Despite the proliferation of self-efficacy research that has occurred over the past 40 years, only relatively recently (i.e., over the last decade or so) have investigators turned their attention to the additional efficacy beliefs that are formed specifically within relational contexts. The tripartite efficacy model provides a conceptual framework for the investigation of this issue and maintains that when individuals occupy a position within an instructional (e.g., coach–athlete, teacher– student) or cooperative (e.g., athlete–athlete) relationship, they develop an interrelated network of confidence beliefs. This network comprises their confidence in their own capabilities (see the entry “Self-Efficacy”), as well as two distinct relational efficacy perceptions regarding the person with whom they are interacting. The first of these relational beliefs, termed other-efficacy, refers to how confident one person is in the other person’s ability (e.g., an athlete’s confidence in his or her coach’s ability). Athletes and coaches often allude to this concept when discussing how much they “believe” in their significant other’s capabilities prior to competition. The other relational construct, namely relation-inferred self-efficacy (RISE), is formed as individuals estimate how confident they think the other person is in their ability. In coach– athlete exchanges, for example, athletes form RISE appraisals regarding how highly they believe their coach rates their ability as an athlete (e.g., I think my coach really believes in me). Due to the vagaries of interpersonal impression formation, our RISE beliefs may or may not align accurately with the other person’s actual confidence in our ability, and in that sense, this construct is classified as a metaperception insofar as it reflects an inference about another person’s thoughts. This entry presents an overview of the interrelationships between self-efficacy, other-efficacy, and RISE and integrates information on the theorized antecedents and consequences of individuals’ relational efficacy beliefs with existing research findings. The final section provides a summary of conceptual and empirical evidence for the existence of an additional relational efficacy construct (estimations of the other person’s self-efficacy, or EOSE), which has been largely unexplored to date.
Interrelationships Between the Tripartite Constructs
Sport-based investigations with members of coach–athlete and athlete–athlete dyads have typically demonstrated positive interrelationships between the tripartite efficacy constructs, whereby individuals’ other-efficacy and RISE beliefs have been found to be associated with higher levels of self-efficacy perceptions. For instance, athletes have been shown to report greater confidence in their own ability when they believe that they are working under a highly capable coach (i.e., other-efficacy) and/or when they feel that their coach believes strongly in their ability (i.e., RISE). However, this does not always appear to be the case, and counterproductive relational outcomes have been documented when discrepancies exist between one’s self-efficacy and relational efficacy beliefs. Empirical evidence indicates that, within coach–athlete interactions, a minority of athletes may report strong self-efficacy beliefs despite holding relatively low other-efficacy and RISE appraisals. In this situation, when relatively self efficacious athletes doubt their coach’s capabilities and their coach’s confidence in their ability, this appears to accompany heightened perceptions of relational conflict, and relatively lower levels of commitment to and satisfaction, with their coach.
Formation and Consequences of Other-Efficacy
Other-efficacy beliefs are theorized to originate out of one’s experiences with significant others (e.g., athletes’ interactions with their coaches) and one’s perception of the other’s accomplishments, as well as through comparison processes and stereotyping (e.g., comparisons with previous coaches, perceiver tendencies). Interviews with members of international-level coach–athlete and athlete–athlete dyads have provided support for these proposed antecedents. For example, coaches and athletes have reported that their confidence in the other person is strengthened when they feel that person boasts a successful track record, compares favorably with their previous partners, appears to be highly motivated, and is held in high regard by third parties. In cooperative settings, experimental procedures have also demonstrated that individuals’ other-efficacy beliefs may be substantively influenced by the provision of feedback about the partner’s performance effectiveness (or ineffectiveness).
In turn, when individuals believe strongly in the capabilities of their partner, coach, or athlete, this promotes a series of beneficial intrapersonal and relational outcomes (particularly when the “perceiver” occupies a subordinate position in the relationship). From an intrapersonal perspective, one’s other-efficacy perceptions have been shown to be positively associated with one’s own performance and motivation levels, as well as positive affective states (e.g., enjoyment). In exercise contexts, related research regarding the notion of proxy efficacy (i.e., one’s confidence in the abilities of a third party to function effectively on one’s behalf) has also demonstrated that individuals display more adaptive exercise intentions and engagement when they are highly confident in their instructor’s or practitioner’s capabilities.
In terms of relational outcomes, those who are highly confident in the other person’s ability also tend to display a stronger desire to maintain their relationship with that person, higher levels of trust and rapport, and greater enjoyment regarding their interactions. Due to the interdependent nature of sporting interactions, research has also shown that one person’s other-efficacy appraisals may shape outcomes for the other person in the relationship. For instance, when coaches believe strongly in an athlete’s capabilities, this has been shown to promote greater relationship commitment and effort on the part of the athlete. This effect is likely transmitted through a causal chain whereby the coach displays encouraging and supportive interpersonal behavior as a result of his or her confidence in the athlete, and this behavior is subsequently detected by the athlete, leading to favorable outcomes for the athlete.
Formation and Consequences of Relation-Inferred Self-Efficacy
RISE appraisals are shaped not only by the behavior of the target individual but also as a result of relevant perceiver attributes. For example, athletes and coaches appear to infer that the other person has confidence in their ability when she or he provides positive performance feedback, displays inclusive and supportive body language, and gives the impression that she or he enjoys their interactions. In addition, when individuals believe strongly in their own ability and are highly self-motivated, they also tend to believe that those around them are confident in their ability (e.g., I know I can do it, so why wouldn’t she be confident in me?). As with other-efficacy, RISE beliefs are theorized to account for a range of positive consequences. Most notably, as well as reinforcing one’s confidence in one’s own ability, individuals are more likely to feel comforted and reassured when they sense that the other person believes in their ability and as a result should report unifying relational perceptions (e.g., greater relationship satisfaction, perceived support, persistence intentions). These relational effects have been supported in existing qualitative sport-based research, as have a number of additional desirable outcomes in terms of elevated performance (e.g., if I feel that she believes in me, then that reassurance helps me to make decisions and do well when I’m competing) and motivation (e.g., when I think he’s confident in me, it makes me try even harder for him). Similarly, in high school physical education (PE) contexts, students have been shown to endorse relatively more self-determined motives for PE (i.e., participating primarily due to fun, interest, and enjoyment) when they believe that their teacher rates them as a highly capable student.
In coach–athlete settings, however, there is also contradictory evidence to indicate that, in some instances, RISE beliefs may align with maladaptive relational consequences. Specifically, when considering how the predictive functions of RISE may differ according to one’s role (and relative status) in coach–athlete dyads, moderator analyses have revealed a divergent pattern of effects for athletes and coaches. When coaches gauge that their athletes are highly confident in their coaching capabilities, it has been shown to promote adaptive relational perceptions on the part of those coaches (e.g., greater relationship satisfaction and commitment). However, athlete RISE estimations have been found, at times, to display inverse relations with these outcomes, insofar as athletes may report lowered commitment and satisfaction when they infer that their coach believes strongly in their ability. It is possible that, for these athletes, strong RISE appraisals may encourage a degree of complacency, which is manifest in reduced relationship commitment and satisfaction (e.g., if she’s not going to push me any further, then what’s the point?). Alternatively, it is also plausible that strong RISE appraisals about a coach might strengthen athletes’ confidence in their own ability to such an extent that they strive to find a new coach who can help them progress further and compete at a higher level. While these findings appear somewhat counterintuitive, they are noteworthy nonetheless and will undoubtedly be elucidated further as the relational efficacy literature continues to grow.
Estimations of the Other Person’s Self-Efficacy
Although qualitative, observational, and experimental work has begun to map out the implications associated with coaches’, athletes’, exercisers’, and students’ other-efficacy and RISE beliefs, another potential relational efficacy construct has yet to receive systematic attention. This construct, EOSE, represents one person’s appraisal of his or her partner’s level of self-efficacy. To illustrate the nature of this type of metaperception, we might consider a coach who feels that his or her athlete is beset by self-doubt. In this instance, the coach is not directly questioning the athlete’s capabilities (i.e., other-efficacy), nor is she or he concerned about the athlete’s confidence in his or her ability as a coach (i.e., RISE); rather, she or he feels that the athlete appears to lack confidence in his or her own ability (e.g., my athlete doesn’t look very confident about what she’s got to do in this competition). Whereas the accurate appraisal of another person’s self-efficacy may rely on the detection and interpretation of relatively subtle behavioral cues, it appears that individuals in coach–athlete and athlete–athlete relations do make assessments of this kind about one another. In fact, research has demonstrated that athletes and coaches draw from many of the factors that contribute to their own self-efficacy beliefs when estimating how confident the other person is in his or her own ability (e.g., gauging the other person’s recent performances, verbal and nonverbal behavior, affective and physiological state). Interviews with members of elite sporting dyads have also revealed that individuals may feel more positive about their relationship, as well as more motivated and more confident in their own ability, when they believe that the other person is highly self-efficacious. On the other hand, when athletes and coaches appraise (rightly or wrongly) that the other person in their relationship is experiencing self-doubt, then this may result in elevated anxiety levels, interpersonal difficulties, and in some cases, relationship termination.
Despite the potential for EOSE to shape personal outcomes and relational dynamics in sport, to date there is no single study that has adopted a fully integrated approach to the study of relational efficacy beliefs in sport (i.e., by measuring other-efficacy, RISE, and EOSE simultaneously). Nevertheless, the emerging literature indicates that the tripartite framework has relevance in terms of understanding the interpersonal cognitions that drive behavior and relationship outcomes within sport and exercise-based interactions.
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