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Many psychological theories suggest a link between self-regulation and identity, but until now a mechanistic account that suggests ways to improve self-regulation has not been put forth. The identity-value model (IVM) connects the idea from social psychology, that aspects of identity such as core values and group affiliations hold positive subjective value, to the process-focused account from decision-making and behavioral economics, that self-regulation is driven by a dynamic value integration across a range of choice attributes. Together, these ideas imply that goal-directed behaviors that are identity-relevant are more likely to be enacted because they have greater subjective value than identity-irrelevant behaviors. A central hypothesis, therefore, is that interventions that increase the degree to which a target behavior is perceived as self-relevant will improve self-regulation. Additionally, identity-based changes in self-regulation are expected to be mediated by changes in subjective value and its underlying neural systems. In this paper, we define the key constructs relevant to the IVM, explicate the model and delineate its boundary conditions, and describe how it fits with related theories. We also review disparate results in the research literature that might share identity-related value as a common underlying mechanism of action. We close by discussing questions about the model whose answers could advance the study of self-regulation.
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