Phan, 2012). However, individuals who do not believe in their ability to attain goals are usually anxious, fearful, and they harbor low expectations. There is a relationship between anxiety and self-efficacy. Anxious individuals have low self-efficacy and shun difficult tasks and goals. In contrast, people without anxiety have high self-efficacy because they believe in their ability to achieve goals (Machumu, 2011).

Bandura observed that individuals who do not believe in their potential experience high levels of anxiety. According to Phan (2012), individuals with high levels of anxiety perform poorly and fail to attain their goals because of low expectations and lack of confidence. Such individuals avoid tasks because of the ingrained belief that they will fail. Research has revealed that anxiety usually results from perceptions of inefficacity and the belief of inability to handle difficult tasks (Phan, 2012). The achievement of goals in life requires great amounts of self-belief and confidence in one’s abilities. Self-belief leads to high expectations, which consequently lead to high self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is defined as the belief that an individual will achieve certain goals and objectives. High self-efficacy translates to good performance and self-confidence. In contrast, low self-efficacy translates to poor performance and lack of confidence. Low-self efficacy causes fear and anxiety which affects performance. It is important for individuals to believe in their potential and have great expectations. Self-efficacy determines how people perceive challenges and tasks. This depends on past experiences, self-confidence, and physiological factors.


Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. 92013). Personality: Theory and Research, 12th Ed. New York: Wiley Global Education.

Machumu, H. (2011). Self-efficacy, Self-monitoring, and Self-esteem. New York: GRIN Verlag.

Phan, H. (2012). Trajectories of Self-efficacy Goals: A development Approach. Journal of Educational and Development Psychology, 2(2), 110-122.

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