Self-efficacy expectancies, outcome expectancies, and symptoms of depression: a test of causal relationships



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


An experiment was conducted to test the predictions made by self-efficacy theory regarding the etiology of depressive symptoms. The experiment also was designed to allow comparison of the predictions made by self-efficacy theory with those made by the revised learned helplessness model of depression.

Two levels of self-efficacy expectancy (high and low) and two levels of outcome expectancy (high and low) were induced experimentally. The effects of these manipulations on the following variables were assessed: (1) performance, as measured by persistence at an unsolvable problem; (2) level of self -esteem; (3) level of self reported depressed mood; and (4) degree of apathy. Subjects were 40 female undergraduates enrolled in introductory psychology who received course credit for their participation.

Results failed to support completely the predictions made by either self-efficacy theory or the revised learned helplessness model of depression. Self-efficacy expectancy had a significant effect on self-reported apathy for an anticipated task (a set of geometric design problems), with subjects in the low self-efficacy expectancy condition expressing greater apathy (less interest, less concern) for attempting to solve the anticipated problems than subjects in the high self-efficacy expectancy condition. No other significant effects were found. Correlational analyses indicated that self- efficacy expectancy was a significant predictor of apathy for the task, general feelings of apathy, and self-esteem.

Findings of the current research are limited by uncertainties regarding the effects of the following: (1) the interaction of subject gender and type of task used, (2) subjects' pre-experimental vulnerability to various mood states, and (3) subjects' perceptions of the abilities of others to perform the anticipated task. The impact of these variables should be addressed in future research.



Expectation (Psychology), Mental, Depression, Helplessness (Psychology)