This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 09 table of contents.


Most people think of motivation as involving willpower or the ability of a person to make things happen through sheer desire and determination. Books such as Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking were best-sellers because they urged people to remain optimistic and forward-looking, to have faith in their abilities, and make things happen by removing the worries and doubts which often hold people back. No doubt this is an important principle. People often hold themselves back through negative thinking. Pop psychology books offer tidbits like, "If you argue for your limitations, they are yours." A belief that one cannot do something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why is "positive thinking" important? What was Bandura's self-efficacy concept?

In 1977 Albert Bandura proposed a "unifying theory of behavior change" based on the idea of self-efficacy. In essence, Bandura updated and extended White's effectance concept. To Bandura, self-efficacy was the belief that you can make a difference, the faith in your own ability to produce an effect—a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that you can succeed in changing things or making things happen in your own life. In other words, self-efficacy is the ability to base actions on a belief in your own competency. This is like a psychologist's version of "positive thinking." It requires cultivating the attitudes that promote adaptive action rather than worry and inaction.

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