Neuroentrepreneurship: Studies of Entrepreneurial Passion and Choice Behavior

Kaisa Hytönen, Tom Lahti, Necmi Karagozoglu, Martin Lindell, Marja-Liisa Halko

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Objective: The nature of the emotional bond that an entrepreneur experiences towards his firm is not well-understood. It is also unclear how entrepreneurs make decisions under uncertainty. We tested the hypothesis that own firm and self-selected familiar firm evoke differential emotional reactions in entrepreneurs, and that entrepreneurs do not react as emotionally to increasing ambiguity as other people.

Methods: A group of male entrepreneurs participated in the study. Each subject completed the following tasks: (1) attachment task where subjects thought about occurrences or events related to a picture stimulus that depicted either own or familiar firm (quality or valence of the photos of did not differ significantly; p = 0.66 and p = 0.34, respectively), and (2) a lottery evaluation task where subjects reported willingness-to-sell (WTS) prices for uncertain prospects: risk, high (75%) or low (25%) ambiguity. We collected fMRI data and analyzed it using the general linear model.

Results: In a group of 19 subjects we found that pictures related to own and familiar firm evoke differential activity in multiple brain regions (cingulate cortex, caudate, insula) which have previously been associated with other attachment relationships, such as maternal and romantic attachment [1,2]. In the lottery evaluation task we found that entrepreneurs do not behaviorally differentiate risky lotteries and slightly ambiguous lotteries but they do show decreased WTS for highly ambiguous lotteries (75%) in comparison to both risky and slightly ambiguous lotteries (p <0.001). In the fMRI data analysis we found that risky and slightly ambiguous lotteries are associated with insula and medial prefrontal cortex activities when compared to highly ambiguous lotteries. These brain areas have previously been related to emotional arousal and valuation, respectively.
Conclusions: These preliminary results are among the first findings in neuroentrepreneurship. Our findings indicate that entrepreneurial passion and attachment are associated with partially comparable neural correlates with other attachment relationships. Our data also suggests that increasing ambiguity does not increase affective processing in entrepreneurs but in contrast decreases it. We speculate that this may relate to higher ambiguity tolerance among entrepreneurs than other people.

Acknowledgements: This study was funded by the research project aivoAALTO (Aalto University), the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, and the Research Foundation of Cooperative Banks, Finland.

[1] Swain et al., J Child Psychol Psychiatry 48, 262–287 (2007).
[2] Acevedo et al., SCAN 7, 145–159 (2011).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSociety for Neuroeconomics Annual Meeting 2013, Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain
Publication date2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventSociety for Neuroeconomics Annual Meeting 2013, Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain - Lausanne, Switzerland
Duration: 27.09.201329.09.2013


  • Equis Base Room

Cite this