Self‐directed social learning: the role of individual differences

Svenja Tams (School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Publication date: 8 February 2008



This study aims to examine the influence of individual differences on self‐directed social learning and self‐efficacy. Inter‐dependent self‐construal, agreeableness, and extraversion were expected to predict five ways of self‐directed social learning: relating, benchmarking, modeling, identifying, and distancing.


The sample consisted of 356 responses from professionals to a questionnaire survey. Using step‐wise regression analyses, the effect of individual differences on social learning and self‐efficacy, as well as the mediation of the latter relationship by the five ways of social learning, were examined.


Inter‐dependent self‐construal predicted social learning and self‐efficacy. Its negative effect on self‐efficacy was mediated by relating. Agreeableness and extraversion predicted high self‐efficacy. Extraversion predicted modeling, identifying and distancing. Surprisingly, women appeared more likely to engage in social learning.

Research limitations/implications

The cross‐sectional design does not permit conclusions about causality and results may be biased by the exclusive use of self‐report measures.

Practical implications

Understanding how individual differences influence self‐directed social learning and self‐efficacy assists managers and organizations in providing more personalized coaching. Since the link between an inter‐dependent self‐construal, social learning, and low self‐efficacy is more likely among minorities from collectivist cultures, they may be less inclined to pursue opportunities for professional growth. They may be systematically disadvantaged in organizations that value assertiveness over attention to one's social environment. In contrast, individuals whose self‐efficacy judgments are grounded in extraverted or agreeable dispositions may ignore feedback and social referents that indicate a need for adaptation.


This article indicates that individual differences predict self‐directed social learning and self‐efficacy.



Tams, S. (2008), "Self‐directed social learning: the role of individual differences", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 196-213.

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