“We are more likely to perform actions when we believe in our own competence”


Action requires belief: “I can do it!”

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his/her own competence. According to Albert Bandura – who defined self-efficacy theory – this personalized belief in our ability to succeed affects our behaviour. The more competent we think we are (a high level of perceived self-efficacy), the greater our intrinsic motivation to act is.

There are at least 3 types of information that enhance our self-efficacy online:

  1. Our own behaviour: when we are successful, we become convinced that we will be successful again.
  2. The behaviour of others: when we see others being successful with certain behaviour, we become convinced that with that same behaviour, we will also be capable of success.
  3. Rewarding feedback; positive feedback also contributes to our idea that we will achieve our goal by continuing.


Scientific research example

Two groups of students are engaged in solving a Soma Cube puzzle. Both groups do this in 3 sessions. The only difference between the two groups is the 2nd session. Group A receives verbal praise and positive feedback in this 2nd session, whereas group B does not. Guess what happens in the (equal) 3rd session… Yep, group A solves more puzzles in the final session. Why? Raising our self-efficacy increases our intrinsic motivation to act.


Online Persuasion tips:

  • Provide instant feedback on correct behaviour (i.e. green checkmarks appearing when fields are filled correctly).
  • Visualize the simplicity of procedures (a progress indicator with 3 – 5 clear steps, an easy-looking infographic, etc).
  • Show existing customers that have bought items, or took action.
  • Use ‘how-to’ pages (and possibly videos) where you show your visitor how easy it is to act.
  • Use social proof (i.e. 12,452 others bought a product with us today).



Luke Wroblewski (former Chief Design Architect [VP] at Yahoo! and Lead User Interface Designer at eBay) studied enhancing self-efficacy by providing positive feedback on a typical web registration form. This positive feedback involved displaying green check marks when a user filled in a correct answer (see video).

The form with inline validation showed compelling improvements (Luke studied 22 average users in a usability test setting):

  • 22% increase in conversions
  • 31% increase in reported satisfaction
  • Participants strongly preferring the feedback version


One of the reasons this test result is plausible is the fact that positive feedback (green checkmarks) will have increased the perceived self-efficacy of the users and therefore the intrinsic motivation to complete the form.


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Further reading on self-efficacy: