Page 173

8
Self-Confidence and Performance

Self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in people's everyday lives (Bandura, 1986). A growing body of evidence suggests that one's perception of ability or self-confidence is the central mediating construct of achievement strivings (e.g., Bandura, 1977; Ericsson et al., 1993; Harter, 1978; Kuhl, 1992; Nicholls, 1984). Ericsson and his colleagues have taken the position that the major influence in the acquisition of expert performance is the confidence and motivation to persist in deliberate practice for a minimum of 10 years.

Self-confidence is not a motivational perspective by itself. It is a judgment about capabilities for accomplishment of some goal, and, therefore, must be considered within a broader conceptualization of motivation that provides the goal context. Kanfer (1990a) provides an example of one cognitively based framework of motivation for such a discussion. She suggests that motivation is composed of two components: goal choice and self-regulation. Self-regulation, in turn, consists of three related sets of activities: self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reactions. Self-monitoring provides information about current performance, which is then evaluated by comparing that performance with one's goal. The comparison between performance and goal results in two distinct types of self-reactions: self-satisfaction or -dissatisfaction and self-confidence expectations. Satisfaction or dissatisfaction is an affective response to past actions; self-confidence expectations are judgments about one's future capabilities to attain one's goal. This framework allows a discussion of self-confidence as it relates to a number of motivational processes, including setting goals and causal attributions.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 173
Page 173 8 Self-Confidence and Performance Self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in people's everyday lives (Bandura, 1986). A growing body of evidence suggests that one's perception of ability or self-confidence is the central mediating construct of achievement strivings (e.g., Bandura, 1977; Ericsson et al., 1993; Harter, 1978; Kuhl, 1992; Nicholls, 1984). Ericsson and his colleagues have taken the position that the major influence in the acquisition of expert performance is the confidence and motivation to persist in deliberate practice for a minimum of 10 years. Self-confidence is not a motivational perspective by itself. It is a judgment about capabilities for accomplishment of some goal, and, therefore, must be considered within a broader conceptualization of motivation that provides the goal context. Kanfer (1990a) provides an example of one cognitively based framework of motivation for such a discussion. She suggests that motivation is composed of two components: goal choice and self-regulation. Self-regulation, in turn, consists of three related sets of activities: self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reactions. Self-monitoring provides information about current performance, which is then evaluated by comparing that performance with one's goal. The comparison between performance and goal results in two distinct types of self-reactions: self-satisfaction or -dissatisfaction and self-confidence expectations. Satisfaction or dissatisfaction is an affective response to past actions; self-confidence expectations are judgments about one's future capabilities to attain one's goal. This framework allows a discussion of self-confidence as it relates to a number of motivational processes, including setting goals and causal attributions.

OCR for page 173
Page 174 One theoretical perspective of self-confidence that fits well in Kanfer's (1990b) framework of motivation and has particular relevance to enhancing self-confidence in a variety of domains of psychosocial functioning is self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977, 1986). Self-efficacy theory is also useful in guiding the development of motivational programs because self-beliefs of confidence operate in most of the approaches to cognitive theories of motivation, particularly goal-setting theory and attribution theory (Bandura, 1990). This chapter provides an overview of the self-efficacy concept of self-confidence and its relationship to other cognitively based motivational processes that influence learning and performance; it does not attempt to integrate the different theories of motivation that incorporate self-confidence constructs. (For summaries and comparisons of cognitive theories of motivation, see Frese and Sabini, 1985; Halisch and Kuhl, 1987; Kanfer, 1990b; Pervin, 1989.) We first define self-confidence and related concepts. Next, an overview of self-efficacy theory is given, along with a review of the relevant research. The third section covers applications of techniques for enhancing self-confidence. Lastly, we note the research questions that follow from what is currently known. ''SELF-CONFIDENCE" AND RELATED CONCEPTS Terms such as "self-confidence," "self-efficacy," "perceived ability," and "perceived competence" have been used to describe a person's perceived capability to accomplish a certain level of performance. Bandura (1977) uses the term "self-efficacy" to describe the belief one has in being able to execute a specific task successfully (e.g., solving a math problem) in order to obtain a certain outcome (e.g., self-satisfaction or teacher recognition) and, thus, can be considered as situationally specific self-confidence.1 Self-efficacy is not concerned with an individual's skills, but, rather, with the judgments of what an individual can accomplish with those skills (Bandura, 1986). Bandura (1986, 1990) distinguishes between "self-efficacy" and "self-confidence": self-confidence refers to firmness or strength of belief but does not specify its direction; self-efficacy implies that a goal has been set. We do not adopt Bandura's distinction, but use the term "self-confidence" because it is more familiar to most individuals. "Self-confidence," as the term is used here, is the belief that one can successfully execute a specific activity, rather than a global trait that accounts for overall performance optimism. For example, one may have a lot of self-confidence in one's ability at golf but very little self-confidence in one's tennis skills. "Perceived competence" and "perceived ability" are terms that have been used in the research literature on achievement and mastery motivation. They indicate the perception that one has the ability to master a task resulting from cumulative interactions with the environment (Harter, 1981; Nicholls,

OCR for page 173
Page 175 1984). In sports and physical movement, Griffin and Keogh (1982) developed the concept of "movement confidence" to describe a person's feeling of adequacy in a movement situation; Vealey (1986) used the term "sport confidence" to define the belief or degree of certainty individuals possess about their ability to be successful in sport. Some organizational psychologists use the term "state expectancy'' in essentially the same manner as Bandura's (1977) concept of self-efficacy (Eden, 1990). Some terms related to self-confidence are occasionally confused with the construct. Some authors (e.g., Kirsch, 1985) have tried to implement Bandura's (1977) concept of self-confidence (self-efficacy) as an expectancy construct. Bandura distinguishes judgments of personal efficacy from the expectancy construct in expectancy-by-value theories (e.g., Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975; Triandis, 1977): self-confidence is a judgment of one's ability to perform at a certain level; expectancies pertain to the outcomes one expects from a given level of effort. In essence, confidence expectations are concerned with beliefs about one's competence and outcome expectations are concerned with beliefs about one's environment. For example, a person may believe that running a marathon in less than 2 hours will lead to social recognition, money, and self-satisfaction (outcome belief), but may question whether she can actually run that fast (confidence belief). Similarly, a woman may believe that Karate self-defense techniques will deter assault (outcome belief), but may doubt her capability to be effectively aggressive against a powerful assailant (confidence belief). Bandura (1986) asserts that, in a responsive environment that rewards performance achievements, the outcomes people expect depend heavily on their self-confidence that they can perform the skill. However, in an environment in which outcomes are fixed at a minimum level of performance or in which a social condition restricts people's ability to perform successfully or control their circumstances, outcome and confidence expectations would not be causally linked. For example, a concentration camp inmate could have confidence that he or she is efficacious enough to maximize his or her survival probability without violating personal ethics while simultaneously believing that this survival probability is not very high at all. Such individuals may give up trying, not because they doubt their own capabilities, but because they expect their efforts to be futile. This type of outcome-based futility is hypothesized to lead to pessimism or learned helplessness (Bandura, 1986). "Self-concept" represents a composite view of oneself that is developed through evaluative experiences and social interactions. As Bandura (1986) has noted, however, a person's self-conceptions become more varied across activities with increasing experience. Thus, global measures of self-concept will not predict the intra-individual variability in a performance situation as well as self-confidence perceptions that vary across activities and

OCR for page 173
Page 176 circumstances. Rather, global measures of self-concept are helpful to understanding one's total outlook toward life. However, it should be noted that people's self-concepts have also been shown to be malleable in certain situations (Markus and Kunda, 1986). (For a thorough discussion of self-concept, see Hattie, 1992.) "Self-esteem" is another global construct related to self-confidence and self-concept and pertains to one's personal perception of worthiness. Although self-confidence and self-esteem may be related, individuals can have one without necessarily having the other. Certain individuals may not have high self-confidence for a given activity, but still "like themselves"; by contrast, there are others who may regard themselves as highly competent at a given activity but do not have corresponding feelings of self-esteem. (For a thorough discussion of the concept of self-esteem with respect to work behavior, see Brockner, 1988.) Other related concepts include locus of control, optimism or pessimism (learned helplessness), healthy illusions, and level of aspiration. Rotter's (1966) notion of locus of control is concerned with a person's generalized expectancies about his or her ability to control reinforcements in life: individuals who tend to perceive events as internally controlled behave more self-determinedly; those who tend to perceive events as beyond their control behave more fatalistically. Although an internal locus of control orientation may create a high sense of confidence, the two constructs must be distinguished. Bandura (1986) points out that locus of control is based on outcome expectancies rather than confidence expectancies. For instance, people who believe that their physical health is personally determined but find it is failing despite their efforts to improve it would experience low self-confidence. Studies have shown that task-specific self-confidence expectancies are better predictors of successful behavior in specific situations than are general measures of perceived control (Kaplan et al., 1984; Manning and Wright, 1983). Optimism and pessimism have been defined by some authors in terms of generalized expectancies for internal or external locus of control (Scheier and Carver, 1992). Scheier and Carver (1992:203) define "dispositional optimism" as the "tendency to believe that one will generally experience good vs. bad outcomes in life." Optimism and pessimism have also been conceptualized within an attributional or explanatory style framework (Abramson et al., 1978; Peterson and Bossio, 1991). In an attributional view, individuals base their expectations for controlling future events on their causal explanations for past events. Optimism is the tendency to attribute negative events to causes that are unstable, specific, and external; pessimism or learned helplessness is the tendency to attribute negative events to causes that are stable, global, and internal. Optimism and pessimism or learned helplessness are considered to be much more global concepts than task-specific

OCR for page 173
Page 177 self-confidence and, thus, are more resistant to short-term interventions to change them. In addition, optimism and pessimism emphasize perceptions of controllability of the environment rather than the sense of personal agency to control the environment. A concept similar to optimism has been described as healthy illusions (Taylor and Brown, 1988) or positive denial (Lazarus, 1979), which involves a slight distortion of reality in the positive direction. Such illusions can help sustain one's hopes of success, keep morale high, and lower anxiety (Hackett and Cassem, 1974). As Peterson and Bossio (1991) explain in relation to severe illnesses, the immediate denial of the severity of an illness allows individuals to face crises slowly, which helps their motivation to recover. However, if denial or illusion is too far removed from reality, it can get in the way of recovery and taking action to improve one's situation or performance. Level of aspiration, first conceptualized in the 1930s within the scientific analysis of goal-striving behavior, is concerned with people's estimation of their subsequent performance prior to trying a task. An early investigator (Frank, 1935:119) defined it specifically as "the level of future performance in a familiar task which an individual, knowing his level of past performance in that task, explicitly undertakes to reach." Once a level of aspiration has been set, the individual performs, examines the discrepancy between the level of aspiration and the performance, and reacts with feelings of success or failure (depending on discrepancy). These reactions could lead to trying harder, leaving the activity altogether, or continuing with a readjusted level of aspiration (Lewin et al., 1944). Early investigations on levels of aspiration were the precursors to modern research on various cognitive aspects of goal-setting, self-appraisal, and feeling of satisfaction regarding relative success and failure. Much of the basis for current views on self-regulation in terms of self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reaction can be found within the level-of-aspiration paradigm (see Bandura, 1982; Carver and Scheier, 1990). The earlier research, most of which occurred in the 1930s and 1940s (see, e.g., Festinger, 1942; Frank, 1935, 1941; Lewin et al., 1944), tried to determine the factors that influence the fluctuations in a person's level of aspiration (e.g., success and failure of comparison groups) or studied how well personality traits correlated with the phenomenon. One general finding in relation to success and failure was that subjects raised their level of aspiration after success and lowered it after failure. However, Bandura has shown that this finding does not automatically occur in real-life tasks: "Having surpassed a demanding standard through laborious effort does not automatically lead people to raise their aspiration" (Bandura, 1986:348). Whether one raises one's level of aspiration or not depends more on one's level of task-specific self-confidence. This is the additional self-evaluation mechanism

OCR for page 173
Page 178 that Bandura (1977) has added to the old paradigm and the self-regulation model. In contrast, Carver and Scheier (1990) emphasize the rate of discrepancy reduction or rate of progress made toward a goal over time in determining one's level of aspiration. Although many of the concepts related to self-confidence are investigated from different perspectives, the phenomenon of interest for most of them is the cognitive process by which a person regulates thoughts and action to attain desired outcomes or to control events in his or her life. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES Self-efficacy theory was developed within the framework of a social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986). Bandura poses self-confidence as a common cognitive mechanism for mediating people's motivation, thought patterns, emotional reactions, and behavior. The theory was originally proposed to account for the different results achieved by the diverse methods used in clinical psychology for treating anxiety. It has since been expanded and applied to other domains of psychosocial functioning, including motivation, cognitive skill acquisition, career choice and development, health and exercise behavior, and motor performance. (For reviews on specific domains, see Feltz, 1988b; Lent and Hackett, 1987; McAuley, 1992; O'Leary, 1985; Schunk, 1984a). The theory has also been found to be equally predictive cross-culturally (Earley, 1993; Matsui, 1987; Matsui and Onglatco, 1991). Self-Confidence Information Self-confidence beliefs, defined as people's judgments of their capability to perform specific tasks, are a product of a complex process of self-persuasion that relies on cognitive processing of diverse sources of confidence information (Bandura, 1990). These sources of information include performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Performance accomplishments are supposed to provide the most dependable confidence information because they are based on one's own mastery experiences. One's mastery experiences affect self-confidence beliefs through cognitive processing of such information. If one has repeatedly viewed these experiences as successes, self-confidence will increase; if these experiences were viewed as failures, self-confidence will decrease. Furthermore, the self-monitoring or focus on successes or failures should have differential effects on behavior and self-confidence, depending on which is monitored (Bandura, 1986): focusing on one's successes should provide more encouragement and greater confidence than focusing on one's failures.

OCR for page 173
Page 179 The influence that performance experiences have on perceived self-confidence also depends on the perceived difficulty of the task, the effort expended, the amount of guidance received, the temporal patterns of success and failure, and one's conception of a particular "ability" as a skill that can be acquired versus an inherent aptitude (Bandura, 1986). Bandura has argued that performance accomplishments on difficult tasks, tasks attempted independently, and tasks accomplished early in learning with only occasional failures carry greater confidence value than easy tasks, tasks accomplished with external aids, or tasks in which repeated failures are experienced early in the learning process without any sign of progress. Confidence information can also be derived through a social comparison process with others (Festinger, 1954). Vicarious sources of confidence information are thought to be generally weaker than performance accomplishments; however, their influence on self-confidence can be enhanced by a number of factors. For instance, the less experience people have had with performance situations, the more they will rely on others in judging their own capabilities. The effectiveness of modeling procedures on one's self-confidence has also been shown to be enhanced by perceived similarities to a model in terms of performance or personal characteristics (George et al., 1992; Gould and Weiss, 1981). Persuasive techniques are widely used by instructors, managers, coaches, parents, and peers in attempting to influence a learner's confidence, motivation, and behavior. In acquiring expert performance, Ericsson and his colleagues put a great deal of emphasis on parents' and teachers' expectations and verbal persuasions that a child is "talented" as a major influence on the child's self-confidence, motivation, and perceived protection "against doubts about eventual success during the ups and downs of extended preparation" (Ericsson et al., 1993:399). Persuasive information includes verbal persuasion, evaluative feedback, expectations by others, self-talk, imagery, and other cognitive strategies. Self-confidence beliefs based on this type of information, however, are likely to be weaker than those based on one's accomplishments, according to the theory. In addition, persuasive techniques are thought to be most effective when the heightened appraisal is slightly beyond what the person can presently do but still within realistic bounds because people are generally aware that better performances are achievable through extra effort (Bandura, 1986). The extent of persuasive influence on self-confidence has also been hypothesized to depend on the prestige, credibility, expertise, and trustworthiness of the persuader. The causal attributions that one makes regarding previous achievement behavior also can be thought of as a source of self-persuasive information in formulating future confidence expectations. Causal attributions for previous behavior have been shown to predict confidence expectations (McAuley, 1990; Schunk and Cox, 1986). (This relationship is discussed in more detail below.)

OCR for page 173
Page 180 Confidence information can also be obtained from a person's physiological state or condition. Such information is provided through cognitive appraisal (Bandura, 1986), such as associating physiological arousal with fear and self-doubt or with being psyched up and ready for performance. Eden (1990) also suggests that the stress one experiences in work can influence confidence judgments about one's coping capacity for the job. Bandura (1986) also notes that physiological sources of self-confidence judgment are not limited to autonomic arousal.2People use their levels of fitness, fatigue, and pain in strength and endurance activities as indicators of their physical inefficacy (Feltz and Riessinger, 1990; Taylor et al., 1985). These four categories of confidence information—performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, persuasion, and physiological states—are probably not mutually exclusive in terms of the information they provide, though some are more influential than others. How various sources of information are weighted and processed to make judgments given different tasks, situations, and individual skills is as yet unknown. The consequences of these judgments, however, are hypothesized to determine people's levels of motivation, as reflected in the challenges they undertake, the effort they expend in the activity, and their perseverance in the face of difficulties. People's self-confidence judgments can also influence certain thought patterns and emotional reactions (e.g., pride, shame, happiness, sadness) that also influence motivation (Bandura, 1986). For instance, self-confidence beliefs may influence people's success or failure images, worries, goal intentions, and causal attributions. Self-Confidence, Behavior and Thought Patterns, and Motivation Bandura (1977) states that self-efficacy (self-confidence) is a major determinant of behavior only when people have sufficient incentives to act on their self-perception of confidence and when they possess the requisite skills. He predicts that self-confidence beliefs will exceed actual performance when there is little incentive to perform the activity or when physical or social constraints are imposed on performance. An individual may have the necessary skill and high self-confidence beliefs, but no incentive to perform. Discrepancies will also occur, according to Bandura, when tasks or circumstances are ambiguous or when one has little information on which to base confidence judgments. How individuals cognitively process confidence information also influences the relationship between self-confidence and behavior (Bandura, 1977). For example, successes and failures may be distorted in importance. People who overweigh their failures are believed to have lower expectations than those with the same performance levels who do not overweigh their failures.

OCR for page 173
Page 181 The relationship between self-confidence expectations and performance accomplishments is also believed to be temporally recursive (Bandura, 1977:194): "Mastery expectations influence performance and are, in turn, altered by the cumulative effect of one's efforts." Bandura (1990) has emphasized the recursive nature of the relationship between self-confidence and thought patterns as well. The relationship between the major sources of confidence information, confidence expectations, and behavior and thought patterns, as predicted by Bandura's theory, is presented in Figure 8-1. As just discussed, people's self-confidence beliefs are hypothesized to influence certain thought patterns and emotional reactions as well as behavior. Two thought patterns of particular interest to the study of performance motivation are goal intentions and causal attributions; a third thought pattern that can influence self-confidence beliefs is how one thinks about ability. Self-confidence beliefs have been shown to influence future personal goal-setting and to mediate the relationship between goal intentions and motivation (Earley and Lituchy, 1991). Research has also shown that the stronger people's self-confidence beliefs (assessed independently from their goals), the higher the goals they set for themselves and the firmer their commitments are to them (Locke et al., 1984). In addition, as noted above (Kanfer, 1990a), motivation based on goal intentions is mediated by self-regulatory influences that include two types of self-reactive influences: affective self-evaluation (satisfaction/dissatisfaction), and perceived self-efficacy for goal attainment. Bandura (1990) includes a third type of self-reactive influence: adjustment of personal standards. Figure 8-2 summarizes, schematically, Kanfer's and Bandura's ideas of motivation that are based on goal intentions. FIGURE 8-1 Relationship between sources of confidence information, confidence expectations, and behavior/thought patterns.

OCR for page 173
Page 182 FIGURE 8-2 Conceptions of motivation based on goal intentions. When performances fall short of people's personal goals (or level of aspiration), they become dissatisfied. Whether this dissatisfaction serves as an incentive or disincentive for enhanced effort is partly influenced by a person's self-confidence for goal attainment and the degree of the discrepancy (Bandura, 1986; Carver and Scheier, 1990). Bandura (1986) predicts that, in general, in the face of negative discrepancies between personal goals and attainments, those who have high self-confidence beliefs will heighten their level of effort and persistence and those who have self-doubts will quickly give up. However, if the degree of the negative discrepancy is perceived as quite large, people's self-confidence for goal attainment will be undermined. In this situation, research has shown that highly self-confident individuals will readjust their goals so as not to further undermine their self-confidence; those with little sense of self-confidence to begin with will become discouraged and abandon their goal altogether (Bandura and Cervone, 1983). Bandura (1986, 1990) also suggests that confidence beliefs and causal attributions are reciprocal determinants of each other. According to Bandura, self-confidence beliefs help shape causal ascriptions for future behavior. People with self-beliefs of confidence have been shown to attribute failure to lack of effort; people with low self-beliefs of confidence ascribe their failures to lack of ability (Collins, 1982). Causal attributions also play a role in the formation of future confidence expectations (McAuley, 1990; Schunk and Cox, 1986). Successes are more likely to enhance self-confidence if performances are perceived as resulting from ability rather than from luck. Conversely, individuals can talk themselves out of succeeding

OCR for page 173
Page 183 by attributing prior failure to inherent ability rather than to bad luck or reduced effort. Studies using causal analyses also indicate that the effects of causal attributions on performance are mediated through self-confidence beliefs (Schunk and Gunn, 1986; Schunk and Rice, 1986). As noted above, the way that people construe ability may also influence self-confidence beliefs and other self-regulatory factors. Two conceptions of ability have been identified that lead to the development of two goal orientations (Dweck and Leggett, 1988; Elliott and Dweck, 1988; Nicholls, 1984). The first is the conception of ability as an acquirable skill: people who conceive of ability in this way adopt a learning or mastery goal (Ames, 1984; Dweck and Leggett, 1988; Nicholls, 1984). This type of goal-orientation is well suited for skill development because people seek to improve their competence, judge their capabilities in terms of personal improvement, and regard errors as a natural part of the skill-acquisition process. Furthermore, when performance falls short of their goals, they attribute the discrepancy to inadequate effort, and their self-confidence beliefs remain minimally affected. The second conception of ability is as a more or less inherent aptitude or entity conception: people who have an entity conception of ability adapt a performance or ability-focused goal (Ames, 1984; Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1984). People with this conception of ability seek to prove their competence or demonstrate their ability; they avoid demonstrating low ability and use social comparison processes to judge their ability relative to others. This type of goal-orientation is not well suited for skill development because people view errors as a threat to being able to demonstrate their ability and, thus, they avoid adopting challenging goals. When a negative discrepancy occurs between their goals and current performances, they attribute it to low ability. Research has shown that this type of ability conception increases a person's vulnerability to the adverse effects of failure (Elliott and Dweck, 1988; Jourden et al., 1991; Wood and Bandura, 1989). The feeling of failure and the attribution to low ability may also lead to dissatisfaction and a decrease in confidence beliefs and subsequently to goal abandonment. It also diverts attention away from the task and to worry (Kanfer, 1990a). The negative effects of an inherent aptitude conception are most distinct among people with low self-confidence in their ability (Kanfer, 1990a). The structure and demands of a learning environment establish a motivational climate that can evoke different goal orientations (see Ames, 1992). For instance, schools often establish learning environments that include evaluating student achievement on the basis of normative standards and with extrinsic rewards. This structure encourages learners to use social comparison processes to judge their ability and adopt a performance-goal orientation instead of a mastery-goal orientation. Students, especially those

OCR for page 173
Page 196 Bandura's (1986) proposition that an aggregate of group members' perceived confidence of the group as a whole would be more predictive of the group's performance than an aggregate of the members' judgments of their own confidence when there is at least a moderate level of interdependent effort required of the group. Because school systems require at least a moderate level of interdependence among their teachers, Parker (1992) examined teachers' beliefs in their own instructional self-confidence and their beliefs about their schools' collective capability to predict schools' levels of academic achievements. Teachers were asked to rate their self-confidence in three teaching domains (reading, mathematics, and language), as well as their beliefs in the collective confidence of the school as a whole in the same three areas. Each teacher's self-confidence and school confidence ratings were then compared with the performances of the students in each teacher's school on a standardized test of reading, mathematics, and language proficiencies. The teachers' perceived confidence in their school's capability (perceived school confidence) predicted the academic achievements of the students in their school and that these collective confidence beliefs of the school were more predictive of the academic achievement of the students than were the teachers' beliefs of their own instructional self-confidence, thus, supporting Bandura's (1986) hypothesis. Feltz et al. (1989) compared self-confidence and team confidence in the prediction of team performance of seven collegiate hockey teams across a 32-game season. A team confidence measure was constructed after conducting a conceptual analysis of the competence areas required in hockey (with the consultation of two collegiate hockey coaches). The resulting measure of team confidence had seven dimensions: (1) winning against opponents, (2) outskating opponents, (3) outchecking opponents, (4) forcing more turnovers than opponents, (5) bouncing back from poor performances more than opponents, (6) performing better in power play situations than opponents, and (7) performing better in short-handed situations than opponents. Initial analyses have indicated that team confidence was only slightly more predictive of team performance than was individual confidence. However, when wins and losses were analyzed by game, team confidence was more affected by losses than was individual confidence. The construct of team or collective confidence is still in a rudimentary stage in terms of understanding and explaining motivation. Clearly, a greater understanding of its utility will come from rigorous and systematic research. Toward this end, Bandura (1990) suggests that advances in research on team confidence will be greatly influenced by the development of appropriate measures; specifically, measures of perceived team confidence need to be tied closely to explicit indices of group performance. This may be best accomplished by conducting conceptual analyses of the competence areas within a group's performance.

OCR for page 173
Page 197 Although Bandura's theory of self-efficacy as a self-confidence concept is not without its criticisms (see Biglan, 1987; Eastman and Marzillier, 1984; Feltz, 1988b; Lee, 1989), research on self-confidence from divergent psychosocial domains of functioning and from different cultural environments (Earley, 1993; Matsui, 1987; Matsui and Onglatco, 1991) has consistently shown self-perceptions of ability to be an important and necessary cognitive mechanism in explaining motivated behavior and performance. However, self-confidence, as a common mechanism that mediates behavior, cannot be expected to account for all behavior change in human performance (Bandura, 1984). Even so, given the demonstrated importance of self-confidence in enhancing performance, numerous inferences can be drawn to help individuals develop and maintain self-confidence to improve motivation for performance. Techniques for Enhancing Self-Confidence In this section research and theory from self-efficacy, goal-setting, and attributions are used to speculate on practical ways to enhance self-confidence for motivation and performance. Applications for enhancing self-confidence are organized around techniques that are based on the four sources of confidence information within Bandura's theory of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977): performance-based strategies, modeling, persuasion and communication, and anxiety-reduction strategies. Performance-Based Approaches Given that the relationship between self-confidence and motivated behavior or performance has been well documented, the important goal is to find ways to enhance self-confidence beliefs. Research has supported that the strongest and most durable determinant of self-confidence is the experience of mastery or performance accomplishments. One way of facilitating performance mastery is through instructional strategies4(Schunk, 1985). The instructor can provide for maximum skill development through an instructional sequence of developmental or modified activities, breaking the skill into parts, providing performance aids, physical guidance, or a combination of these methods. For example, the instructor can physically guide learners through the movements, have them practice on a simulation training device, or design a series of progressive activities to challenge their improving skills. These successes should be based on relevant and realistic progressions: progress must be in small enough increments to ensure intermediary successes, which can lead to mastery of the final goal. Performance aids and physical guidance should be gradually removed as soon as possible, however, so that learners can engage in self-directed mastery experiences. As noted, self-directed experiences indi-

OCR for page 173
Page 198 cate higher levels of self-confidence to individuals than do externally guided experiences because the performance is attributed to a person's own effort and ability rather than external aids (Bandura, 1986). A second effective means of ensuring performance accomplishments is through goal-setting—defining realistic performance standards toward which individuals strive. For complex tasks, the goals should be specific and challenging but attainable. For easy or routine tasks, the harder the goal, the better the performance. Assuming an individual has the requisite skills and commitments, working toward difficult goals can build a strong sense of confidence because the goals offer more information about the performer's capability to acquire knowledge and skills than do easier goals. Some individuals, however, may need some persuasive help to be convinced that the goals are not too difficult (Schunk, 1983b). In addition, for complex and difficult tasks, short-term goals should be used along with long-term goals. Similarly, when using short-term goals, the performer's perceptions of self-confidence for attainment of future goals should be monitored, as well as perceptions of self-confidence that result from goal attainment. As Stock and Cervone (1990) point out, goal-setting strategies will not help individuals who lack a sense of efficacy for attaining the subgoals or those who do not experience enhanced feelings of confidence when they attain the subgoals. Feedback also appears necessary for goals to have maximum effectiveness in enhancing self-confidence and improving performance. Furthermore, when one is first learning complex tasks, self-confidence beliefs and success can be enhanced by emphasizing process-related (or learning) goals over outcome-related (or performance) goals. Rather than defining success through outcome measures, such as winning and losing or number of tasks completed, success should be redefined to include process variables, such as effort, form, and strategy. These process-related goals are important because they help individuals focus on the learnability of a skill rather than viewing the skill as requiring inherent aptitude (Jourden et al., 1991). Modeling Others When individuals have had no prior experience with a task, observing others (modeling) is one means of providing information by which to judge one's own capabilities. For instance, observing others engaging in threatening activities without adverse consequences can reduce inhibitions in observers (Lewis, 1974). The models can be similar in terms of personal characteristics (e.g., age, sex, race) and skill levels, but similarity in skills appears to be more salient to observers than personal characteristics (George et al., 1992). The content of the model's statements is also an influential factor in raising perceptions of efficacy (Gould and Weiss, 1981; Schunk,

OCR for page 173
Page 199 1981). Models can provide information and strategies about how to perform the task as well as confidence statements. The use of multiple demonstrators and coping models has also been shown to influence the effectiveness of demonstrations (Bandura et al., 1982; Lewis, 1974). Bandura (1986) has reasoned that the more different types of people observers see succeeding at a skill, the stronger the convictions will be that they, too, can succeed. Coping models, who initially exhibit difficulty on the task in the same way as learners do but gradually overcome those difficulties, provide the learners with information that this task can be accomplished through perseverance. The U.S. Olympic Training Center has used observational techniques in a slightly different manner in an attempt to increase an athlete's confidence expectations and performance. In this self-modeling technique, videotapes of an athlete's performance is altered to eliminate the mistakes and then replayed a number of times for the athlete in hopes of altering the athlete's performance beliefs. Research has not yet been provided to determine the effectiveness of this technique with athletes; however, it has been shown to be effective with persons exhibiting deficient speaking skills by editing out the mistakes, hesitancies, and external aids from the videotapes and playing them back to the speakers (Dowrick, 1983). Persuasion and Positive Communication Although persuasion and communication techniques alone may be of limited value in enhancing self-confidence beliefs, they may be effective when used in conjunction with performance-based techniques and are provided in a manner contingent to performance. Because it is difficult to evaluate one's own progress in many activities, credible and expert observers can help stretch one's confidence beliefs through effective persuasion techniques. Persuasive information is probably most important during early stages of skill acquisition, when learners lack task experience and knowledge of their capabilities. As discussed above, to be effective the persuasive information must be believable and, therefore, should be only slightly beyond what the learners can do at that time. For instance, if one is using imagery to try to help convince individuals that they can endure more muscular fatigue, manage potential threats safely, achieve greater athletic feats, or return to performance from injury, the imagery should be structured so that the individuals imagine themselves performing just slightly better than what they think they can do. As with setting goals, the imagery should be challenging but attainable. Mastery experiences should then be arranged to facilitate effective performance. For individuals who are experienced at a task but are in a performance

OCR for page 173
Page 200 slump or plateau, false performance feedback (performance deception) has been used successfully to improve performance (Fitzsimmons et al., 1991). As with the other persuasion techniques, it is important that the deception is believable. For instance, if a coach is trying to improve an athlete's maximum press in weight lifting by persuading him to think he is lifting less weight than he is actually pressing, the difference between the two should be small. Instructors should also be aware that continually deceiving one's students may undermine the trust they need to have in order to attempt new skills. A second category of persuasion techniques involves effective communication from instructor to learner. These strategies include performance feedback, rewards, causal attribution feedback, and positive communication. Performance feedback can provide clear information that learners are making progress toward their goals. As noted above, however, feedback must be given contingently in relation to defined performance standards or goals, and it must be given consistently to all learners so as not to create expectancy effects. If a wide discrepancy continues between performance and goals, short-term subgoals should be constructed to reduce the discrepancy. Different types of performance feedback should be used, depending on a learner's phase of skill acquisition: progress feedback provides information on an individual's progress without regard to others; normative feedback compares an individual's progress in relation to others. Progress feedback should be used during the early phase of skill acquisition or with persons who are likely to perform more poorly in comparison with others because normative feedback can debilitate learning if used before an individual has developed a resilient sense of self-confidence for the task (Kanfer, 1990b). Normative feedback can be used during later phases of skill acquisition. As with performance feedback, if rewards are used they must be clearly tied to performance progress in order to influence self-confidence (Schunk, 1983c, 1984a). The combination of performance-contingent rewards with short-term goals appears to enhance self-confidence beliefs better than either technique alone (Schunk, 1984a). Attributional feedback and positive communication are especially important techniques when mistakes and setbacks occur. Because mistakes and failures are inevitable, the way in which an instructor communicates and interacts with a learner will have an important influence on the learner's self-confidence. Telling learners that their past failures were due to insufficient effort, rather than lack of ability, can help them meet their setbacks with renewed vigor and persistence because lack of effort can be rectified. But encouraging learners to emphasize external factors (e.g., bad luck or task difficulty) as the reason for a setback (as some athletic coaches do) could be a serious mistake if the mistake and attribution occur repeatedly, because the learners may start to perceive that the outcome is out of their control and not take responsibility for their performance.

OCR for page 173
Page 201 of the task and a learner's actual efforts have to be taken into account. If an instructor tells a learner that her failure on a difficult task, for which she expended a lot of effort, was due to lack of effort, she is apt to interpret the feedback as lack of ability or start to distrust the instructor's feedback. In situations in which learners are expending great effort at difficult tasks and still not succeeding, the instructor needs to help them acknowledge the difficulty of the task and set up modified challenges that can be accomplished. Positive communication by an instructor has been shown to be very helpful in reducing the negative affect that occurs in failure situations (Smith et al., 1979). Positive communication is performance contingent, but it focuses on positive aspects of performance while acknowledging mistakes, provides instructional feedback, and emphasizes the learning nature of task acquisition (Eden, 1990; Jourden et al., 1991). Most individuals feel discouraged and ashamed when they do not perform well and need the assurance and encouragement of the instructor in regard to their abilities. In response to a learner's mistakes, the instructor should not focus on the error itself, but instead find something positive and constructive to say about improving the performance. Four steps characterize this positive approach to mistakes. First, the learner's distress about the mistake is acknowledged. Second, the learner is complimented by the instructor's finding something about the performance that was correct. The compliment must be about an important and relevant aspect of the task; otherwise, it is likely to be discounted by the learners. Third, the instructor provides instructions on how the learner can improve the mistake. Fourth, the instructor ends with a positive note by encouraging the learner to keep trying. These four steps ''sandwich" skill instructions between words of encouragement and praise. A positive communication style allays feelings of embarrassment and promotes a sense of self-confidence. Anxiety Reduction Some individuals may interpret increases in their physiological arousal as a fear that they cannot perform a skill successfully. Thus, it is believed that if the arousal of these individuals can be reduced through such techniques as relaxation and biofeedback, fears will decrease and self-confidence will increase. However, as Bandura (1988) argued, it is one's perceived coping confidence that plays a central role in controlling fear arousal: people with low perceived coping confidence tend to focus on the danger and fear cues; those with high levels of coping confidence concentrate on the task at hand (Keinan, 1988). Helping individuals believe that they can exercise control over potential threats and frightful cognitions is the way to decrease fears and increase

OCR for page 173
Page 202 self-confidence. One way to help improve coping confidence is to teach individuals coping strategies to use to manage threatening situations, such as positive self-talk. Research has shown that positive self-talk can help individuals manage stressful situations if they believe that the technique will help them cope (Girodo and Wood, 1979). According to Bandura (1986), the persuasion that the technique will help the individual cope more effectively is what instills a sense of personal control, which enhances coping confidence. Another technique that instructors can use to help improve coping confidence is to try to manipulate the environment to reduce the uncertainties of the situation. For example, sources of uncertainty might include how dangerous the situation is, how well one expects to perform, whether one will be asked to perform, or what one's coworkers, colleagues, or teammates will think. Uncertainty can be reduced by providing information of task requirements, providing assurance to the learner (or performer), and emphasizing realistic, short-term goals that take the attention away from long-range outcomes. Simulation training can also help to reduce uncertainties about stressors. However, simulation training that involves exposure to serious physical threats reduces anxiety only when it is perceived as successful (Keinan, 1988). Individuals who have low coping self-confidence might require some preparatory coping interventions before they are exposed to simulation training that is physically dangerous or threatening. Self-confidence is a potent predictor of an individual's performance, given the appropriate skills and adequate incentives. The role of an instructor, manager, or coach, therefore, is to develop and sustain a learner's high level of self-confidence by ensuring performance success, using modeling and persuasion techniques, communicating effectively, and reducing anxiety-producing factors. These techniques can be used in combination with each other in various ways, depending on the task and the learner, to enhance self-confidence. Many of these techniques can also be applied to enhance team confidence. For instance, if a team is having some difficulty achieving a task or solving a problem, the instructor or leader can design a series of progressive activities for the team and help them set short-term team goals that emphasize process variables (e.g., strategy) rather than outcome variables. Teams can also observe other, similar teams that persevere in the face of adversity or that demonstrate successful strategies about how to perform the group task. Self-modeling techniques, in which mistakes are edited out of a performance, can also be used to enhance confidence, although no research to date has explored the effectiveness of this technique with teams. The communication techniques described can be used with teams as well as individuals. Team confidence can be expected to be enhanced when contingent performance feedback and rewards are provided to the team and

OCR for page 173
Page 203 when the feedback is positively focused and the causal attribution is appropriate to the difficulty of the task and the team's effort expenditure. Lastly, as with individual coping confidence in threatening situations, team coping confidence can be enhanced and anxiety reduced by reducing the uncertainties that a team faces. Techniques for reducing uncertainties for teams also include simulation training, observing other teams performing the task, and providing as much information regarding the task as possible. Four major categories of techniques have been described to enhance self- and team confidence. Evidence for the use of these techniques has come from an extensive and diverse research literature, but there are still a number of areas of research that are needed to better understand self-confidence and to enhance performance. FUTURE RESEARCH DIRECTIONS Most of the research and applications on self-confidence have been concerned with the influence of unidimensional confidence information on individual performance. Other areas that deserve attention are how people process multidimensional confidence information; the study of self-confidence over time and in different situations; the relationships among self-confidence, goals and goal orientations; individual differences in self-confidence; and team confidence. Scant research has been conducted on how people process multidimensional confidence information and the heuristics they use in weighting and integrating these sources of information in forming their confidence judgments (Bandura, 1986). The importance of different types of information may vary across different types of activities and situations. For instance, in some sport and exercise situations, physiological information may be a more pertinent source of confidence information than previous performance. In addition, people may weight sources of information differently in different phases of skill acquisition. In processing multidimensional information, people may also misjudge or ignore relevant information in trying to integrate different information (Bandura, 1986). Results from research on these questions will help to understand how self-confidence expectations gain their predictive power; it will also have implications for the type and amount of confidence information provided to individuals for particular types of activities and situations. Other motivational variables, such as goal orientations and conceptions of ability as they relate to goal setting and self-confidence, have received little attention in research except for Kanfer (1990a), who has noted that different goal orientations may be called for at different phases of skill acquisition. Research is needed to examine induced differential goal orientations in relation to goal-setting and self-confidence at different phases of skill acquisition and for different kinds of tasks (e.g., complex, physically

OCR for page 173
Page 204 threatening, mundane). Studying confidence judgments across extended periods of performance and across situations or tasks may be the most informative paradigm for testing the relative contribution of self- or team confidence and other cognitions to performance over time, as well as for testing changes in sources of confidence information. Besides goal orientation and conceptions of ability, other individual difference variables—such as gender, gender role orientations, and self-focus (see Carver and Scheier, 1981) or action control (Kuhl, 1984)—may play a role in determining self-confidence. For instance, research has generally shown that males view themselves as more confident than females in achievement activities that have been stereotypically linked with males (Campbell and Hackett, 1986; Fennema and Sherman, 1978; Lirgg, 1991). Further research is needed to explore the extent to which individual differences mediate the relationship between confidence judgments and performance. The resiliency of confidence beliefs may also be an important factor in the relationships between self- or team confidence and performance. Bandura (1986, 1990) has suggested that self-confidence must be resilient in order for one to persist and sustain effort in the face of failure. Ericsson et al. (1993) also allude to this in their discussion of the role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. According to Bandura, experience with failures and setbacks is needed to develop this robust sense of self-confidence. Future research might examine how different patterns of success and failure influence the development of a robust sense of confidence. In addition, Bandura (1990) notes that when self-doubt sets in after failure, some individuals recover from their perceived low confidence more quickly than others. Similarly, some teams may be able to regain their sense of confidence after a setback more quickly than other teams. Knowing how and why some individuals and teams are able to regain their sense of confidence more quickly than others would be a valuable source of information for designing interventions that would help confidence recovery. Furthermore, although according to Bandura (1986, 1989), an optimistic sense of self-confidence is advantageous to continued effort and persistence, substantial overestimates of one's competence provide a dangerous basis for action (Baumeister, 1989). Research is needed to determine the optimal distortion necessary to foster the persistence needed for mastering various tasks. In the area of team confidence, a number of other issues are in need of further investigation, such as sources of team confidence information, the relationship of team confidence to group attributions and other group motivation concepts, and the influence of team leaders on team confidence. Although Bandura (1986) postulated that teams are influenced by the same sources of confidence information as individuals, there may be other sources that are unique to a team. Perhaps social, community, or political support provides important team confidence information. For sports teams, the

OCR for page 173
Page 205 media may provide a source of team confidence information (although this may also be the case for individual athletes). Research has also yet to examine the relationship between team confidence and other conceptual and theoretical perspectives of group motivation. For example, relationships between team confidence and team attributions, desire for team success, and social loafing have yet to be studied. Only one study has examined team confidence and team cohesion (Spink, 1990). Lastly, the influence of team leaders may also provide some insight on team confidence and performance. Bandura (1990) has suggested that a performance slump, especially by a key member of the team or the team leader, could influence the confidence that other members have in the team's ability to be successful. Similarly, managers' and team leaders' leadership confidence may affect team confidence and performance. Wood and Bandura (1989) found evidence that perceived managerial self-confidence both directly and indirectly influenced organizational performance by the effect it had on people's goal setting and use of analytic strategies. Other research has shown that a high sense of personal confidence enhances strategic thinking and facilitates organizational performance under varying levels of organizational complexity and goal assignments (Wood et al., 1990). It could be argued, therefore, that the confidence a team has in a key member or in its leader may also have an important effect on team effectiveness. In addition to the confidence a team has in its leader, the confidence that a leader has in his or her team may also affect team performance. Some support has been found for this argument (Chase et al., 1993), but further research is required to link antecedents and consequences of such confidence beliefs. In addition to leadership confidence, different kinds of leaders' behaviors may also influence individual and team confidence for certain tasks and certain team members. Research on leadership behavior has suggested a path-goal theory of leadership: this theory argues that the central function of a leader is to create positive performance expectancies (or self-confidence beliefs) among team members (subordinates) (Evans, 1974; Fulk and Wendler, 1982; House and Mitchell, 1974). Certain leader behaviors (supportive, directive, participative, and achievement oriented) are hypothesized to differentially influence the self-confidence and effort-performance expectancies among team members, depending on the task and its characteristics. For instance, supportive leadership behavior (e.g., concern for welfare of team members) should lead to increased self-confidence among team members for tasks that are stressful, boring, tedious, or dangerous, but not for tasks that are interesting and enjoyable and for which team members are confident in their ability to complete the task. Leadership behaviors that are directive (e.g., giving specific guidance, close supervision), participative (e.g., consulting with team members), and achievement oriented (e.g.,

OCR for page 173
Page 206 setting challenging goals) should increase self-confidence when the task is unstructured and complex, but not when the task is simple, repetitive, or highly structured. Although Yukl (1989) suggests that the theory has yet to be adequately tested, it can provide a framework in which to investigate possible moderating variables of leadership influences on both self-confidence and team confidence. NOTES 1 The large number of citations in this chapter to Bandura's work reflects the fact that most of the research on self-efficacy has been done in his laboratory. One advantage of relying on the research of one team of investigators is that the work displays an analytical progression as later studies build on the results obtained from earlier work. Another advantage of Bandura's work is that the approach identifies sources of confidence information that provide a basis for practical ways of enhancing performance, as discussed below. A disadvantage is that this work is based largely on a particular theoretical perspective, which may not be the only framework for studying the relationship between self-confidence and performance. 2 Autonomic arousal is the physiological arousal that is under the control of the autonomic nervous system (e.g., changes in heart rate, respiration rate, adrenaline in the blood). 3 Although the subjects in the "inherent aptitude" condition were deceived, they were fully debriefed, told of the difficult nature of the task and assured that it did not indicate "aptitudes." 4 In clinical psychology, these strategies are referred to as participant modeling or performance desensitization.