A Computational Model of Self-Efficacy’s Various Effects on Performance: Moving the Debate Forward

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Abstract

Self-efficacy, which is one’s belief in one’s capacity, has been found to both positively and negatively influence effort and performance. The reasons for these different effects have been a major topic of debate among social–cognitive and perceptual control theorists. In particular, the findings of various self-efficacy effects has been motivated by a perceptual control theory view of self-regulation that social–cognitive theorists’ question. To provide more clarity to the theoretical arguments, a computational model of the multiple processes presumed to create the positive, negative, and null effects for self-efficacy is presented. Building on an existing computational model of goal choice that produces a positive effect for self-efficacy, the current article adds a symbolic processing structure used during goal striving that explains the negative self-efficacy effect observed in recent studies. Moreover, the multiple processes, operating together, allow the model to recreate the various effects found in a published study of feedback ambiguity’s moderating role on the self-efficacy to performance relationship (Schmidt & DeShon, 2010). Discussion focuses on the implications of the model for the self-efficacy debate, alternative computational models, the overlap between control theory and social–cognitive theory explanations, the value of using computational models for resolving theoretical disputes, and future research and directions the model inspires.

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