6. Collective efficacy

Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy is rather popular in social psychology. Self-efficacy can be defined as the beliefs of the individual for s/he being able to reach such performance that has an effect on life affecting events, his/her feelings, thoughts, and self-motivation.

Feeling of self-efficacy is of great importance for the individual, as people characterized by high self-efficacy consider difficult, complex tasks as challenges to be solved, while people characterized by low self-efficacy tend to show an avoidant attitude. People with high self-efficacy are able to get involved and engrossed in the tasks, set more ambitious goals and keep their efforts even in case of failure. They can more easily recover from failure and focus their attention on the goal again. Those having a lower level of self-efficacy tend to avoid the more difficult, challenging situations considering these as potential threats, set less ambitious goals, focus more on the negative outcomes, and because they trust less in their abilities even smaller failures result in the loss of enthusiasm. Stress is more characteristic of them, and they are more prone to depression.

Feeling of self-efficacy has several sources. The first and possibly the most important is the practical experience, as successes may develop the stable perception of self-efficacy. In this process the best case scenario when there are no major failures before the feeling of efficacy emerges, but for a stable feeling of self-efficacy it is important to face failures later on, becoming more resistant, rare failures will not hinder the individual that much.

Feeling of self-efficacy can not only be fostered by practical experience but also by vicarious experience or learning, when our own feeling of self-efficacy may get higher or lower, by observing other people similar to us, experience success or failure as a result of hard work. A third source of feeling of high self-efficacy is social persuasion, when for example teammates convince the individual that he possesses the abilities and potential to solve certain tasks, and reach certain goals. A drawback of social persuasion is that it can more easily destroy feeling of self-efficacy than to strengthen, or develop it, since verbal support is easily contradicted when facing a failure, while efficacy feelings destroyed by verbal persuasion leads us to give up more easily, hence self-efficacy feeling will not develop, or at least develops more slowly.

A fourth source of the feeling of self-efficacy is the investigation of somatic and affective states, that is, considering somatic and affective signs, like stress, for example, as a tendency for poor performance. Easing stress reactions and negative affect may help in developing the feeling of a higher level of self-efficacy.

Personal feeling of self-efficacy and the change of it in a positive way, or at least the maintenance of it is a high priority goal in sport psychology, in team sports as well, but in case of team sports a so called collective efficacy can also be observed, that is, as Bandura (1997) defined it: “a group’s shared belief in its conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 477).

Collective efficacy can be directly linked to self-efficacy. Main sources of self-efficacy can be considered to be group- (or team) level equivalents of the main sources of self-efficacy. That is, enactive mastery experience can be equated with the past performance of the team, vicarious experience with team vicarious experience, verbal persuasion with team-level motivation, and physiological states with psychological safety of the group (Robinson, Bucic és De Ruyter, 2006).

The relation of self-efficacy and collective efficacy is summarized in Figure 1.

Collective efficacy has a close relation with several constructs that are important for the teams. For reasons explained above, collective efficacy is in a very close relation with self-efficacy, not only for being sort of an extension of self-efficacy for teams, but also because self-efficacy is one, if not the most important source of collective efficacy.

Sportsmen who are characterized with higher level of self-efficacy, who are more confident concerning their abilities, and goals, tend to report higher levels as well when it comes to the study of collective efficacy, that is, the higher the feeling of self-efficacy, the higher the feeling of collective efficacy (Chow & Feltz, 2014).

Table 1.Relation of self-efficacy and collective efficacy. (Based on Robinson, Bucic és De Ruyter, 2006)

The above already described group cohesion is also very important when it comes to collective efficacy. As far as collective efficacy is concerned, task cohesion appears to be more decisive than social cohesion, but there are no definitive results in this respect. Unity of the team in evaluating the characteristics related to the task helps to increase the belief in the team’s efficacy. The role of leadership is also an important aspect concerning both the role of the coach as a leader, and the role of certain players as leaders. Leaders have a direct effect on collective efficacy as they encourage the team members, serve as a model role for them, strengthen their beliefs in their own and the team’s abilities by persuasion and feedback, as well as by improving group processes.

Outcomes of the feeling of collective efficacy

Based on the meta-analysis of Stajkovic, Lee and Nyberg (2009) the intuitively expected positive relation between collective efficacy and team performance was corroborated both in laboratory and field studies. That is, teams characterized with a higher level of collective efficacy perform better than teams with lower level of collective efficacy, and after experiencing failure these teams can mobilize more resources and more persistently in order to improve their performance. Hodges and Carron (1992) for example, created team of three of their subjects, who were to perform a task with a medicine ball. Half of the teams of three were told that they are stronger than their opponents (high collective efficacy condition), while the other half of the teams were told that they are weaker than their opponents (low collective efficacy condition). After the beginning of this paragraph it should come as no surprise that Hedges and Carron found that the teams in the high collective efficacy condition significantly outperformed the teams in the low collective efficacy condition. That is, the occurrence of the feeling of collective efficacy can work as a self-fulfilling prophecy, explaining why well-performing teams sink on the chart after a few defeats, despite their obvious capabilities. In such cases changing the coach may work for example because the new coach as a leader may change the feeling of collective efficacy in the team, bringing a sort of a “winner attitude” that can be seen in the results already in the short run. (Obviously, there can be numerous other effects playing a role in the improving result after the appointment of the new coach.)

Although laboratory investigations, especially experiments play an important role in the study of a certain phenomenon, revealing causal relations, for example, it is important to be aware of the limitations of these laboratory investigations as well. In the study of collective efficacy, it is a reasonable critique, in case of the above described experiment for example, that it has no ecological validity, as in real world no ad hoc teams are competing, but teams with a history and internal dynamics. That is why it is of special importance that even in field studies with real teams as subjects similar results were found, as in the studies cited above, and other similar laboratory investigations. (Chow & Feltz, 2014.)

While the role of collective efficacy can inevitably be considered to be the most important with regard to team performance, it has an effect on several other constructs as well. One of these constructs is group cohesion, since the feeling of collective efficacy makes the team more appealing, hence increasing the importance of belonging to the group, and the cooperation for reaching the common goals. Collective efficacy has an effect on the goals set and followed by the team, as the teams with hogher level of collective efficacy, trusting the abilities of the group, accordingly set goals that are more ambitious, and then try to reach those goals more resolutely than teams with lower level of collective efficacy. Collective efficacy can also affect the affective states, like anxiety, pride etc. Teams with higher collective efficacy experience less anxiety even in case of higher pressure, since the responsibility for the either successful or unsuccessful performance is split among the team members. (Chow & Feltz, 2014.)