Collective Efficacy

Albert  Bandura  defined  collective  efficacy  (CE) as a group’s shared belief in its conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required  to  produce  given  levels  of  attainments, that  is,  situation-specific  confidence  in  a  group’s ability. A commonly used definition of CE in sport and exercise is a group’s (e.g., a sport team or an exercise group) belief in its ability to produce given levels of attainment. Whether in sport, exercise, or human  behavior  more  broadly,  CE  is  believed  to be  a  primary  determinant  of  group  behavior  and thought  patterns  that  occur  within  groups.  The content of this entry focuses mainly on CE in sport due to spatial limitations (but can easily be generalized to other settings such as exercise), provides a broad overview of related research, and is organized as follows. First, a distinction between selfefficacy (SE) and CE is provided. Measurement of CE  then  is  described.  Potential  sources  and  proposed  outcomes  of  CE  then  are  reviewed.  Future directions conclude this entry.

Self-Efficacy Versus Collective Efficacy

Like SE, CE beliefs focus on can do and not will do  perceptions  that  reside  within  individuals.  A key distinction between these two types of efficacy beliefs is the target of the efficacy appraisal or unit of  agency  where  SE  is  focused  at  the  individual level (my confidence in my ability to . . .) and CE is  focused  at  the  group  level  (my  confidence  in my  group’s  ability  to  .  .  .).  The  relevance  of  CE depends,  in  part,  on  the  presence  of  a  sufficient level  of  interdependence  within  the  group  with regard to the performance task.

As an example, which will be used periodically throughout  the  remainder  of  this  entry,  suppose that female athletes are nested within female teams and  that  both  SE  and  CE  are  of  interest  in  relation  to  athlete-level  and  team-level  performance, respectively.  A  team  member  can  have  beliefs about  her  own  ability  in  relation  to  a  particular individual  performance  task  (SE  for  individual performance)  that  may  differ  from  her  beliefs  in the  team’s  ability  in  relation  to  a  particular  team performance  task  (CE  for  team  performance). Similarly,  individual  athletes  within  the  same team  may  differ  markedly  in  their  assessment  of the  team’s  ability  in  relation  to  a  particular  team performance  task  (within-group  variability  of  CE for  team  performance).  For  the  purpose  of  this entry, let us assume that CE and team performance are  of  primary  interest.  It  should  be  noted,  however,  that  both  types  of  efficacy  beliefs  and  both types of performance tasks could be studied simultaneously and that doing so would probably better reflect  actual  behavior  and  thought  patterns  that occur within interdependent groups in practice.

Measurement of Collective Efficacy

Kevin   Spink   and   Deborah   Feltz   encouraged the study of CE in sport in the early 1990s, several years after the study of SE in sport was well established.  These  two  seminal  studies  did  not define,  and  therefore  measure,  CE  in  the  same way.  In  one  of  the  studies,  the  definition  of  CE focused on the fact that groups often have collective expectations for success (e.g., What placing do you expect to attain in this performance task?). In the other study, the definition of CE focused on a group’s belief in its conjoint capabilities to produce given  levels  of  attainment  (e.g.,  Rate  your  confidence right now that your team can outskate your upcoming  opponent  team).  Both  of  these  studies used a task-specific measurement approach, where unique  items  were  developed  with  respect  to  the specific performance task under study. From these seminal studies, CE in sport has since been assessed in a variety of ways.

There  are  at  least  four  task-specific  methods that have been used to assess CE in sport. The first method involves measuring each athlete’s SE beliefs in relation to a particular performance (e.g., how confident are you in your ability to . . .) and then combining  team  members’  SE  measures  in  some way to form a single CE (→CE) measure (SE→CE) for each team. The second method involves measuring each athlete’s CE beliefs (assumed to reside in the individual athlete; CEI) in relation to a particular  performance  (e.g.,  how  confident  are  you in your team’s ability to . . .) and then combining team members’ CE measures in some way to form a single CE measure (CEI→CE) for each team. The third  method  involves  measuring  each  athlete’s perception  of  the  team’s  CE  beliefs  (assumed  to reside in the team; CET) in relation to a particular performance  (e.g.,  how  confident  is  the  team  in its ability to . . .) and then combining team members’  CE  measures  in  some  way  to  form  a  single CE measure (CET→CE) for each team. The fourth method  involves  using  a  group  discussion  format to  obtain  a  single,  group-level  (CEG)  measure of  CE.  The  CEI→CE  method  and  the  CET→CE method have become the most widely used and are largely  accepted  as  valid.  A  task-invariant  instrument, the CE Questionnaire for Sports, also exists but  this  instrument  appears  to  be  used  relatively infrequently to date.

Sources of Collective Efficacy

Albert Bandura proposed that CE beliefs, just like SE beliefs, are based on the complex cognitive processing  of  approximately  four  general  categories of  potential  sources  of  information:  past  performance  accomplishments,  vicarious  experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological or emotional arousal.  Neither  vicarious  experience  (e.g.,  team modeling) nor physiological or emotional arousal (e.g.,  team  burnout)  have  been  formally  studied as  potential  sources  of  CE  information  in  sport. Researchers  in  sport  psychology  have  identified several  sport-specific  sources  of  CE  information and a few of these are briefly summarized below.

Past  performance  accomplishments  have  typically been identified as the strongest source of CE information  and  have  been  the  most  studied  to date.  There  is  evidence  that  past  performance,  in addition  to  directly  affecting  CE,  may  also  affect SE, which in turn can affect CE. Another efficacy belief  that  may  serve  as  a  source  of  CE  information is role efficacy. Role efficacy has been defined as an athlete’s confidence in his or her capabilities to  successfully  carry  out  formal  interdependent role responsibilities within a group.

Verbal  persuasion  has  been  shown  to  be  an effective way to increase CE. For example, a motivational pregame speech delivered by a coach has been shown to increase CE. More generally, teams that exist within a more task-oriented motivational climate  as  compared  to  teams  that  exist  within a  more  ego-oriented  climate  are  believed  to  have greater CE due, in part, to the positive reinforcements  that  exist  in  such  environments  for  more malleable outcomes than won–loss (e.g., improvement,  hard  work,  teamwork).  Finally,  a  coach’s behavior (e.g., communication style) in general is a key source of CE information.

There are a few proposed sources of CE information in sport that do not fit neatly into any of the four general categories of potential sources of information  but  may  nonetheless  be  important.

Team  size  has  been  shown  to  be  an  important factor  but  the  direction  and  magnitude  of  the relationship seems to depend strongly on the specific type(s) of performance task(s) being studied. Length  of  time  that  a  team  has  been  together  is another potentially important factor given that CE beliefs take time to form (recall, for example, the role of past performances). Length of time a team has been together may also be related to more general  team  development  issues,  which  in  turn  may be related CE beliefs.

Outcomes of Collective Efficacy

Albert  Bandura  proposed  that  CE  beliefs  often are a primary determinant of group behavior and thought  patterns  that  occur  within  groups.  CE beliefs  affect  the  choices  a  group  makes  (Do  we attempt to take on a particular task?), the effort a group dedicates to a particular task (Will we give our  best  effort  to  this  task?),  and  the  persistence a  group  displays  while  working  toward  completion of a particular task (Given a setback, will we redouble  our  efforts  toward  accomplishing  this task?). CE beliefs also affect the goals that a group sets (Will we select a goal that pushes our team to perform  our  very  best?),  the  attributions  a  group makes  (Given  a  setback,  will  we  identify  internal or  external  explanations  for  the  outcome?),  and the  emotional  reactions  a  group  has  (Given  that we  almost,  but  not  quite,  accomplished  our  goal and  that  we  no  longer  have  the  opportunity  to pursue this goal, will we feel proud of what we did accomplish?).

The effect of CE on team performance or team functioning  has  been  the  most  studied  outcome in  sport.  Much  of  the  earlier  work  was  done  in controlled  laboratory  settings,  while  much  of  the more recent work has been done in less controlled field  settings.  A  key  advantage  of  the  laboratory setting  stems  from  the  ability  to  randomly  assign participants to groups (e.g., high efficacy vs. low). A  key  advantage  of  the  field  setting  stems  from the ability to collect data from real teams that are engaging  in  a  task  that  is  likely  to  be  important to  the  team  members.  Regardless  of  the  setting, a  positive  effect  of  CE  on  team  performance  has typically been observed.

Potential team-level outcomes of CE other than team  performance  have  also  been  studied  and  a few of these are briefly summarized below. Team cohesion  and  CE  have  frequently  been  studied simultaneously.  Team  cohesion  has  been  defined as  a  dynamic  process  that  is  reflected  in  the  tendency  of  a  group  to  stick  together  and  remain united in the pursuit of its instrumental objectives or for the satisfaction of member affective needs. In  general,  stronger  CE  beliefs  have  been  found to  be  a  positive  predictor  of  team  cohesion.  CE as  a  predictor  of  team  attributions  has  also  been studied.  In  general,  athletes  who  have  strong  CE beliefs  also  believe  that  their  team’s  performance is something that could be controlled by the team, that is, the attribution for the outcome was internal to the team.

Future Directions

SE theory provides a strong theoretical base for the construction of the CE construct. Albert Bandura’s model of CE serves as a very useful starting point for  the  nature,  sources,  and  consequences  of  CE in  sport.  The  definition  and  therefore  the  measurement of CE in sport have both become more consistent  across  time.  Clearly  there  is  an  emerging  basis  from  which  future  scholarship  likely can proceed in some way. A future direction that may prove fruitful is to develop sport-specific and conceptual  model(s)  of  CE  that  expand  potential sources of CE information as well as potential outcomes of CE.


  1. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
  2. Feltz, D. L., & Lirgg, C. D. (1998). Perceived team and player efficacy in hockey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 557–564.
  3. Feltz, D. L., Short, S. E., & Sullivan, P. J. (2008). Selfefficacy in sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  4. Maddux, J. E. (1999). The collective construction of collective efficacy: Comment on Paskevich, Brawley, Dorsch, and Widmeyer. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3, 223–226.
  5. Myers, N. D., & Feltz, D. L. (2007). From self-efficacy to collective efficacy in sport: Transitional methodological issues. In G. Tenenbaum & R. C. Eklund (Eds.), The handbook of sport psychology (3rd ed., pp. 799–819). New York: Wiley.
  6. Myers, N. D., Payment, C. A., & Feltz, D. L. (2004). Reciprocal relationships between collective efficacy and team performance in women’s ice hockey. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8, 182–195.
  7. Spink, K. S. (1990b). Group cohesion and collective efficacy of volleyball teams. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 12, 301–311.
  8. Watson, C. B., Chemers, M. M., & Preiser, N. (2001). Collective efficacy: A multilevel analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1056–1068.

See also: