2007 Grant Recipient: Self-efficacy effects on performance: A renewed debate

Todd A. Gilson, Northern Illinois University
Deborah L. Feltz, Michigan State University


An issue in the field of psychology that has become a point of debate in the last 10 years is the renewed question on how self-efficacy affects performance. Specifically, two theories postulate drastically different results. Social-cognitive researchers (led by Bandura) believe that self-efficacy is positively related to performance at both the within- and between-person levels, namely because individuals will continue to set challenging goals and display effort once a task is successfully accomplished. In contrast, perceptual control theory researchers (led by Vancouver) assert that self-efficacy is positively related to performance at the between-person level; however it is negatively related to performance at the within-person level. The latter contention is made because individuals can become overconfident if they have a great performance or receive feedback informing them that they must work harder to achieve their goal, if they display a sub-par performance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between self-efficacy and performance for a group of Division I collegiate football players engaged in strength training (the squat) during 3 time points of the off-season. A total of 115 athletes, from 5 universities, completed all the necessary questionnaires and performance tests throughout the 8 months of this study.

Using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), results revealed that athletes’ past performance and self-efficacy were positively related to squatting performance at the between-person level; whereas only past-performance was significantly related to squatting performance at the within-person level. Self-efficacy did approach statistical significance – in the positive direction – at Level 1 (p = .12), which did go to further the contentions of Bandura and social-cognitive theory, as opposed to perceptual control theory. Future research is needed to examine this relationship when interpersonal feedback and performance feedback are in conflict and with individuals who have low self-efficacy – because both social cognitive theory and perceptual control theory focus their attention on individuals who display higher levels of self-efficacy and their resulting performance.

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