The self‐efficacy‐performance link in maximum strength performance
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The selfefficacyperformance link in maximumstrength performanceChristie M. Wells a , David Collins b & Bruce D. Hale aa Pennsylvania State University , University Park, Pennsylvania, 16802, USAb St Mary's College , Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 4SX, UKPublished online: 14 Nov 2007.
To cite this article: Christie M. Wells , David Collins & Bruce D. Hale (1993) The selfefficacyperformance link inmaximum strength performance, Journal of Sports Sciences, 11:2, 167-175
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640419308729980
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Journal of Sports Sciences, 1993, 11, 167-175
The self-efficacy-performance link in maximumstrength performance
CHRISTIE M. WELLS,1 DAVID COLLINS2* and BRUCE D. HALE1
'Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA and 2St Mary's College,Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, Middlesex TW1 4SX, UK
Accepted 4 September 1992
To examine whether manipulating self-efficacy affects strength performance on a bench press, and to see if thesesituation-specific changes would affect levels of physical self-efficacy, 24 undergraduates untrained inweightlifting were randomly assigned to three groups: 'light', who lifted less weight than they believed; 'heavy',who lifted more weight than they believed; and control, for whom there was no manipulation. Self-efficacymeasures were taken before and after the manipulation. Physical self-efficacy was measured using the PhysicalSelf-Efficacy Scale (PSE). 'Light' subjects lifted significantly greater increases in weight than the other subjects.'Heavy' subjects significantly decreased self-efficacy following the manipulation. Initial self-efficacy was foundto be a significant predictor of baseline maximum, while manipulated self-efficacy was significant forperformance change. The PSE scores did not change pre- to post-study. The results suggest that self-efficacy is asituation-specific construct which can be manipulated, and which relates to both past performance experienceand future performance.
Keywords: Self-efficacy, strength, physical performance, self-confidence.
IntroductionSelf-confidence is an important contributory factor tothe eventual level of athletic performance (Feltz, 1982,1988a) and, as such, has justifiably received a great dealof research attention in sport psychology. Confidence inone's own ability plays a role in enabling athletes toovercome specific performance 'barriers' which ofteninvoke a psychological challenge quite out of proportionto their relative difficulty. Such barriers - the 4-minmile was a classic example - act to impede progress bothwithin and between performers. But once one person isable to surpass the barrier, suddenly more and moreathletes follow suit. As Bandura (1990, p. 129) stated,'once extraordinary performances are shown to bedoable, they become commonplace'. This implies adefinite psychological impact on athletes' perceptions oftheir own abilities. This perceived ability, more gener-ally called self-confidence, can be operationalized in avariety of ways (Feltz, 1988b), but is most commonlyexpressed by the construct of self-efficacy. As defined byBandura (1977, 1982, 1986), self-efficacy is the convic-
* To whom all correspondence should be addressed.
0264-0414/93 1993 E. & F.N. Spon
tion that one can successfully execute the behaviourrequired to produce a certain outcome. The strongestand most dependable source of self-efficacy is perform-ance accomplishment. With repeated successes, efficacyexpectations rise; if experiences are perceived as fail-ures, expectations fall. Therefore, regardless of theparticular task involved, the important factor is how thetask is perceived by the individual. It is the individual'sown cognition about the task and the situation whichdetermine the expectations of performance outcome,and hence, have a significant influence on progress.
Self-efficacy and its relationship with performancehas been widely studied. Recent investigations haveconsidered youth gymnastics (Weiss et al., 1989) andtennis (Ransom and Weinberg, 1985; Weinberg andJackson, 1990), and have found self-efficacy to be asignificant factor in the prediction of performance orsuccessful performance itself. Most studies, however,have involved endurance-type strength activities and/orperformance prediction (Feltz, 1982; Feltz and Mugno,1983; Gayton et al., 1986; McAuley and Gill, 1983;Weinberg et al., 1979, 1981). Feltz (1982) found self-efficacy, along with past performance accomplishments,to be significant predictors of performance for divers.
168 Wells et al.
These findings were consistent with those of Weinberget al. (1981), who found pre-existing self-efficacymeasures to be predictive on only the initial trial of a leg-extension task, with subsequent trials dependent uponmanipulated self-efficacy via the 'source' of previousperformance. This was a follow-up study to that ofWeinberg et al. (1979) who, in a similar leg-extensionstudy, demonstrated support for the self-efficacy-per-formance relationship, as subjects with high self-efficacy held their legs extended significantly longer thansubjects with low self-efficacy. These studies suggestthat self-efficacy can indeed be modified to achievedifferences in performance.
In terms of strength performance, there has not beenmuch emphasis on self-efficacy per se. Instead, studieshave involved concepts similar to self-efficacy, butwhich have gone by different names, such as externalcues (Ness and Patton, 1979), expectations (Nelson andFurst, 1972), motivational cues (Carnahan et al., 1990)and 'psyching-up strategies' (Shelton and Mahoney,1978). Ness and Patton (1979), for example, usedmanipulation of external cues to facilitate performanceon a bench press apparatus. The resultant performanceenhancement reflected possible changes in the cogni-tions of the subjects, but the specific constructs were notassessed. If self-efficacy (a specific construct) was foundto have a significant impact on performance, then therange of mental strategies which contribute to enhancedstrength could be narrowed. As a consequence, inter-ventions in this specific area could be designed moreeffectively.
Self-efficacy can be said to be a more specificpsychological construct than self-confidence in that self-confidence relates more closely to feelings about self-esteem, whereas self-efficacy relates more to confidenceabout specific performance potential. It is also said tofluctuate across situations and tasks. A more generalmeasure of self-efficacy, called physical self-efficacy andmeasured by the Physical Self-Efficacy Scale (PSE:Ryckman et al., 1982), has also been developed andapplied to such sports as women's gymnastics (McAuleyand Gill, 1983), marathon running (Gayton et al., 1986)and various motor tasks and sport activities (Ryckman etal., 1982). This can be conceptualized as a measure ofseveral related concepts such as confidence in one'sphysical appearance and self-esteem, as well as theability to perform in general physical/motor tasks. ThePSE was originally described as a trait measure, but onestudy found evidence suggesting the PSE could be usedto predict performance (Gayton et al., 1986). Althoughat first sight this appears contradictory (e.g. self-efficacyis defined as a stare-specific measure), the potentialapplications for a global predictor of performance arehighly desirable. It would therefore seem logical toexamine the potential of the PSE in such a role.
This study was therefore designed to investigatewhether specific manipulation of self-efficacy levelswould affect strength performance. It was expected thatthese levels of self-efficacy would be greatly enhanced bypast experience in that successful performance would beassociated with increases in both self-efficacy and weightlifted. Conversely, perceived performance decrementswould result in decreased self-efficacy and poorerlifting. Additionally, data were collected to determine ifthe manipulation of self-efficacy in a specific situationwould affect PSE (assumed to be a trait factor) and ifPSE would itself have any impact on performance of thespecific task.
The 24 subjects (aged 19.5-22,1 years) were volunteercollege students enrolled in summer school courses.These subjects had little or no weightlifting experience,which made them more amenable to change via thechosen manipulation.
A pre-study inventory was developed which determinedtrie subjects' present activity level (aerobic activity andstrength training), height, weight and an estimate of theamount of weight they believed they could bench pressat that time (to be used as an initial target maximum). Italso served to get an initial measure of efficacy in theform of how the subject felt he or she would compare tosimilar individuals in a weightlifting task.
The Physical Self-Efficacy Scale (PSE) developed byRyckman et al. (1982) was used as a global trait self-efficacy measure. The scale is made up of two sub-scales,the Physical Self-Presentation Confidence Scale(PSPC) and the Perceived Physical Ability Scale (PPA).The scale was found to have an overall internalconsistency (Cronbach alpha) of 0.81.
Situation-specific self-efficacy was measured usingthe Situational Self-Efficacy Scale (SSE). The SSE is aLikert 7-point scale developed specifically for thisstudy, which was administered prior to any lifting tonote each subject's belief in his or her ability to lift themaximum weight expected for that session. The ques-tion was, 'How confident are you in your ability to lifttoday's max?' The scale ranged from 1 ('I don't think Ican lift as much as last time') to 7 ('I definitely can lifttoday's maximum'). It should be noted that strictextrapolation of Bandura's methodology would requirethat the subject be presented with a series of weights at,say, 10-lb (4.5-kg) increments, to each of which a
Self-efficacy and strength 169
confidence rating typically from 1 to 10 (no chance tocompletely confident) would be required. With thenovice population used in this study, the use of such asystem was deemed unsuitable because their lack ofexperience in weightlifting would have mitigatedagainst meaningful or reliable estimates. The systemused in the present study was designed to cope withnovices by relating every challenge (and associatedestimate) closely to their personal experiences.
A post-study inventory included general questionsdesigned to check whether the subjects had been awareof manipulations, any changes in difficulty of their lifts,and to ensure they had indeed felt they have been giventhe opportunity to lift to their maximum during eachsession.
The subjects were randomly assigned to one of threegroups - a control group, a light (L) group and a heavy(H) group. Males and females were evenly assigned (twofemales and six males per group). The study consisted offour individual sessions over a 5-day period, with a dayof rest between the first and second sessions. In eachsession, a procedure was followed which resulted in eachsubject recording a one-repetition maximum (1RM) lifton the bench press (judged by modified power-liftingrules). The subjects performed a warm-up set of fiverepetitions at approximately 50% of their perceivedmaximum, three repetitions at approximately 75% oftheir perceived maximum and, finally, attempted a set ofone at 100% maximum. Prior to this attempt, as in eachsubsequent session, the subjects were reminded that 'itis very important that you try your best to improve yourprevious maximum'. This was important, as one of theconditions of self-efficacy theory in modifying behav-iour is that proper incentives must be offered for change(Bandura, 1977,1986). In all the sessions, if an attemptcould not be successfully completed, weight wasremoved from the bar in 5-lb (2.25-kg) increments untilthe subject could perform the lift. If the subject was ableto lift this weight easily (a determination made by thesubject and the experimenter together), then an addi-tional 5 lb were added until a final maximum value wasreached. Between each of the sets, the subjects had a 30-srest period during which the investigator placed theweights on the bar in such a way so as not to arouse thesuspicion of the subject that any manipulation wastaking place. The subject prepared for the lift by lyingon the bench with his or her eyes closed (suggested to thesubjects as a preparation strategy), during which timethe collars were placed - actually or purportedly - onthe bar for the appropriate group, 'for safety purposes,to make certain the weights are on the bar securely',without arousing the suspicion of the subject. This was
the procedure underlying the experimental manipula-tion.
From the first two sessions, a baseline measure of theactual maximum weight lifted (BM) on the bench presswas obtained. The light group and the control groupused two 5-lb collars, whereas the heavy group did notuse collars. However,...