A critique of the self-efficacy concept: implications for interpretation of self-efficacy research


  • D.M. Williams


Background: Self-efficacy is central to multiple health behavior theories due to its robust predictive power. Methods: Critical evaluation of self-efficacy theory, including the conceptualization and assessment of self-efficacy, with particular focus on the distinction between capability and motivation. Findings: Consistent with self-efficacy theory, self-efficacy questionnaires ask respondents to indicate the extent to which they “can†or “cannot†perform the target behavior. However, for behaviors that are under our volitional control—such as most health-related behaviors—the question of what people “can do†serves as an indicator of broad motivation rather than perceived capability. Thus, contrary to self-efficacy theory, self-efficacy ratings are influenced by expected outcomes of the behavior, whether one likes or dislikes performing the behavior, and the social implications of the behavior, as well as all of the above factors as they apply to competing alternative behaviors. Discussion: As a broad indicator of motivation, ratings of self-efficacy do an excellent job of predicting the target behavior, but a poor job of helping us understand and intervene upon the myriad underlying factors that determine each person’s motivation.