Bandura argues that there are 'four main sources of influence' on the development of self-efficacy.
i. ‘Mastery experiences’
According to Bandura this is the most important of the four sources of influence. Essentially what this means is cultivating a sense of ‘mastery’ by successfully achieving goals. What is particularly important here is having goals which an individual must work hard to achieve but which are ultimately achievable. Bandura writes:
If people experience only easy successes they come to expect quick results and are easily discouraged by failure. A resilient sense of efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through perseverant effort. Some setbacks and difficulties in human pursuits serve a useful purpose in teaching that success usually requires sustained effort. After people become convinced they have what it takes to succeed, they persevere in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks. By sticking it out through tough times, they emerge stronger from adversity.
This is why the self-esteem movement’s desire to praise children for easy accomplishments, or to protect them from failure, has backfired and robbed children of the opportunities to experience real mastery and build feelings of efficacy. It is important to realise, however, that this does not do away with the importance of psychology for achievement. What often matters is how people feel about their success. It is the feeling of having mastered something, not the actual achievement, that is important.
ii. ‘Vicarious experiences’
Essentially what is at stake here is success being modelled by those with whom you can identify. It is not enough for another person to achieve (eg an Olympic athlete) as it is the success of people who are like us in some way that is motivating. Presumably this is why reality TV shows, featuring ordinary people becoming ballet dancers or opera singers, are so appealing. What is more, these role models can help others learn the skills, acquire the knowledge and develop the strategies required for success.
iii. ‘Social persuasion’
Bandura argues that individuals’ self-efficacy can be encouraged if they are persuaded by others that ‘they have what it takes to succeed’. He recognises, however, that it is easier to encourage people to believe that they do not have the than it is to strengthen people’s belief that they can succeed. Social persuasion is not just about giving verbal encouragement, as we shall see below, it is also about providing the right context for development.
iv. ‘Somatic and emotional states’
This refers to people’s moods and the way they respond to stress. For example, if people see aches and pains as a sign of weakness rather than a challenge then it their performance. If they see tension and stress as negative again it will affect their feelings of efficacy. So one of the ways to increase efficacy is to learn how to cope and improve your emotional state.