Control And Self-efficacy
Domain-specific control beliefs are often studied under the term self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is the most studied component of Dr. Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory, originally formulated as the unifying theory of behavior change (1977). This theory states that behavior is governed by expectancies and incentives, and includes aspects of both contingency (outcome expectations) and competence (efficacy expectations). Efficacy expectations are influenced by four primary sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and motivational arousal. Performance accomplishments are the most effective type of information in forming efficacy beliefs. Successes will increase beliefs, and once an individual has a strong sense of efficacy, occasional failures will not be processed as negatively. Individuals with many performance accomplishments will persist in the face of defeat, and a failure that is later overcome will greatly strengthen efficacy beliefs.
Self-efficacy is measured in a specific and graduated fashion rather than on a general and global level. For example, an item measuring perceived control in the domain of health may read "How much control do you have over your health these days?," and the respondent rates his or her perceived control on a scale ranging from "No Control" to "Very Much Control." An item on a self-efficacy scale measuring perceived ability to exercise would read "How confident are you that you would exercise if you were in a bad mood?," and the respondent would give a confidence rating ranging from 0 to 100. Self-efficacy is frequently measured in studies examining behavior change, such as smoking cessation, exercise adherence, and phobia reduction. Most theories explaining human behavior include a self-efficacy component, and many researchers have called for an integration of the prominent theories. However, the social cognition theory, often referred to as simply the self-efficacy theory, is probably the most straightforward and popular framework, although it is not without its critics (see Maddux for a discussion of conceptual issues, and Smedslund for criticisms related to definitions and theoretically necessary versus empirically testable constructs within the theory).