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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - Gender Differences in Mathematics Self-Efficacy Beliefs


In the early 1940s, at the height of behaviorism's influence on American psychology and education, learning theorists began to propose theories of social learning and imitation that rejected behaviorist notions of associationism in favor of drive reduction principles (e.g., Miller & Dollard, 1941). Although these theories were instrumental in emphasizing the role that social processes play on human learning and functioning, they failed to take into account the creation of novel responses or the processes of delayed and nonreinforced behaviors. In 1963, Bandura and Walters proposed a theory of social learning that broadened the frontiers of existing theories with the now familiar principles of observational learning and vicarious reinforcement. Bandura (1977, 1986) later proposed a view of human functioning that accorded a central role to cognitive, vicarious, self-regulatory, and self-reflective processes in human adaptation and change. In this sociocognitive perspective, individuals are viewed as proactive and self-regulating rather than as reactive and controlled by biological or environmental forces.

Social cognitive theory is rooted in a view of human agency in which individuals are proactively engaged in their own development and can make things happen by their actions. Key to this sense of agency is the fact that, among other personal factors, individuals possess self-beliefs that enable them to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions, that “what people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave” (Bandura, 1986, p. 5).

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