Edited by Albert Bandura
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 1995
Online Publication Date:August 2010
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511527692.003
People strive to exercise control over events that affect their lives. By exerting influence in spheres over which they can command some control, they are better able to realize desired futures and to forestall undesired ones. The striving for control over life circumstances permeates almost everything people do because it can secure them innumerable personal and social benefits. The ability to affect outcomes makes them predictable. Predictability fosters adoptive preparedness. Inability to exert influence over things that adversely affect one's life breeds apprehension, apathy, or despair. The capability to produce valued outcomes and to prevent undesired ones, therefore, provides powerful incentives for the development and exercise of personal control.
Although a strong sense of efficacy in socially valued pursuits is conducive to human attainment and well-being, it is not an unmixed blessing. The impact of personal efficacy on the nature and quality of life depends, of course, on the purposes to which it is put. For example, the lives of innovators and social reformers driven by unshakable efficacy are not easy ones. They are often the objects of derision, condemnation, and persecution, even though societies eventually benefit from their persevering efforts. Many people who gain recognition and fame shape their lives by overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles only to be catapulted to new social realities over which they have lesser control. Indeed, the annals of the famed and infamous are strewn with individuals who were both architects and victims of their destinies.