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 8: Lessons from the neural foundation of entrepreneurial cognition: the case of emotion and motivation

David A. Baucus, Melissa S. Baucus and Ronald K. Mitchell

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship


Our objective in this chapter is to illustrate how entrepreneurs’ brains are physiologically the same as any other person’s brain, but in terms of experiences and knowledge they are different. Using neurophysiology and relevant concepts from neuroscience, we map the physiological processes involved in transmitting visual data from the periphery (environment) to conscious thought and behavior, with affective processes (emotion and motivation) modulating data flows along the way. We explain how cortical fields and subcortical nuclei (key parts of the brain) process and code neural representations, first as simple data points, but then as behaviourally relevant ‘percepts’ (perceptions) and ‘concepts’ (conceptualizations) that carry ‘affective value’ acquired through structures specialized for emotion and motivation. We also explain how these abstract building blocks of thought – percepts, concepts and affective valuations – decouple from external stimuli owing to repeated activation (experience) and come together with real-time data in the default mode network, with emotion and/or motivation enabling the entrepreneur to adapt behavior to a given context. Understanding this ‘standard complement’ of physiological processes may allow researchers to explain similarities and differences among entrepreneurs and the opportunities they conceive. We offer 15 researchable premises that can be examined with current social-science methodologies and illustrate the implications of our approach (i.e., detailing how the brain generates behavior) for entrepreneurial cognition theory and research.

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