Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Publications & ResearchPresident’s Office
Questioning the Utility of Self‐Efficacy
Measurements for Indians
Purva J. Rushi
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, firstname.lastname@example.org
This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the President’s Office at DigitalCommons@IMSA. It has been accepted for inclusion in
Publications & Research by an authorized administrator of DigitalCommons@IMSA. For more information, please email@example.com,
Rushi, P.J. 2007. Questioning the utility of self‐efficacy measurements for Indians. International Journal of Research & Method in
Questioning the utility of self‐efficacy measurements for Indians
Purva J. Rushi
This study examined the influence of academic self-efficacy and social support on the academic
success of Indian-American and Caucasian-American undergraduate students. 200 Indian- American
and Caucasian-American students completed a demographic form and five surveys. The data showed
that academic self-efficacy had a significant effect on college grade point averages (GPA) for
Caucasians, but not for Indians. Regarding social support, the quality of mentoring relationships was
found to be twice as high for Indians than Caucasians. The total number of mentors, however, was
significantly higher for Caucasians. The results of this study support theories that highlight the
importance of social support on Indians’ academic success, and of academic self- efficacy on
Caucasians’ academic success. This study also provides support of the existing literature that the
construct of self-efficacy is culturally biased, and questions the utility of self-efficacy measurements for
the Indian ethnicity.
The current measurements of self-efficacy do not take into account the values of collective societies,
such as those found in the Indian culture. To accurately assess the self-efficacy of ethnically diverse
students from cultures outside of western society, researchers must first understand the cultural contexts
in which the individuals were raised. As shown in the review of literature, even when Indian children are
born and raised in America, their immigrant parents generally maintain continued practice of traditional
Indian values, including a high value on educational success. Consequently, in terms of identity
formation and development of self-efficacy, notions of community and family values may be very
different for Indian children with immigrant parents than for Caucasian-American children. This would
naturally influence perceptions of the self and development of self-efficacy in Indians. The western
concept of self-efficacy does not account for such diversity in cultural contexts. Researchers, therefore,
need to employ different methodological approaches that may account for such cultural differences. The
review of literature highlights the importance of social support on Indians’ academic endeavors, and
shows how the current self-efficacy measurements do not take this value into account. The
measurements do, however, accurately correlate the role of academic self-efficacy for Caucasians’
Review of literature
The construct of ‘self’ in America and India
The construal of the self and others are tied to the implicit, normative tasks that cultures believe the
members of their group should be conducting in their lives (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Markus and
Kitayama (1991) suggest that construals of the self and others, and its influence, is evident in western
and eastern cultural differences. Markus and Kitayama (1991) discussed this in their comparisons of an
independent view of the self with an interdependent view.
The interdependent view entails an individuals’ perception of belonging in a social relationship,
and the self is influenced by thoughts, feelings and actions of others in the relationship (Markus &
Kitayama, 1991). Miller et al. (1990) found that Indians believe responsiveness to the needs of others is
a moral obligation that must be fulfilled. This belief is held to a much greater extent than Americans,
according to their study (Miller et al., 1990).
The independent view, on the other hand, is defined as a separation from the social context, and is
marked by internalization of thought, feelings, and abilities (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). According to
Jellison and Green (1981), people growing up in the western culture learn to attribute behavior more to
an individual’s character rather than to the environment. Studies conducted in eastern cultures, however,
have found stark differences in attributions of behavior. Findings from studies conducted in India
regarding self-descriptions are similar to those found in other collective societies (Markus & Kitayama,
1991). In Miller’s 1984 study, situational attributions occurred twice as often with Indians than with
Americans and internal attributes were twice as frequent in the American sample as compared to the
Indian sample (1984).
This internalization of abilities found in the American culture may very well be a basis for
differences in self-efficacy, when compared to the Indian culture, which promotes more of the
development of the interdependent self-construal (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In research comparing
samples from America and India, it was found that Americans are more likely to demonstrate the ‘false
uniqueness effect’ (i.e., underestimating the commonality of one’s desirable traits) than Indians are
(Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In contrast, Indians were found to be significantly more likely to
emphasize the qualities that they share with others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In researching how
individuals interpret their successes and failures, Fry and Ghoush (1980) feel that attribution may be
significantly influenced by the socialization patterns to which individuals are exposed to in childhood. In
the Indian culture, it is a universal norm that individuals should accept full responsibility for their
actions (Fry & Ghoush, 1980). This is viewed as a sense of greater attribution of personal responsibility
for failure among Indians compared to Caucasian Americans (Fry & Ghoush, 1980). In their study,
Indians also claimed less personal responsibility for individual success than Caucasian Americans (Fry
& Ghoush, 1980). Fry and Ghoush suggested that this may be due to one of two, or both, possibilities:
socialization pressures based in their culture, which expect self-effacement and social denial of
individual success, or the minority group status that the Indian immigrants have may lead to poor
development for self-efficacy and self-assurance (1980). Thus, such a construct as self-efficacy may
either be low for Indians, or not valid altogether, based on the differences in attribution of abilities
between the Indian and American cultures. This will be discussed later in this article, in light of the
findings that result from this study.
Differences in American and Indian cultures
Social support plays a seemingly much more integral role in Indian society than in the American culture,
and this high level of dependence on the family and elders is cultivated in children early on (Bisht &
Sinha, 1981). Emotional gratification for compliance with familial and societal expectations, and love
and affection tied to achievement of these goals, causes the child to become highly dependent on the
support of the parents, extended family and the community (Roland, 1980). According to Shweder
(1991), Indians are governed by a duty-based code of living that guides their thoughts and actions,
where the values of obedience, intelligence, compliance and cooperation are cultivated. This duty-based
disposition found in the Indian culture is consistent with a collectivist culture, which discourages
personal freedoms and promotes high levels of dependence and discipline instead (Hofstede, 1984;
Triandis, 1995; Rose et al., 2003).
This is contrary to American society, which views working with others as a means of taking away
from the concept of self by hindering the abilities of self-reliance and independence (White & LeVine,
1986). In America, a rights-based code of living guides individual behavior, and Caucasian Americans
treasure their rights, freedoms, and independence (Shweder, 1991).
Relationship of culture to academic success
Analysis of cultural influence on Indians’ educational attainment has only been studied in limited
amounts. Asakawa and Csikszentmihalyi studied the relationship of culture to the value that youth from
each society, Asian and American, places on education (2000; see also Asakawa, 2001). Although the
sample included 34 Asians from a wide range of backgrounds, only two were of South Asian descent
(e.g., Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan), with no specific ethnic background reported for both students. The
lack of such a study on Indian-Americans provides further evidence of the need for research on the
academic success of Indian-Americans. Asakawa and Csikszentmihalyi’s (2000) findings suggest that
Asian-American adolescents value activities related to their educational goals more highly than do
Caucasian-American adolescents. The researchers posit that since the Asian culture, as a whole, holds
academic achievement in high regards, the parental socialization of the particular Asian families studied
created a strong sense of relatedness with the Asian youth (Asakawa & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Due to
the strong social support system in Indian culture, self-efficacy may not be as critical to the attainment
of educational success.
Role of self-efficacy on Indians’ academic success
The General Self-efficacy Scale created by Ralf Schwarzer (1985) has been validated across 25
countries, with the sample from India achieving the lowest internal consistency (Scholz et al., 2002).
This shows that the utility of the self-efficacy construct for Indians may need to be assessed. Aside from
this study on general self-efficacy, there have been no studies that include a significant amount of
Indians in their assessment of self-efficacy and its role to academic success.
Although not studied in relation to academic success, Robert Klassen reviewed 20 studies of self-
efficacy beliefs in different populations (2004). His analysis found that in nearly every study involving
non-western cultural groups, including India, efficacy beliefs were found to be lower, and in some cases,
these lower beliefs were more predictive of subsequent positive performance (Klassen, 2004). Lower
levels of self- efficacy beliefs found in some collectivist groups, therefore, do not always correlate to
lower subsequent functioning, but are instead reflective of differing constructs of self (Klassen, 2004).
This provides evidence that Indians may have lower self-efficacy than their Caucasian-American peers,
yet still maintain significant academic success.
Based on this literature review, the importance of research examining the social and psychological
experiences of both Indian-American undergraduates and Caucasian undergraduate students emerges.
The purpose of this study is to explore the relation- ships of social support and self-efficacy to the
academic success of Indian-American and Caucasian-American undergraduates.
Is academic self-efficacy higher for Caucasian-American or Indian-American students? Is social
support higher for Caucasian-American or Indian-American students?
Does academic self-efficacy and social support predict academic success for Caucasian-
Americans? Does academic self-efficacy and social support predict academic success for Indian-
Is the effect of academic self-efficacy and social support on academic success greater for
Caucasian-Americans or Indian-Americans?
Does social support and academic self-efficacy predict academic success for the entire sample
after accounting for ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, year in college, and college major?
Does the interaction of social support and ethnicity, or the interaction of academic self-efficacy
and ethnicity, predict academic success?
Participants and setting
Academic self-efficacy will be higher for Caucasian-American students and social support will be
higher for Indian-American students.
Academic self-efficacy will predict academic success for Caucasian-Americans and social support
will predict academic success for Indian-Americans.
The effect of academic self-efficacy will be greater for Caucasian-Americans and the effect of
social support will be greater for Indian-Americans.
Social support and academic self-efficacy will predict academic success for the entire sample after
accounting for ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, year in college, and major. Both the
interaction of social support and ethnicity, and the interaction of academic self-efficacy and
ethnicity, will be found to predict academic success.
Inventories were administered to 100 Indian and 100 Caucasian students enrolled in their junior and
senior undergraduate years at a large, public university in the US.
Procedure and research design
The recruitment for both groups of students was through two organizations at the university. A
demographic form and five surveys were completed anonymously by each student, and a 100% response
rate was achieved. This was a nonrandomized study that used a correlational approach.
The dependent variable was academic success, measured by grade point average (GPA) on a 4.00 scale,
was asked of every participant.
The independent variables were academic self-efficacy and social support. The method of
measuring and assessing the academic self-efficacy variable was through the Survey of Academic
Orientations (Davidson et al., 1999). There were two methods of measuring and assessing the social
support variable: the Perceived Social Support Inventory: Family and Friends (Procidano & Heller,
1983) and the Perceived Mentors Scale (Gloria et al., 1999). The Perceived Social Support Inventory
consists of two scales, the Perceived Social Support: Family (Pss-Fa) and the Perceived Social Support:
Friends (Pss-Fr). The scores for each instrument were calculated separately, and each scale was
considered separately in the data analysis.
Academic success measurement
Participant characteristics form
This form assessed academic success, as reported by their GPA, and demographic information. Highest
education completed by each student’s parents was also asked, with the level of education completed by
the student’s mother the measurement of parental socioeconomic status. The range of reported maternal
education was ‘1’ (less than high school) to ‘7’ (professional degree).
Academic self-efficacy measurement
Survey of Academic Orientations (SAO). The SAO measured the students’ level of confidence in their
ability to succeed in college courses. The scale consisted of six items which assessed the students’