In later elaborations, the scope of social learning theory was amplified to include self-efficacy theory. Self-efficacy is now considered the principal mechanism of behavior change, in that all successful interventions are assumed to operate by strengthening a person's self-perceived efficacy to cope with difficulties.
How can self-efficacy be strengthened? Research indicates that it is influenced by four sources of information. The most important influence comes from performance attainments, with successes heightening and failures lowering perceived self-efficacy. Thus, having people enact and master a difficult task most powerfully increases their efficacy percepts. A second influence comes from vicarious experiences. Exposing people to models works because seeing people similar to oneself successfully perform a difficult task raises one's own efficacy expectations. Verbal persuasion is a third way of influencing self-efficacy. Convincing people that they have the ability to perform a task can encourage them to try harder, which indeed may lead to successful performance. Finally, teaching people coping strategies to lower emotional arousal can also increase self-efficacy. If subsequently they approach a task more calmly, the likelihood of succeeding at it may increase.
Bandura and his associates conducted a series of studies to test the idea that vastly different modes of influence all improve coping behavior by strengthening self-perceived efficacy. Severe snake phobics received interventions based on enactive, vicarious, cognitive, or emotive treatment (a method of personality change that incorporates cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies, designed to help resist tendencies to be irrational, suggestible, and conforming) modalities. The results confirmed that the degree to which people changed their behavior toward the reptiles was closely associated with increases in self-judged efficacy, regardless of the method of intervention. It is now widely accepted among social learning theorists that all effective therapies ultimately work by strengthening people's self-perceptions of efficacy.
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