Physical Activity and Personal Agency

Self-efficacy as a determinant, consequence, and mediator

Authored by: Edward McAuley , Emily L. Mailey , Amanda N. Szabo , Neha Gothe

Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity and Mental Health

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782999
eBook ISBN: 9780203132678
Adobe ISBN: 9781136477805


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Social Cognitive Theory (SCT; Bandura, 1997, 2004) is a theoretical foundation that has served as the impetus for a considerable body of literature documenting the correlates and determinants of health behavior change. The core set of determinants underlying SCT (self-efficacy, outcome expectations, goals, and facilitators/impediments) and the manner in which they are theorized to influence behavior have been clearly articulated by Bandura (2004). The “active agent” in SCT is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy expectations are beliefs regarding one's capabilities to successfully carry out a course of action (Bandura, 1997) and in lay terms may be considered a situation-specific form of self-confidence. As self-efficacy expectations can be subject to external and internal influences, they are ideal targets for manipulation (McAuley, Talbot, & Martinez, 1999) and intervention (McAuley, Courneya, Rudolph, & Lox, 1994). The primary sources of efficacy information include past performance accomplishments (i.e., mastery experiences), social persuasion, social modeling, and the interpretation of physiological and emotional states (Bandura, 1997). Efficacy expectations are theorized to influence the activities individuals choose to pursue, the degree of effort they expend in pursuit of their goals, and the levels of persistence they demonstrate in the face of setbacks, failures, and difficulties. Clearly, choice, effort, and persistence are important elements of successful adoption and maintenance of physical activity behavior. Thus, self-efficacy would appear to be a very natural correlate of this complex health behavior and, indeed, it has been perhaps one of the most consistently reported correlates of exercise behavior and its outcomes (McAuley & Blissmer, 2000).

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