Pitfalls of Psychology #2: Perceived Self-Efficacy

The following is an abstract taken from a journal article published in 2004 entitled, “Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: the role of perceived self-efficacy”


The present article integrates findings from diverse studies on the generalized role of perceived coping self-efficacy in recovery from different types of traumatic experiences. They include natural disasters, technological catastrophes, terrorist attacks, military combat, and sexual and criminal assaults. The various studies apply multiple controls for diverse sets of potential contributors to posttraumatic recovery. In these different multivariate analyses, perceived coping self-efficacy emerges as a focal mediator of posttraumatic recovery. Verification of its independent contribution to posttraumatic recovery across a wide range of traumas lends support to the centrality of the enabling and protective function of belief in one’s capability to exercise some measure of control over traumatic adversity.

-Charles C. Benight, Albert Bandura
Journal: Behaviour Research and Therapy, vol. 42, no. 10, pp. 1129 1148, 2004

I came across this article as I was finishing my final requirements for my Psychiatric Nursing subject.  The whole time I couldn’t help but be disturbed by the complete and utter self-centeredness of the piece.  Of course, it’s a psychological study so it’s supposed to be centered on the self.  After all, isn’t that what psychology is all about? And yet, it bothers me to think and realize that some people actually center their beliefs around these things.

Perceived coping self-efficacy emerges as a focal mediator of posttraumatic recovery.
In layman’s terms, the success or failure of posttraumatic therapy depends on whether or not the person believes in himself enough to be able to successfully complete the therapeutic regimen and not succumb to intermittent episodes of remission and exacerbation of trauma symptoms.  Among other, less powerful factors, perceived self-efficacy is the key.

What does the Bible say?

Scripture is entirely explicit about how we know and are assured that we can overcome fear:

Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. (Psalm 23:4)

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6)

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

In addition, we find truth in these lines:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Where now does self-efficacy fit in?

Let’s get to the point

I do not find that the above research is blasphemous in itself.  After all, it is a mere presentation of facts and observations resulting from the responses of different subjects under study.  What is dangerous, however, is our tendency to completely rule out and forget the fact that this said “focal mediator” of self-efficacy is a foundation that is only as sturdy as the wind.  God is the only true refuge, and He has overcome fear and death for us through Jesus Christ.  Nothing we can do for ourselves will ever be enough to conquer whatever anxiety we struggle with, because only One has succeeded in doing so.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

More from this Series:

Pitfalls of Psychology #1: Zuckerman’s Sensation-Seeking Theory

Pitfalls of Psychology #2: Perceived Self-Efficacy

Pitfalls of Psychology #3: Counseling and Giving Advice.