Bandura's social-cognitive theory emphasizes that people are capable of self-regulation, or controlling their own behavior. There are three parts to the self-regulation process:
• Self-observation—This involves observing and tracking one's own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
• Judgment—This involves comparing oneself to standards. The standards can be set either by oneself or by others.
• Self-response—This involves giving oneself rewards for doing well compared to the standards, or punishments for doing poorly. In general, self-rewards work better than self-punishments.
The three basic principles can be applied to changing almost any undesirable thought or behavior pattern. For example, if a person's problem is an unre-alistically low sense of self-efficacy when doing some task, the following steps might help:
• Self-observation—The person should monitor her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when doing the task in question. For example, if the problem is an unreasonably low sense of self-efficacy for doing math, the person might keep a journal in which she writes down all her negative thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions whenever she is called on in math class, doing math homework, or taking a math test.
• Judgment—The person should make sure her standards for the task are appropriate. If they are too high, she may be setting herself up for failure. If they are too low, on the other hand, she may be shortchanging herself. For example, if the best grade a person has received so far in math class is a C, she might aim for a B on the next test. Aiming for an A+ right off the bat might be too difficult to attain, but aiming for a C+ might be too easy to make much difference.
• Self-response—The person should find ways to celebrate her successes when doing the task, not dwell on her failures. When the person makes a B
on the math test, for instance, she should tell herself what a great job she has done. She might also give herself a little treat, such as buying a new CD, going for a bike ride with a friend, or watching her favorite movie again.
For students, a somewhat optimistic view of one's own abilities can make a world of difference. As Bandura wrote in Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies: "The higher the students' beliefs in their efficacy to regulate their own motivation and learning activities, the more assured they are in their efficacy to master academic subjects. Perceived academic efficacy, in turn, promotes intellectual achievement both directly and by raising academic aspirations."
Moreover, Bandura says that students "who have a high sense of efficacy to regulate their own learning and to master academic skills behave more proso-cially, are more popular, and experience less rejection by their peers than do [students] who believe they lack these forms of academic efficacy." Clearly, self-efficacy beliefs can have wide-ranging effects. Bandura has been the driving force in explaining what these effects are and how they can be changed through self-regulation.
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