Self-efficacy theory, first defined by Albert Bandura (1984), shows that our own perception of how capable we are of completing a task will influence and affect our subsequent behaviour and ability to succeed in this task. In other words, the more competent we think we are, the greater our intrinsic motivation to act is. High or low self-efficacy determines whether or not someone will choose to take on a challenging task or perceive it as impossible to complete.
According to Bandura’s theory, people with high self-efficacy are more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided. Different factors can influence our self-efficacy: past successful experiences for similar tasks, positive feedback or “vicarious experience” (when we see others being successful in a task).
A scientific study revealed this self-efficacy effect by studying two groups of students engaged in solving puzzles over 3 different sessions. Group A received positive feedback after their first session whereas Group B did not. The results then overwhelmingly showed that Group A went on to be more motivated and successful in the subsequent tasks than Group B.
Self-efficacy theory is used in online marketing in order to increase visitors’ motivation and self-confidence when they are asked to complete a task online. For example, showing social proof through displaying details of customers who have previously taken the same actions (bought something, written a review, signed up for a membership, etc.) is a good persuasion technique to encourage others to do the same.