Reading, learning, and attempting to understand people and the world generally, has been my life since I was 10, when I started reading the same novels as my mother (Jon Cleary, Neville Shute, H E. Bates, and many more), before starting to read Nietzsce, C. Wright Mills, Hemingway, Patrick White, and many more at 12.
At that time I remember wanting to understand the world I was in, I wasn’t seeking knowledge of myself—that came later.
Most recently, having gone back to undergraduate study, in the form of a Graduate Diploma in Psychology, I’ve learnt both about psychology and myself. The subject I’ve just finished has “critical evaluations”, in which students have to write critically about aspects of their lives, or something they have witnessed,in context of the theory being taught at that time.
Below is one such critical evaluation, dealing with aspects of my life. It did not receive a very good mark (65/100), because I did not adequately relate my experiences to the Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. But it taught me a lot about myself, and I see no reason not to publish it here under the autobiographical tag.
In fairness to the person who graded it, I have left it as written, not changing it to deal with any of the—unfortunately accurate—criticisms returned to me.
Learning about myself in this way was the last thing I expected from this course, and perhaps I should re-write it as a more autobiographical piece. But, I think it is more instructive in this form, overly revealing of myself as it is. I also think it is instructive of one manner in which we may all learn about ourselves, not by relating our lives to psychological theory, but by detailing what we remember that has led us to specific situations in our lives.
One point for understanding: the oral presentation I mention was a video of ourselves talking about the work being done, with slides, as though presenting it to an audience or putting it on YouTube. A truly unpleasant experience, as far as I am concerned.
As for Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy (and reciprocal-determinism, which I unfortunately left out of the piece), I have to say that I have admired Bandura’s ideas for a very long time, They are incredibly useful for understanding, and I would recommend them.
Lastly, I have to add that I am having great difficulties with this course. After many years of researching and developing my own ideas, I am being asked to accept take seriously theories which, in some instances, I rejected decades ago. It is very difficult to act as though I believe them, especially the biological theories. It may well be that I will run screaming away from this course. I shall see.
To the extent that self-efficacy is persons belief in their ability to take on and complete projects (Bandura, 1977, 1982; Usher & Pajares, 2008) my self-efficacy is high in some areas, (creative writing, art), but low in others, e.g., I am now having to think and write in a shorter time than I am accustomed to.
I have had high self-efficacy about academic work, but childhood experiences, e.g., being physically punished for work not believed to be mine, provided a negative background. This effects self-efficacy by removing the core of self-efficacy , the sense of control (Maddux & Lewis, 1995), which is comprised of beliefs about competency, not competency itself. (Gosselin & Maddux, 2003)
Whilst employed as a temporary senior lecturer, one student insisted on intrusive questions, not about the subject, which I said we would discuss after class. Without warning he started screaming abuse, clenched his fists and stated he would assault me after class instead, and left. Very shaken, I finished the class none the less.
I was researching a masters at the time (and should not have been acting as a senior lecturer), and several days later, my supervisor, who had arranged the employment, reversed his written opinion on my work, saying that it was barely undergraduate level. This was very confusing, as he had previously stated it was excellent work
After this experiences, it became difficult to use imaginal experience believing I could do it, and imagining doing it (Maddux, 2009) to get myself back into lecturing mode.
Other events also occurred. I enrolled in two different PhDs, only to have the supervisors tell me, within months, that they could not supervise the work.
Whilst the latter events were aversive, I continued researching and writing, publishing on my blog and academic websites. The former, however, acted as negative reinforcement, my metronome being the very physical threat, no doubt because I deeply fear violence, having been told at a young age by my father what he and others did in the Dutch East Indies in the World War II. (Second generation trauma is alive and well!) That it had such strong effect, however, suggests cognitive mediation of the conditioning (Kirsch, Lynn, Vigorito, & Miller, 2004), via repeated imaginal experiences of the event, thus lowering my self-efficacy for lecturing and oral presentations, but not for presenting conference papers. Hence my low self-efficacy refers to marked work at a university, not work done outside a university context.
One way in which I could change this is to achieve mastery by completing the degree successfully, but most important is control of the physiological responses (shaking, sweating, loss of clear thinking) which contributed to my loss of self-efficacy whilst lecturing, and which re-occur whenever I need to perform at a university. (Bandura, 1977, 1982; Usher & Pajares, 2008). Vicarious experience (watching others perform) and verbal persuasion (being encouraged to work, being told my work is good and will get better) (Bandura, 1977, 1982; Usher & Pajares, 2008) is of no use: I know the level I am capable of working at.
Beyond this, the most likely effect is maintenance of my self-efficacy at its current level, though it may improve as I continue working.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37(2), 122–147. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.37.2.122
Gosselin, J. T., & Maddux, J. E. (2003). Self-Efficacy. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity. New York: The Guilford Press.
Kirsch, I., Lynn, S. J., Vigorito, M., & Miller, R. R. (2004). The role of cognition in classical and operant conditioning. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60(4), 369–392. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.10251
Maddux, J. E. (2009). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195187243.013.0031
Maddux, J. E., & Lewis, J. (1995). Self-Efficacy and Adjustment. In Self-efficacy, adaptation, and adjustment (pp. 37–68). Springer US. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-6868-5_2
Usher, E. L., & Pajares, F. (2008). Sources of self-efficacy in school: Critical review of the literature and future directions. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 751–796. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654308321456