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Couns Psychol. 2010 Oct;38(7):1001-1043.

Identity-based motivation: Implications for intervention.

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The University of Michigan.


Children want to succeed academically and attend college, but their actual attainment often lags behind; some groups (e.g., boys, low-income children) are particularly likely to experience this gap. Social structural factors matter, influencing this gap in part by affecting children's perceptions of what is possible for them and people like them in the future. Interventions that focus on this macro-micro interface can boost children's attainment. We articulate the processes underlying these effects using an integrative culturally sensitive framework entitled identity-based motivation (IBM, Oyserman, 2007, 2009a, 2009b). The IBM model assumes that identities are dynamically constructed in context. People interpret situations and difficulties in ways that are congruent with currently active identities and prefer identity-congruent to identity-incongruent actions. When action feels identity-congruent, experienced difficulty highlights that the behavior is important and meaningful. When action feels identity-incongruent, the same difficulty suggests that the behavior is pointless and "not for people like me."

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