Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Emotional self-efficacy

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Emotional self-efficacy:
What is emotional self-efficacy, what are its effects, and how can it be developed? 
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Overview[edit | edit source]

Emotional self-efficacy (ESE) is an individual’s belief that they can appropriately and adequately respond to environmental cues; positive or negative (Bandura et al., as cited in Paupanekis et al., 2019). ESE has a “pervasive influence” on an individual’s thoughts, motivations and actions, albeit does not always drive behaviour (Bandura as cited in Milioni et al., 2015, p. 3). The study of ESE is particularly important; as without the belief that an individual can produce the correct emotion, there will be little motivation to act on the behaviour (Qualter et al., 2015). This book chapter will enlighten readers as to how ESE can directly influence and be influenced by a diverse range of factors, and additionally, how these beliefs can and will influence actual behaviour.

Focus questions:

  • What is ESE?
  • How does an individual develop ESE?
  • What are the effects of ESE?

What is ESE?[edit | edit source]

ESE is a widely cited component of Bandura's self-efficacy theory (Alessandri et al., 2009). ESE considers whether an individual believes in their ability to manage both positive and negative emotions appropriately in any given circumstance.

Self-efficacy[edit | edit source]

Self-efficacy as proposed by Albert Bandura (1977) considers an individual's judgement of their capability and whether they deem themselves able to execute behaviours that will lead to a designated outcome (Artino, 2012). Self-efficacy theory highlights three main ideologies, see Table 1.

Table 1

Self-Efficacy Concepts

Self-efficacy concepts Description
Self-efficacy is a belief Self-efficacy is an individual's belief about their potential. Meaning that beliefs will not always be congruent with an individual's actual competence to perform a behaviour. However, this incongruence is not always negative. It is argued that "modest overestimation" of an individual's competence can benefit both motivation and persistence (Artino, 2012, p. 77).
Self-efficacy is a predictor of behavioural change Self-efficacy is arguably the "most" powerful predictor of behavioural change (Sherer & Maddux, 1982, p. 663). This is due to its influence on motivation, namely, individual's effort and persistence towards a task (Lindenmesier, 2008).
Self-efficacy should be domain specific Individuals need to always use self-efficacy in reference to a specific goal that is domain orientated (Artino, 2012).
Triangle with Person at the top, behaviour at the bottom left and environment at the bottom right.
Figure 1. Bandura's social cognitive theory indicates how individual's learn through personal, behavioural and environmental factors individually but also learn from how they all interact with one another (adapted from Bandura, 2001).

The notion of self-efficacy stemmed from Bandura's social cognitive theory (see Figure 1). This theory proposes that three components, namely personal factors, environmental influences and behaviour, all continually interact with one another (Glanz, 2001). Self-efficacy fits into this dynamic model as one of the key aspects of the 'personal factor' (Wentzel & Miele, 2009). Further to this point, there is a relationship that occurs between these three factors, whereby it is evident that self-efficacy as a personal factor will directly influence one's environment and behaviour and vice versa.

Furthermore, social cognitive theory highlights that self-efficacy beliefs regulate individual functioning through cognition, motivation, selection and affect; with the latter being a direct link to ESE and the ability to regulate emotion (Burke et al., 2009). From here, a subset of the social cognitive theory emerged, self-efficacy theory.

Self-efficacy theory considers behavioural change to be mediated by a cognitive appraisal mechanism, namely self-efficacy (Weinberg et al., 1979). Self-efficacy considers whether an individual believes they can successfully execute a behaviour required to produce the desired outcome. Additionally, Bandura (as cited in Weinberg et al., 1979, p. 321) highlights that the strength and level of self-efficacy will directly impact the performance of an individual; the stronger the self-efficacy, the more motivation an individual will have to perform.

Case study: self-efficacy

Part one

Adam is a 35 year old male who is a high school educator. He teaches mathematics and science.

Adam finds mathematics easy to understand and knows he can clearly explain concepts to his class. He is confident that he can teach his mathematic classes well. Thus, Adam has high self-efficacy in mathematics as he believes he can accomplish a favourable outcome.

Conversely, Adam finds science difficult to explain - despite understanding it himself. This leads to Adam being worried about teaching his science classes to an adequate level. Adam has low self-efficacy surrounding science and does not think he will teach well in his classes.

ESE[edit | edit source]

A question mark at the front of the picture with two people with speech bubbles with a cross in one and a tick in the other.
Figure 2. ESE whereby individuals question whether they believe they can emotionally react in the correct manner depending on the situation; whether positive or negative.

ESE is a widely utilised sub-sector of self-efficacy theory, and is a pivotal aspect of motivation and emotion (Milioni et al., 2015). ESE considers an individual’s belief that they can manage and control negative emotions, while simultaneously experiencing and expressing positive emotions in the appropriate circumstances (Caprara as cited in Alessandri et al., 2009; see Figure 2).

Bandura highlights that rather than utilising general domains to view self-efficacy, individuals should make use of specific foundations and domain specific measures for the best outcome (Buchanan & Selmon, 2008). Hence, ESE as a subpart of the self-efficacy theory is particularly beneficial. Through this perspective, we can come to understand that ESE can ultimately contribute to cognitive processing, understanding and management of environmental stimuli, and potentially have the ability to influence behaviour (Saarni, 1999).

If an individual has high ESE they should be able to:

  • Believe they can appropriately express and experience positive affect.
    • Positive emotions include but are not limited to: joy, enthusiasm and pride (Caprara as cited in Milioni et al., 2015).
  • Believe they can deal with negative events through mediating the intensity, frequency and duration of negative affect (Pool & Qualter, 2012).
    • Negative emotions include but are not limited to: anger, irritation, and discouragement (Milioni et al., 2015).

Case study: ESE

Part two

Adam is angry as he does not think he will be able to teach his science classes well. Although this is the case, he believes in his ability to manage his anger when teaching and will not outwardly display his emotions. Adam is showing high ESE and believes he can keep his negative feelings under control throughout his classes.

On the other hand, Adam is confident in his ability to teach the mathematics class. He knows he will be happy when explaining the concepts, yet does not believe he will be able to keep his happiness and joy under wraps. Adam believes he will most likely disturb the class with his joyful laughter. Adam is showing low ESE as he does not believe he can manage his positive emotional state throughout the class.

Trait emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

Trait emotional intelligence (TEI) theory stems from personality theory and involves emotion related self perceptions (Siegling et al., 2015). It is important to highlight within ESE as literature argues that TEI is either:

  1. Synonymous with ESE, where both ESE and TEI are viewed as alternative labels for one another (Pool & Qualter, 2011).
  2. Complimentary with ESE. Kirk et al., (2008) argues that once operationalised, ESE can be viewed as a subpart of TEI theory, with TEI theory being an umbrella term for ESE and other concepts. Thus, different measures have been developed for TEI and ESE. Namely, TEIQue and emotional self-efficacy scale, respectively.

What factors influence how an individual develops ESE?[edit | edit source]

When attempting to answer the question: how does ESE develop?, various perspectives have arisen within psychological literature. Certain perspectives take a physiological stance stating that ESE is embedded within us, highlighting that age and gender differences may ultimately cause the ESE beliefs to be presented in different lights. On the other hand, studies have considered how social influences can affect ESE development, specifically through culture and learning.

Physiological perspective[edit | edit source]

A man looking up at a big brain behind him
Figure 3. A brain depicting how the development of ESE can be viewed from a physiological perspective

Studies regarding self-efficacy theory generally have found physiological differences in individuals' belief in their behaviours (see Figure 3). Namely, self-efficacy beliefs should increase across the lifespan, and concurrently, males have a greater sense of self-efficacy than females (Albion et al., 2005; Buchanan & Selmon, 2008; Gecas, 1989). Yet, when specifically looking at ESE development, the findings surrounding gender and age are not as clear cut. Despite this, both are seen to have a pivotal influence to one's development of ESE.

Age[edit | edit source]

It is argued that as individuals age, they become more aware of their emotions and can simultaneously regulate and manage their expression to create a desired outcome ; an evident aspect of self-efficacy theory (Caprara et al., 2013; Johnson, 2017; Scheibe, 2016). However, when considering domain specific ESE, literature finds differences for both positive and negative affect:

  • Positive affect: Positive ESE simultaneously declines throughout the life span for both sexes (Caprara et al., 2003).
  • Negative affect: Results show that males have stronger belief in their ability to manage negative ESE when going into adulthood compared to women (Caprara et al., 2003). Yet, this role reverses when going into older age, where women's sense of negative ESE improves but males' seems to decline (Alessandri et al., 2015).

Gender[edit | edit source]

There has been much contention throughout literature and studies comparing males' and females' perceived ESE. Literature states either:

  1. There is no difference between males' and females' ESE beliefs (Armum & Chellappan, 2015; Cellikkalei & Keyaa, 2014).
  2. There is a difference between the sexes' ESE:
    • Males: Report higher beliefs in their ability to manage negative emotions (Millioni et al., 2014; Tariq et al., 2013).
    • Females: Report higher belief in their ability to manage positive emotions (Alessandri et al., 2009; Alessandri et al., 2015). This argument could be founded on research stating females more broadly generate positive affect and exert these emotions more often than men (McRae et al., 2008). These findings are also replicated in TEI studies, stating that females more generally have higher emotional self-awareness than men (Meshkat & Nejati, 2017).
Case study- gender

Part three

Adam's gender could play a contributing role to his belief that he can manage his negative feelings in his science classes. Furthermore, this may partially explain why he does not believe he can manage his happiness throughout his mathematics classes.

Social perspective[edit | edit source]

Social cognitive theory suggests that individuals are directly influenced by their environment (Glanz, 2001). Following on from the physiological perspective, it can be argued that age and gender differences in ESE are a result of an individual's environmental and social context (Buchanan & Selmon, 2008).

The social perspective highlights learning and culture as fundamental aspects of an individual's ESE development.

Learning[edit | edit source]

A piper in the front with a group of children following behind
Figure 4. Observing and modelling can be utilised to help develop individual's ESE beliefs

It has been implied that modelling (as part of operant conditioning), vicarious experience and mastery experience (as sub-factors of self-efficacy theory), all help to foster and promote emotional competency. These facets work together to help an individual learn new skills and helps to build individuals' confidence in that task. This concurrently creates a strong foundation for ESE development, as this newly found confidence heightens ESE (Alessandri et al., 2009). This confidence builds an individual's belief in their ability to manage their emotions during the task (Alessandri et al., 2009; Millioni et al., 2015; see Figure 4).

More specifically, literature differentiates between high and low ability learners, such that:

  • High ability learners have shown to have stronger ESE (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002)
  • Low ability learners have poor ESE beliefs; with these findings being replicated in various other studies (Tariq et al., 2013; Wigelsworth et al., 2017).

Thus, not only does ESE influence achievement, but the learner's ability mediates whether the individual will develop high or low ESE; which is an evident cyclical process.

Case study- learning

Part four

Adam attended another colleague's science class. He learnt new teaching skills and became more certain in his ability to teach his own science class.

Following this experience, Adam became more confident in his belief that he could in fact manage his anger in his science class.

Adam's ESE developed and was positivity impacted by the modelling that occurred.

Culture[edit | edit source]

Research concludes that culture has a direct impact on self-efficacy development through affecting systems and institutions present and deemed valuable in one's life (Klassen, 2004). Culture has such an influence on efficacy because it:

  1. Affects the type of information an individual comes by (Bandura, 1995).
  2. Affects the weight and importance given to particular information (Bandura, 1995).

More specifically, culture can influence ESE through in-group behaviours as discussed within social identity theory. It is argued that in-group behaviour will steer individuals towards expressing particular emotions deemed "normative", and furthermore, individuals will align their emotional experiences to support cultural morals, no matter how emotionally difficult (Caprara et al., 2008, p. 3). These factors work to develop ESE as individuals will gain confidence in their ability to manage the emotions deemed congruent to their culture and in-line with the morals of the in-group (Caprara et al., 2008).

Lastly, literature has considered individualistic and collectivist cultures to influence the development of ESE. Despite being presented in different formats, both cultures ESE belief seems to have the same impact on performance (Klassen, 2004) (see Table 2).

Table 2

Individualistic vs Collectivist Culture's ESE

Culture Individual's ESE belief Presentation of efficacy Is self-efficacy predictive of performance
Individualistic cultures High Overconfidence, optimism Yes
Collectivist culutres Low Accuracy, realism Yes

What are the effects of ESE?[edit | edit source]

Literature has highlighted that ESE affects many aspects of individuals' lives including their performance, mental heath, motivation and well-being.

Performance[edit | edit source]

ESE has been shown to have direct effects on individuals' performance in both a workplace and academic setting.

Workplace performance[edit | edit source]

Studies have shown that high ESE is particularly useful in emotionally demanding jobs as it works as a buffer between felt and displayed emotions (Loeb et al., 2016). Furthermore, ESE is seen as a powerful variable when looking at engagement and performance within a workplace. Evidence displays that the higher the ESE, the greater the performance, as a result of individuals managing their emotions in various circumstances (Pérez-Fuentes et al., 2019; Pool & Qualter, 2012).

Case study- workplace performance

Part five

Adam's belief in his ability to manage his anger during his science classes meant that when teaching the class, his performance was better than expected.

An outline of a person with the brain highlighted in grey
Figure 5. ESE can have a positive or negative influence on mental health depending on whether an individual has high or low ESE, respectively.

Academic performance[edit | edit source]

In line with Bandura's social cognitive theory, ESE is an important predictor of academic achievement (Yazici et al., 2011; Wigelsworth et al., 2017). For example, Kirk et al., (2008, p. 435) highlights that having high ESE helps individuals' achieve superior "strategic skills", such as understanding and managing emotions. Further, Tariq et al., (2013) states ESE helps reduce anxiety which works to increase academic performance.

Mental health[edit | edit source]

Findings have shown that increased levels of self-efficacy can improve an individual's mental health, alongside coping strategies (Rabani Bavojdan et al., 2011; see Figure 5).

  • When individuals' have high ESE for negative emotions, this has been shown to simultaneously decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety (Loeb et al., 2016; Gala & Wood, 2011).
  • In contrast, Tahmassian & Jalali Moghadam (2011) argue that having low ESE, no matter if positive or negative, will increase depression and anxiety. These findings are consistent with other literature including Niditch & Varela (2012), stating that low ESE is related to anxiety disorder symptoms (Dogan et al., 2013).

Motivation[edit | edit source]

As aforementioned, self-efficacy has a large influence on an individual's motivation, with low self-efficacy contributing to low motivation and thus, inaction (Milioni et al., 2015). Thus, ESE as a subfactor of self-efficacy arguably has an influence on motivation (Milioni et al., 2015). If an individual anticipates that they cannot overcome negative emotions and manage them correctly, they will concurrently lose motivation in the task. This is supported by Alessandri et al., (2018, p. 842) arguing that in a job setting, an individual will "withdraw or succumb". It is evident that poor emotional management does influence ones motivation and thus, goal attainment.

Case study- motivation

Part six

Adam's high ESE towards his science class meant that when teaching these classes he did not lose motivation. Adam continued to try teaching the class the best way he could.

Well-being[edit | edit source]

Research has highlighted a positive relationship between TEI and well-being (Pool & Qualter, 2012). Studies more specifically focusing on the sub-facet of ESE highlights that an individual's ability to have ESE will ultimately lead to greater well-being (Caprara et al., 2006; Caprara et al., 2010). The relationship between ESE and well-being has been attributed to ESE, helping individuals to develop the capacity to manage stress, develop awareness of emotions and help congruence between culture and the individual; all facets that increase general well-being (Valois et al., 2013).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

ESE is interwoven throughout an individual's life and concurrently, manifests through behaviour. Thus, it is important to have knowledge of what ESE is, how it develops and, consequently, how it affects one's life.

ESE as a sub-part of self-efficacy theory considers an individual's belief in their ability to manage emotions in various contexts. Literature highlights both physiological and social perspectives when considering ESE development, yet they should be considered simultaneously as age and gender, alongside learning and culture all work to create, develop and maintain individual's ESE. Additionally, ESE is shown to have direct affects on one's life through either positive or negatively affecting performance, mental heath, motivation and well-being.

Overall, it is essential to understand how ESE develops differently amongst individuals and concurrently, comprehend how ESE affects many aspects of one's behaviours. Through this chapter, individuals should come to understand how ESE is a vital component of one's life and the connection should be made that ESE is a mediating factor that can and will influence behaviours and performance.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Albion, M., Fernie, K., & Burton, L. (2005). Individual differences in age and self‐efficacy in the unemployed. Australian Journal of Psychology, 57(1), 11–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049530412331283417

Alessandri, G., Caprara, G., Eisenberg, N., & Steca, P. (2009). Reciprocal relations among self‐efficacy beliefs and prosociality across time. Journal of Personality, 77(4), 1229–1259. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00580.x

Alessandri, G., Perinelli, E., De Longis, E., Schaufeli, W., Theodorou, A., Borgogni, L., Caprara, G., & Cinque, L. (2018). Job burnout: The contribution of emotional stability and emotional self-efficacy beliefs. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 91(4), 823–851. https://doi.org/10.1111/joop.12225

Alessandri, G., Vecchione, M., & Caprara, G. (2015). Assessment of regulatory emotional self-efficacy beliefs: a review of the status of the art and some suggestions to move the field forward. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 33(1), 24–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734282914550382

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Tariq, V., Qualter, P., Roberts, S., Appleby, Y., & Barnes, L. (2013). Mathematical literacy in undergraduates: role of gender, emotional intelligence and emotional self-efficacy. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 44(8), 1143–1159. https://doi.org/10.1080/0020739X.2013.770087

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Yazici, H., Seyis, S., & Altun, F. (2011). Emotional intelligence and self-efficacy beliefs as predictors of academic achievement among high school students. Procedia, Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15(1), 2319–2323. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.04.100

External links[edit | edit source]