Handbook of Entrepreneurial Cognition

Handbook of Entrepreneurial Cognition

Research Handbooks in Business and Management series

Edited by J. Robert Mitchell, Ronald K. Mitchell and Brandon Randolph-Seng

Entrepreneurial cognition research is at a crossroads, where static views give way to dynamic approaches. This Handbook draws on a variety of perspectives from experts in the field of entrepreneurial cognition to highlight the key elements in a socially-situated view, where cognition is action-oriented embodied, socially-situated, and distributed. Readers seeking to better understand and/or participate in some of the most up-to-date approaches to entrepreneurial cognition research will find this Handbook to be an invaluable and time-saving companion in their research.

Chapter 1: Thinking about cognition and its central role in entrepreneurship: confessions of a ‘reformed’ behaviourist

Robert A Baron

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship


Cognition is now widely recognized as an important key to understanding central aspects of entrepreneurship – everything from opportunity recognition and alertness, on the one hand, through planning, improvisation, strategy formulation, and even the decision to exit from a new venture, on the other. However, this was not always the case; the present author started his own career as a ‘hard-nosed behaviorist,’ believing that cognition was unobservable and therefore not an appropriate topic for research. Only gradually did he come to recognize its central importance in virtually every aspect of complex human behavior, including entrepreneurship. In order to investigate its role in entrepreneurship, we can draw on several different sources of knowledge (e.g., input from successful entrepreneurs). Among these, however, systematic research offers the most effective approach. Future studies can draw on current knowledge of cognition to investigate a myriad of intriguing issues, including the role of self-regulation in entrepreneurs’ success, and the role of several cognitive factors in entrepreneurs’ high levels of philanthropy – their widely recognized tendency to ‘give back’ by sharing their wealth with others (e.g., universities, charitable organizations).