Bandura (1977) – Self-efficacy

Bandura, A. (1977) ‘Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioural change’, Psychological Review 84, 191–215).



This is the third study we will be looking at from the ‘Theories of Health Belief’ section of ‘Healthy Living’, as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into ‘Self-efficacy

Also know as Bandura and Adams (1977)

In order to better you understanding of self-efficacy and this study, it is highly recommended that you read: Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control by Albert Bandura.

Video about self-efficacy:


To assess the self-efficacy of patients undergoing systematic desensitisation in relation to their behaviour with previously phobic objects.

Method and Design

A Quasi-experiment.


The participants all had a snake phobia, which is why the experiment was quasi. Bandura could not have randomly assigned people to groups, either participants had a fear of snakes or they did not.

The participants were 10 snake phobic patients who replied to an advertisement in a newspaper. 9 Females and 1 Male aged 19-57 years old.

There was not a control group used in this study.


Pre-test assessment: each of the participants were tested for avoidance behaviour towards a Boa constrictor, then fear arousal was assessed with an oral rating of 1-10. Efficacy expectations (how much they thought they would be able to complete tasks involving snakes) Fear of snakes also measured.

Systematic desensitisation: a standard desensitisation programme was followed. Patients were introduced to a series of events involving snakes and at each stage were taught relaxation. Ranged from looking at pictures of snakes to handling live snakes. Post test assessments carried out were on self efficacy and coping.


Higher levels of post test self-efficacy were found to correlate with higher levels of interaction with snakes. The more the participant interacted with snakes, the higher their level of self-efficacy. 


Desensitisation enhanced self-efficacy levels which, in turn, led to a belief that the participant was able to cope with their phobia of snakes.

Bandura (1977) Evaluation

– Generalisability – the sample was small and gynocentric, however there was a wide range of ages.

– Demand characteristics may have been present due to the nature of the study and the self-reports.


Audio Podcast


Bandura, A. (1977) ‘Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioural change’, Psychological Review 84, 191–215).


Further Reading

Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide New Edition: Unit G543 Health and Clinical Psychology (Student Unit Guides)
Psych Yogi’s Top Ten Psychology Revision Tips for the A* Student

Article Name
Bandura (1977) - Self-efficacy
'Theories of Health Belief' Bandura and Adams (1977) Revise OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology exam Revision. Further categorised into 'Self-efficacy'