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Self efficacy

Author: Dr Simon Moss


The concept of self efficacy emanated from social cognitive theory, proposed by Bandura (1986, 2001). Self efficacy reflects the extent to which individuals perceive themselves as capable of implemented the sequences of acts that are needed to fulfil some goal or perform some task effectively. Such self efficacy is often regarded as a key determinant of success and persistence.

Self efficacy seems to predict success in many domains, such as the work environment (Sadri & Robertson, 1993 & Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998), athletics (Gernigon & Delloye, 2003), health (Holden, 1991), and wellbeing (Holden, Moncher, Schinke, & Barker, 1990). Nevertheless, self-efficacy has been shown to reduce performance in some academic settings, sometimes curbing the effort that individuals devote to studying (e.g., Vancouver & Kendall, 2005).

Causes of self efficacy

Past success

Bandura (1986) characterized four main determinants of self-efficacy--that is, four sources of information that shape the expectations of individuals as to whether they can perform some activity effectively. First, self-efficacy obviously depends on past experiences with success, called mastery experiences. That is, individuals are more likely to experience a sense of self-efficacy before attempting some task if they have successfully completed similar activities in the past.

More importantly, achievements foster self-efficacy only when individuals ascribe these successes to personal effort or ability (e.g., Tolli & Schmidt, 2008). That is, positive feedback at one time was positively related to self-efficacy on the same task at a later time, provided that participants reported an attribution style in which they ascribe achievements to personal qualities rather than external forces.

Vicarious learning

Second, vicarious learning or modeling can also affect self-efficacy. That is, individuals expect they will excel on some activity if they have observed someone who they regard as similar to themselves perform this task successfully.

Priebe and Spink (2014) reported an excellent example of how the performance of other similar individuals can affect the self-efficacy of participants. In this study, participants needed to complete a physical activity, called the plank, three times. In essence, they needed to balance on their elbows and feet, face down, for as long as possible. They were granted a three minute rest between each attempt. Some participants were, erroneously, informed that performance tends to improve between the first attempt and the second attempt. These participants reported greater self-efficacy and performance during the second attempt. Thus social norms can even affect physical performance.

Emotional or physiological state

Third, the emotional and physiological state of individuals can shape the self-efficacy of individuals. Anxiety, for example, is likely to curb self-efficacy. For example, Ng, Ang, and Chan (2008) showed that leadership self-efficacy-the perceived capacity to perform various leadership tasks effectively-was inversely related to neuroticism.

For example, Evers, Rasche, and Schabracq (2008) showed that sensory sensitivity-that is, elevated sensitivity to loud noises, coffee, and other stimuli, for example-is inversely related to self-efficacy. Presumably, because of this sensitivity, individuals feel more vulnerable to external forces and unexpected events, which curbs their sense of control and self-efficacy.

Material and social resources

Fourth, persuasion, support, and encouragement from significant friends, colleagues, or relatives can also impinge on self-efficacy. Friends who encourage individuals to engage in some task, for example, can elevate self-efficacy in this domain.

For example, Woodgate and Brawley (2008) showed how uplifting messages can promote self-efficacy in a rehabilitation setting. That is, participants read an excerpt about someone how shares their demographics and illness. The message described strategies they used vividly, highlighting the plausibility and utility of these strategies. These excerpts did foster self-efficacy and commitment to relevant goals.

Furthermore, several studies indicate that availability of resources can also affect self-efficacy (Paglis & Green, 2002). For example, in organizations in which resources and funding seem limited, leadership self-efficacy declines. That is, managers feel they will not be able to refine work practices that hinder performance or communicate their vision to their workgroup. As this self-efficacy drops, they become less likely to introduce novel strategies and tactics to improve workgroup performance.

The proposition that resource availability--either physical or emotional--promotes self-efficacy might underpin the benefits of social support. For example, in a diary study, Xanthopoulou, Baker, Heuven, Demerouti, and Schaufeli (2008) showed that self-efficacy tended to coincide with collegial support, such as endorsement of items like "During today's flight, my colleagues showed personal interest in me". According to Xanthopoulou et al. (2008), collegial support implies that individuals can access the necessary resources, such as advice or support, to perform their tasks effectively.

Similarly, Joseph, Manafi, Iakovaki, and Cooper (2002) showed that self-efficacy or confidence to abstain from smoking was related to extraversion. Extraverts might feel they can fulfill their social needs even if they do not smoke. Similarly, Ng, Ang, and Chan (2008) showed that leadership self-efficacy-the perceived capacity to perform various leadership tasks effectively-was positively related to extraversion.

Relationships at work

Some relationships at work are characterized by trust, respect, and support, in which individuals often exchange intangible resources, like praise, encouragement, and advice (see also social exchange theory). Trusting, respectful, mutual, and supportive relationships between employees and supervisors are called leader-member exchange. Trusting, respectful, mutual, and supportive relationships between peers are called team-member exchange. Both leader-member exchange and team-member exchange have been shown to enhance self efficacy.

Liao, Liu, and Loi (2010) substantiated this relationship. In this study, the quality of relationships that employees had formed with their leaders and team members was assessed. Typical questions include "How well does your supervisor understand your job problems and needs" and "How well do other team members understand your job problems and needs". In addition, the variability of these relationships across teams was also calculated. Three months later, employees completed a questionnaire that assessed a general sense of confidence or self efficacy, with items like "I will be able to achieve most of the goals that I have set for myself". Finally, three months later, an evaluation committee ascertained the level of creativity that each of these employees have demonstrated in their role. These employees had been instructed to submit a report that summarizes their ideas and suggestions.

Both leader-member exchange and team-member exchange were positively associated with self efficacy, and self efficacy was also related to creativity. Liao, Liu, and Loi (2010) argued that leader-member exchange and team-member exchange might activate different mechanisms to enhance self efficacy. Specifically, self efficacy is derived from four distinct sources of information: social persuasion, vicarious experience, physiological state, and mastery. Conceivably, leader-member exchange might affect social persuasion, physiological state, and mastery. That is, when leader-member exchange is strong, the supervisor often encourages employees to attempt challenging activities, reinforcing their attributes and qualities, representing social persuasion. Furthermore, employees feel a sense of safety, eliciting positive states, often culminating in a sense of confidence. Finally, these supervisors offer more opportunities for employees to enhance their skills, representing mastery.

Furthermore, according to Liao, Liu, and Loi (2010), team-member exchange might affect vicarious experience, physiological state, and mastery. That is, when team-member exchange is solid, colleagues often discuss the insights they developed, enhancing their capacity to learn from observing one another. Furthermore, supportive team members elicit positive states as well as encourage each other to experiment with novel activities, facilitating mastery.

Interestingly, when leader-member exchange varied across the team, this association between leader-member exchange and self efficacy diminished (Liao, Liu, & Loi, 2010). Conceivably, this variability in leader-member exchange across the teams indicates the supervisor is not fair and just. That is, leaders are expected to be impartial and consistent. Hence, employees do not trust these leaders& the benefits of leader-member exchange subside.

Conversely, when team-member exchange varied across the team, the association between team-member exchange and self efficacy was more pronounced (Liao, Liu, & Loi, 2010). Presumably, if these relationships are not always strong, but vary considerably across the team, individuals who experience elevated levels of team-member exchange may feel especially proud.

Motivational orientations

As Carmona, Buunk, Dijkstra, and Peiro (2008) showed, self-efficacy might correspond to a promotion focus-that is, a motivation to maximize gains and progress rather than minimize losses and shortfalls. That is, some individuals adopt a promotion focus, in which they pursue aspirations rather than obligations, focussing their attention on potential benefits and gains (Higgins, 1997). As a consequence, they perceive challenging tasks as an opportunity to master skills, rather than emphasize their shortfalls, which underpins self-efficacy.

In contrast, some individuals adopt a prevention focus, in which they attempt to satisfy their obligations rather than achieve their aspirations (Higgins, 1997). They focus their attention on potential costs and complications rather than opportunities and benefits. A challenging task is perceived as an event that could underscores their flaws, which represents low self-efficacy.

Verbal self-guidance

Some people often immerse in negative thoughts about themselves, such as "I'll never get a job at my age". Counselors often encourage people to translate these negative thoughts into positive alternatives, such as "Because of my age, I am more experienced", called verbal self-guidance. As Yanar, Budworth, and Latham (2009) showed, although quite a banal technique, verbal self-guidance can actually enhance self-efficacy.

Specifically, in one study, some unemployed women received training in verbal self-guidance. In particular, the individuals first expressed their beliefs about why they could not secure a job, such as "I am too old". The trainer then discussed how these negative thoughts could impede their progress and motivation. Finally, they learnt how to convert negative thoughts into positive statements. Relative to the control group, participants who applied verbal self-guidance experienced greater job search self-efficacy, and this job search self-efficacy was positively related to both job search behavior and securing a job.

Expression and trash talk

When people feel they can express themselves, their self-efficacy tends to improve. Even after individuals engage in trash talk during sporting events--when they shout comments at rivals, for example--their self-efficacy improves.

This possibility was illustrated by Conmy, Tenenbaum, Eklund, Roehrig, and Filho (2013). In their study, participants played a video game, called Madden NFL 08. During their first gam,e, some participants were told to play in silence. In contrast, other participants were encouraged to engage in trash talk against their opponents& they even received quotes before the game to facilitate this trash talk, such as "Really going to be tough to beat me today I think," "I'm making this look easy right?", "Are your hands slipping on the controller?", "You might want to try running the ball", and "I am like the Michael Jordan of Madden!" Next, participants completed measures of self-efficacy and affect before participating in the next game.

As hypothesized, trash talk actually enhanced self-efficacy and mood. That is, if individuals engaged in trash talk, they become more likely to feel they would thrive on various skills, such as field goal execution during the next game. People associate situations in they need to be silent, rather than express themselves, with settings in which they are granted no control. Their sense of efficacy, therefore, diminishes.

Routines and superstitions

Before people engage in important events, such as golf tournaments, they might apply various superstitions. They might express some proverb, such as "break a leg", cross their fingers, or hold a lucky charm. Interestingly, as Damisch, Stoberock, and Mussweiler (2010) showed, these routines tend to promote self efficacy. Furthermore, this increase in self efficacy then tends to translate into an improvement in performance.

For example, in one study, some participants were granted an opportunity to hold their lucky charm. Other participants were not granted this opportunity. Next, they were told they would complete a memory task. They first estimated their confidence in their ability to perform well on this task. Finally, they completed this task. Exposure to the luck charm improved memory performance. This relationship was mediated by confidence on the task.

Positive consequences of self efficacy


Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of self-efficacy (for reviews, see Gist & Mitchell, 1992;; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). In particular, self-efficacy coincides with success, persistence, effort, and wellbeing.

The association between self-efficacy and performance has been observed in a variety of domains. For example, self-efficacy corresponds to academic performance (e.g., Carmona, Buunk, Dijkstra, & Peiro, 2008). Furthermore, self-efficacy is positively correlated with sales performance (Barling & Beattie, 1983). Similarly, generalized self-efficacy corresponds to effectiveness in leadership roles (Foti & Hauenstein, 2007). Self efficacy also enhances creativity at work (Liao, Liu, & Loi, 2010).

Cognitive processes

According to Bandura (1977), four possible mechanisms underpin the possible benefits of self-efficacy. First, self-efficacy shapes the cognitive processes that individuals undertake. For example, when self-efficacy is high, cognitive processes are directed towards the task, such as seeking solutions to solve problems.

When self-efficacy is low, cognitive processes are directed towards evaluations of the self, including reflections on personal inadequacies. Difficult tasks are conceptualized as events that could underscore personal deficiencies.


Second, self-efficacy affects attributions. When self-efficacy is high, individuals impute shortfalls to inadequate effort. When self-efficacy is low, individuals impute these failures to deficiencies in ability.

Challenging targets

Third, self-efficacy thus affects the course of action that individuals select. That is, individuals with a high self-efficacy will often set challenging targets. Individuals with a low self-efficacy will not set challenging targets, because failures will highlight their personal deficiencies.

To illustrate, when self-efficacy to refrain from substance abuse is elevated, individuals are more inclined to pursue total rather than partial abstinence (see Benda, 2002;; McKay, Merikle, Mulvaney, Weiss, & Koppenhaver, 2001). Similarly, when generalized self-efficacy is elevated, individuals are more likely to adopt a leadership role (Foti & Hauenstein, 2007).

These elevated targets often translate to performance. For example, individuals with elevated levels of self-efficacy tend to learn tasks more rapidly (e.g., Yeo & Neal, 2006), partly because they might set higher goals (e.g., Bandura & Locke, 2003). Nevertheless, other factors, such as persistence and effort, might also underpin this association between self-efficacy and skill acquisition.

Persistence and effort

Fourth, self-efficacy seems to promote persistence and effort. This persistence is especially likely to be manifested when individuals experience obstacles or setbacks. That is, if self-efficacy is low, obstacles often translate in doubts and premature resignation.

The relationship between self-efficacy and persistence has also been observed in many contexts. For example, self-efficacy is related to adherence to medication (Gifford, Bormann, Shively, Wright, Richman, & Bozzette, 2000;; Molassiotis, Nahas-Lopez, Chung, Lam, Li, & Lau, 2002). Similarly, self-efficacy is related to abstinence from substances (e.g., Benda, 2002;; Carbonari & DiClemente, 2000;; Rounds-Bryant, Flynn, & Craighead, 1997).

Wellbeing and affect

Finally, self-efficacy affects the emotional state of individuals. For example, when self-efficacy is elevated, obstacles and threats are less likely to evoke anxiety and agitation, which in turn can bolster performance, especially on complex tasks.

Schwerdtfeger, Konermann, and Schonhofen(2008) showed that self-efficacy is related to positive affect and lower levels of burnout in high school teachers. More specifically, high levels of self-efficacy were related to reduced levels of morning cortisol, diminished frequency of cardiac complaints, but elevated levels of cardiac activation. This combination of physiological indices-low sympathetic activation at baseline but elevated beta-adrenergic activation and cortisol suppression in response to stress-tends to correspond to physiological toughness (Dienstbier, 1989), which underpins emotional stability. Such physiological toughness might underpin the perception of a stressor as an opportunity or challenge.

Emotional intensity and reduction of prejudice

As Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, and Denney (2010) showed, if individuals do not experience a sense of efficacy, interventions that are intended to evoke specific emotions and actions are often ineffective. For example, to curb prejudice, members of a majority are often informed that members of a minority are unfairly disadvantaged--information that is intended to elicit guilt and thus promote more altruistic behavior. However, if individuals feel this altruistic behavior is unlikely to be effective, they are not as likely to experience this guilt. Without the confidence to be effective, emotions tend to abate. Conversely, when individuals feel confident their actions are effective, these emotions intensify.

To illustrate, in one study, conducted by Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, and Denney (2010), White American university students read a passage that argued that African American students were underrepresented in their faculty. Participants were then encouraged to write letters to the administration of this university, advocating change to ameliorate this problem. The participants were told this letter is likely to be negligibly, moderately, or significantly effective, intended to manipulate collective efficacy--the collective variant of self efficacy.

If participants felt the letters were likely to be effective, they were more likely to exhibit positive attitudes towards African American people and engage in behaviors intended to curb discrimination. That is, they were more willing to distribute antidiscrimination pamphlets across the campus. Collective guilt, represented by questions like "I feel guilty about White Americans' harmful actions against African Americans", at least partly, mediated these associations.

One of the practical implications of this research is that people need to sense their actions will be effective rather than futile. Programs that emphasize the existing state of affairs is hopeless and desperate, therefore, might not be effective or elicit the desired emotions.

Negative consequences of self efficacy

Self-efficacy has been shown to impair learning in some settings. That is, low self-efficacy can sometimes promote effort in learning settings (e.g., Vancouver, Thompson, Tischner, & Putka, 2002;; Vancouver, Thompson, & Williams, 2001;; Vancouver & Kendall, 2005;; Vancouver & Tischner, 2004).

Vancouver and Kendall (2005) argued that expectations of individuals are not always entirely accurate& individuals might overestimate their ability on one task or underestimate the difficulty of an exam. These expectations appreciably influence the time they devote to tasks, such as study and preparation. Vancouver and Kendall (2005) demonstrated that, if participants are confident they will perform well-a confidence that is often slightly distorted-these individuals will tend to study inadequately. Hence, in some contexts, therefore, instructors might need to reduce the confidence of students.

This issue was explored in depth by Yeo and Neal (2006). They found that self-efficacy varied across time-and increases in self-efficacy in the one person often coincided with subsequent decrements in performance on a task that resembled air traffic control. This finding partly reflects limited practice in response to elevated levels of self-efficacy. However, individuals who, in general, reported higher levels of self-efficacy tended to perform more effectively.

Correlates of self-efficacy


Personality, as gauged by the five factor model, correlates with the self-efficacy of individuals in specific contexts. That is, past activities shape both the personality and self-efficacy of individuals. In particular, as showed by Burns and Christiansen (2011):

In this study, the NEO-FFI was used to gauge personality. In addition, to assess self-efficacy, participants were asked to indicate the level of difficulty they would experience if they needed to complete various tasks.

Theoretical underpinnings

Social cognitive theory

Social cognitive theory often underpins the concept of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1986). The key to social cognitive theory is that individuals learn by observing other humans. For example, if a person is penalized for undertaking some act, observers of this event are less inclined to engage in this behavior in the future. Specifically, observers expect to experience some punishment if they too engage in this act.

Conversely, if a person is rewarded for undertaking some act, an observer of this event is more inclined to engage in this behavior in the future-especially if experience high self-efficacy and feel confident they are able to perform this act.

These effects are especially pronounced if the observers identify with the individual who has been punished or rewarded. Perceived similarity, as well as other factors, can govern the level of identification.

The theory of planned behavior

The theory of planned behavior is also sometimes invoked to underpin self-efficacy (Ajzen, 1991). That is, according to the theory of planned behavior, behavior is primarily mediated by the intentions of individuals& for example, individuals who form the intention to abstain from smoking-that is, commit to a specific goal-are more likely to demonstrate such restraint.

In addition, three facets shape these intentions: whether attitudes towards this behavior are positive or negative& whether individuals feel that significant others would endorse this behavior& and the extent to which they feel they can control this behavior. Self-efficacy is regarded as one of the key determinants of such control.

Measures and facets of self-efficacy

Some studies examine global or generalized self-efficacy-that is, the extent to which individuals generally feel confident they can complete some task or perform some activity. Other studies examine self-efficacy in specific domains, such as their self efficacy to choose an appropriate career path (e.g., Hargrave, Creagh, & Burgess, 2002).

Interestingly, studies indicate that successful experiences in one domain, such as self-defense training, can generalize to other domains (e.g., Wietlauf, Cervone, Smith, & Wright, 2001). Furthermore, generalized self-efficacy is often positively correlated with domain-specific self-efficacy (Yeo & Neal, 2006).

Many scales have been developed to assess generalized self-efficacy. One of the first of these scales was constructed by Schwarzer and Jerusalem (1995). Another popular scale was developed and validated by Sherer, Maddux, Mercadante, Prentice-Dunn, Jacobs, and Rogers (1982). The scale comprises 30 items about expectations in novel contexts and situations. Only 17 of these items, however, specifically relate to generalized self-efficacy.

More recently, Chen, Gully, and Eden (2001) formulated a generalized measure of self-efficacy. This scale, often considered the current standard, comprises eight items such as "I will be able to successfully overcome many challenges" and "Even when things are tough, I can perform quite well". The eight items correspond to one factor and generate a Cronbach's alpha of approximately .90. Confirmatory factor analysis indicates the scale is highly related to, but nevertheless distinct from, self esteem.

Self-efficacy in specific domains

Researchers have developed scales to gauge self-efficacy in the work context. One of these scales, which comprises four items, was utilized by Xanthopoulou, Baker, Heuven, Demerouti, and Schaufeli (2008) and applied to flight attendants. A sample item is "Right now, I feel that I can handle whatever happens (at work) today". Cronbach's alpha ranged from .80 to .91.

Likewise, Chemers, Watson, and May (2000) developed a scale that gauges leadership self-efficacy. This scale was adapted and administered by Ng, Ang, and Chan (2008). The scale comprises 11 items that relate to perceived expectancies in specific facets of leadership, such as delegation and coordination of tasks. Cronbach's alpha was .96 (Ng, Ang, & Chan, 2008).

Scholars have also developed scales to gauge the self-efficacy to refrain from substance abuse. Curry, Marlatt, Gordon, and Baer (1988) developed a scale, comprising 20 items, that assesses self-efficacy to abstain from smoking. Stephens, Wertz, and Roffman (1993, 1995) adapted this scale to assess the self-efficacy of individuals in their attempt to refrain from marijuana (for other examples of scales, see Renn & Fedor, 2001)

Sometimes, to assess self-efficacy in specific domains, participants are asked to specify the likelihood or certainty they will complete some act from 0, denoting no chance, to 100, denoting complete certainty. For example, in the study conducted by Shell and Husman (2008), participants used this scale to rate the likelihood they will be able to, for example, "Take effective notes over course lectures". In particular, they evaluated 22 items that relate to study strategies, and Cronbach's alpha was .94.

Relationships with other constructs

Furthermore, self-efficacy is often conceptualized as a facet of core self evaluations-a broad trait that also comprises self-esteem, emotional stability, and internal locus of control (see Bono & Judge, 2003;; Brunborg, 2008;; Judge, Bono, & Locke, 2000;; Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoresen, 2003)& Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997). Core self evaluations are positively related to job satisfaction (Bono & Judge, 2003;; Judge, Bono, & Locke, 2000) and inversely related to job stress (Brunborg, 2008), perhaps because individuals who demonstrate these qualities are less inclined to deliberate over failures and difficulties.

Indeed, self efficacy and self esteem both enhance persistence in response to obstacles and setbacks. For example, when either self efficacy and self esteem are elevated, individuals are willing to pursue activities that could, potentially, uncover failures and challenges.

To illustrate, as Neymotin (2010) showed, individuals with high self esteem are more likely than individuals with low self esteem to engage in financial planning, even after controlling age, gender, work preferences and general risk taking. That is, as self esteem rises, individuals are more likely to report the inclination to monitor the amount of money they spend with credit cards and to save for their retirement, even after controlling age, gender, work preferences and general risk taking. When self esteem declines individuals do not want to contemplate their finances in the future, concerned this focus could unearth some difficulties and challenges. In this sense, self efficacy and self esteem are similar: They both increase persistence in the midst of potential complications.

Collective efficacy

Some studies examine the efficacy of collectives rather than individuals. For example, as Tausch, Becker, Spears, Christ, Saab, Singh, and Siddiqui (2011) demonstrated, when individuals experience this collective efficacy, they are more inspired to participate in legal collective action. However, when individuals experience limited collective efficacy, they are more inspired to participate in illegal or violence collective action, such as terrorism.

For example, in one study, conducted by Tausch, Becker, Spears, Christ, Saab, Singh, and Siddiqui (2011), German university students completed a questionnaire that gauges their attitudes towards the recent introduction of tuition fees. One scale assessed collective efficacy (e.g., "Students are strong as a group and can move a lot"). A second scale assessed the propensity of individuals to engage in collective action that aligns with social norms, such as writing flyers, signing complaints, participating in demonstrations, and engaging in discussions. A third scale assessed the propensity of these individuals to engage in collective action that violates social norms, such as arson attacks and attacks on police.

Furthermore, participants completed other questions, intended to investigate different theories. They answered questions that assess their anger (e.g., "The introduction of tuition fees angers me"), contempt (e.g., "I disdain people who advocate tuition fees"), and perceptions of injustice (e.g., "The introduction of tuition fees is unfair").

Collective efficacy was positively associated with actions that aligns with social norms but negatively associated with actions that violate social norms. Furthermore, anger was positively associated with actions that respect social norms, whereas only contempt was positively associated with actions that violate social norms. Finally, perceptions of justice related to both anger and contempt.

Arguably, when individuals experience collective efficacy, they assume that normative and legal actions will be effective. They will thus commit to these interventions. In contrast, when individuals do not experience collective efficacy, they seek alternative courses of action. From the perspective of personality systems interaction theory, intention memory is more likely to be activated, inhibiting extension memory and thus curbing awareness of moral intuitions.

Furthermore, in contrast to contempt, anger is more adaptive, representing a motivation to restore fractured relationships. Hence, anger might elicit suitable actions. Contempt represents a sense of distance from perpetrators, reducing the motivation of individuals to respect social norms.

Core self-evaluations

Core self-evaluations is a trait that comprises four facets: generalized self-efficacy, self-esteem, emotional stability, and locus of control (Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997). In essence, core self-evaluations reflects the extent to which people regard themselves as effective, worthy, and capable (Judge, T. A., Erez, A., Bono, & Thoresen, 2003). Core self-evaluations have been shown to be positively associated with job satisfaction and job performance (e.g., Judge & Bono, 2001). In particular, when individuals report positive core self-evaluations, they tend to set challenging, but realistic goals that promote motivation and, ultimately, performance (Erez & Judge, 2001).

Core self-evaluations have also been shown to enhance the benefits of training on learning. For example, in one study, conducted by Stanhope, Pond, and Surface (2013), 638 military personnel engaged in training to learn a foreign language. Before attending this program, they completed a measure of core-self evaluations, entailing self-efficacy, self-esteem, emotional stability, and locus of control. During the program, participants completed a measure that assessed the degree to which they felt motivated to complete the training course, confident in their capacity to complete the training, and inspired to set elevated goals--corresponding to the level of proficiency they attempted to achieve. To assess performance, participants completed questions that assess the likelihood they will utilize the skills they learn as well as their knowledge and language skills. Finally, the general cognitive ability of participants was assessed.

Core self-evaluations were positively associated with all measures of performance. In addition, the relationships between core self-evaluations and measures of both knowledge and skills were mediated by training motivation, confidence in their capacity to complete the training, and goal setting. These findings were observed even after controlling general cognitive ability.

Nevertheless, Ganzach and Pazy (2014) have recently challenged some of the purported benefits of core self-evaluations on career success. According to these researchers, previous studies, such as work published by Judge, and Hurst (2008), are limited by three complications. First, core self-evaluations were sometimes measured during, or even after, career success was gauged. Hence, core self-evaluations may be a consequence, and not a cause, of career success. Second, previous studies have not always controlled IQ or cognitive ability adequately. Third, Judge, and Hurst (2008) examined pay as the criterion instead of the logarithm of pay, the more common index.

When these three limitations were overcome simultaneously, core self-evaluations were no longer positively associated with career success. In particular, core self-evaluations at one time was negatively related to increases in pay and occupational status later, even after controlling measures of general mental ability. To clarify, people with high core-self evaluations tend to experience high levels of career success, but this benefit of core self-evaluations tends to dissipate slightly over time.


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