Self Confidence and Self-Efficacy

Having watched Usain Bolt once again dominate the world of athletics, my thoughts turned to the psychology of his performances. Without doubt he is a very confident man. If would appear from watching Bolt that this confidence is an essential element of successful performance.


The major purpose of any motivational technique used by a coach/teacher is to improve the self-confidence of the performer. Self-confidence is defined as a person’s belief that they have the ability to meet the demands of a particular sporting situation.


Self-confidence may be the most important cognitive factor in sport. Most participants recognise the importance of a positive attitude. Coaches and teachers tell performers to “think like a winner”, or “believe in yourself”.


Research has regularly shown that the most consistent difference between elite and less successful athletes is that the elite athletes have greater self-confidence. It would seem that there could well be performance benefits in increasing an individual’s self-confidence.


Bandura called situation-specific self-confidence, self-efficacy.


In an exam, if there if a question asking for an explanation of the term self-efficacy, it is often a 2 mark question. This is because you are expected to define both self-efficacy as situation-specific self-confidence, and then to elaborate on that by also defining self-confidence as a belief in your ability to meet demands.


Self-confidence is a more general, all-round and stable personality characteristic. Self-efficacy, which is specific to a given time and setting, may vary considerably.


For example, consider a badminton player, who may well feel very confident in playing a match against an opponent who he has played and defeated many times before. But if he/she then has to play the area champion in the next round, he/she could well be feeling less confident.


Bandura suggested that self-efficacy can predict actual performance when the necessary skills and appropriate incentives are present. He further suggested that efficacy expectations are the primary determinants of choice of activity, level of effort and degree of persistence.


Further research has suggested that people will be more likely to engage in activities that they believe they can successfully perform, and avoid activities in which they feel that they will be unsuccessful.


People with high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to pursue challenging goals, cope with pain, and persevere through setbacks, while those with low self-efficacy avoid challenges and tend to give up when confronted with obstacles


The theory implies that all the various techniques used by coaches and performers to improve performance, do so because they effect self-efficacy.


Efficacy expectations develop and are changed, through four major types of information:


  1. Performance accomplishments
  2. Vicarious experiences
  3. Verbal persuasion
  4. Emotional arousal


Performance accomplishments are how well you have done previously and provides the most dependable information for self-efficacy, and has the best effect for improving self-efficacy.


In general, if you consistently achieve success at a skill, then self-efficacy beliefs will increase, while if the past attempts involves repeated failures, self-efficacy beliefs will decrease.


Success in a more difficult task will enhance efficacy more than in an easy one. Early success in performing a task, rather than initial failure, will also enhance efficacy. Similarly, achieving success independently is better than with the support of others.


Learning through vicarious experience, or modelling, is the process through which people learn by watching someone else successfully perform the desired task. Watching someone of similar ability to yourself achieve success increases your own confidence of potential success, thus leading to higher self-efficacy beliefs.


The sight of seeing another person being successful at a skill often reduces anxiety and convinces others of its possibilities. If the successful ‘model’ is a peer, then the vicarious experience will have a more powerful effect on the observer’s self efficacy.


This is why the demonstrations, especially by a fellow student, as a form of guidance is a well-established teaching aid.


Vicarious experience is not as effective at improving self-efficacy as is actually doing the skill yourself, but it does help.


Verbal persuasion can help encourage a performer’s self-efficacy, but the effects are less than performance accomplishments or vicarious experiences.


Verbal persuasion can come in the form of feedback and speeches given by coaches or others, expectations of others, or even self-talk. Confidence in your own abilities can be influenced by the encouragement (or discouragement), of other people, especially those whose opinions are greatly respected (i.e. peers, significant others, superiors).


Emotional arousal is how you interpret you own arousal. Bandura suggests that arousal affects behaviour through efficacy expectations. In other words, if you feel your heart beating and your knees shaking prior to performing, you might feel less confident.


Over arousal will hinder performance by making the performer less confident in their actions. Anxiety-reducing techniques should therefore increase self-efficacy, but the individual’s interpretation of arousal must also be considered.


Research into Bandura’s self-efficacy model has found that self-efficacy alone cannot predict performance. Other aspects of performance like skill level, incentives, as well as other cognitive processes have to be taken into consideration.


Strategies to increase SELF EFFICACY


1. Ensure the individual gains performance accomplishment. The tasks should be appropriately difficult, but with a high probability of success, provide little outside help, and ensure early successes. This may require some manipulation of the environment (ensure your competitions can be won and your training drills can be achieved).


2. If using vicarious experiences to increase self-efficacy, teachers should use models that are both similar to the individual and competent in the given skill. In addition, using a model who is not perfect at the skill, rather than an expert at the skill, appears to be more effective for increasing efficacy for performing a physical activity.


3. Teachers who attempt to improve self-efficacy through verbal persuasion should focus on making feedback realistic, individually tailored, and related to the individuals’ skill level in the activity. For beginners, feedback should focus on the progress made so far. Feedback consisting of comparisons to others should be avoided. Self-talk strategies for self-persuasion is another way of increasing efficacy beliefs.


4. Increasing self-efficacy through emotional arousal is harder than the previous suggestions, probably because of the difficulty in changing arousal levels. Once you have formed a perception of your level of arousal, it is difficult to reliably change that perception. Teachers who are trying to teach new skills should focus on providing information regarding the expectations associated with the new skill, such as soreness, muscle fatigue, etc., so that the individual will judge their arousal levels in a more positive light, hopefully increasing efficacy beliefs.


5. Effective goal setting can increase self-efficacy achieved through ensuring the individuals goals are achievable so as to ensure success and develop performance accomplishments. The goals should also emphasise individual performance targets, rather than group or team targets.


6. Routines ensure the individual achieves control of their arousal before a sporting performance. A tennis player may have a pre-competition routine, a routine between games and routines for each serve.

7. Mental rehearsal can have a similar benefit to the use of routines in controlling arousal, with the added bonus that visualisation techniques can increase self-efficacy through recalling performance accomplishments.


What causes a reduction in self-efficacy?


1. Lack of success, which may lead to learned helplessness and the need for attribution retraining


2. When the coaches goal-setting becomes too ‘outcome’ oriented rather than performer oriented, i.e., the coaches desire to win a championship results in unrealistically high expectations of the performer.


3. The feedback from the coach becomes too negative which will have the effect of verbal persuasion


4. The external rewards are restricted to the “best” performers rather than to all who achieve their targets.



Summarise the content above and produce a bulleted list of suitable responses for the following questions:


(a)Most elite performers have tremendous confidence in their own ability. Explain how such high levels of self-efficacy may enhance performance? (4 marks)


(b)If a performer lacks confidence, how could a coach help improve their self-confidence?(5 marks)


(c)What do you understand by the term self-efficacy?(2 marks)


(d)How may a coach make vicarious experiences a suitable method for improving self-efficacy?(2 marks)


(e)How does high self-efficacy help a performer to produce better performances?(3 marks)

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