Conceptual and methodological ambiguities surrounding the concept of perceived behavioral control are clarified. It is shown that perceived control over performance of a behavior, though comprised of separable components that reflect beliefs about self-efficacy and about controllability, can nevertheless be considered a unitary latent variable in a hierarchical factor model. It is further argued that there is no necessary correspondence between self-efficacy and internal control factors, or between controllability and external control factors. Self-efficacy and controllability can reflect internal as well as external factors and the extent to which they reflect one or the other is an empirical question. Finally, a case is made that measures of perceived behavioral control need to incorporate self-efficacy as well as controllability items that are carefully selected to ensure high internal consistency.
Summary and Conclusions
Perceived control over performance of a behavior can account for consider- able variance in intentions and actions. However, ambiguities surrounding the concept of perceived behavioral control have tended to create uncertainties and to impede progress. The present article attempted to clarify conceptual ambiguities and resolve issues related to the operationalization of perceived behavioral control. Recent research has demonstrated that the overarching concept of perceived behavioral control, as commonly assessed, is comprised of two components: self-efficacy (dealing largely with the ease or difficulty of performing a behavior) and controllability (the extent to which performance is up to the actor). Contrary to a widely accepted view, it was argued that self-efficacy expectations do not necessarily correspond to beliefs about internal control factors, and that controllability expectations have no necessary basis in the perceived operation of external factors. Instead, it was suggested that self-efficacy and controllability may both reflect beliefs about the presence of internal as well as external factors. Rather than making a priori assumptions about the internal or external locus of self-efficacy and controllability, this issue is best treated as an empirical question.
Also of theoretical significance, the present article tried to dispel the notion that self-efficacy and controllability are incompatible with, or independent of, each other. Although factor analyses of perceived behavioral control items provide clear and consistent evidence for the distinction, there is sufficient commonality between self-efficacy and controllability to suggest a two-level hierarchical model. In this model, perceived behavioral control is the overarching, superordinate construct that is comprised of two lower-level components: self-efficacy and controllability. This view of the control component in the theory of planned behavior implies that measures of perceived behavioral control should contain items that assess self-efficacy as well as controllability. Depending on the purpose of the investigation, a decision can be made to aggregate over all items, treating perceived behavioral control as a unitary factor, or to distinguish between self-efficacy and controllability by entering separate indices into the prediction equation.