Entrepreneurial Scripts and the New Transaction Commitment Mindset: Extending the Expert Information Processing Theory Approach to Entrepreneurial Cognition Research

By Smith, J. Brock; Mitchell, J. Robert et al. | Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Entrepreneurial Scripts and the New Transaction Commitment Mindset: Extending the Expert Information Processing Theory Approach to Entrepreneurial Cognition Research


Smith, J. Brock, Mitchell, J. Robert, Mitchell, Ronald K., Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice


In this study, we extend the expert information processing theory approach to entrepreneurial cognition research through an empirical exploration of the new transaction commitment mindset among business people in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Using analysis of covariance, multivariate analysis of variance, and hierarchical regression analysis of data from a cross-sectional sample of 417 respondents, our results provide a foundation for additional cross-level theory development, with related implications for increasing the practicality of expert information processing theory-based entrepreneurial cognition research. Specifically, this paper: (1) clarifies the nature of the relationship between entrepreneurial expert scripts and constructs that might represent an entrepreneurial mindset at the individual level of analysis; (2) identifies analogous relationships at the economy level of analysis, where the structure found at the individual level informs an economy-level problem; (3) presents a North American Free Trade Agreement-based illustration analysis to demonstrate the extent to which cognitive findings at the individual level can be used to explain economy-level phenomena; and (4) extrapolates from our analysis some of the ways in which script-based comparisons across country or culture can inform the more general task of making information processing-based comparisons among entrepreneurs across other contexts.

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Since the idea that entrepreneurs use expert scripts to process information differently than novices was first introduced into the literature (e.g., Mitchell, 1994), there has been considerable development of this branch of research within the larger body of entrepreneurial cognition literature (e.g., Englebrecht, 1995; Gustafsson, 2004; Mitchell & Chesteen, 1995; Mitchell, Smith, et al., 2002; Mitchell, Smith, Seawright, & Morse, 2000). During this time, the view has emerged that expert scripts in entrepreneurial decision making suggest a global culture of entrepreneurship (Mitchell, 2003; Mitchell et al., 2000, 2007; Mitchell, Smith, et al., 2002)--a view that envisions a surprisingly pervasive entrepreneurial "mindset" (McGrath & MacMillan, 2000). We believe this can be a provocative idea, with a substantial contribution to the literature, if generalized beyond the individual level of analysis, and if made relatively easy to apply. However, such generalization and application requires several questions to first be addressed: (1) At the individual level of analysis, what is the nature of the relationship between entrepreneurial expert scripts and constructs that might represent an entrepreneurial mindset? (2) Are there analogous relationships at higher levels of analysis (e.g., the economy level) where the structure found at one level (e.g., expert scripts' relationship to entrepreneurial-mindset-type constructs) is useful to understanding structure at another? (3) To what extent can cognitive skills found at the individual level be used to explain other-level phenomena? (4) How can script-based comparisons across country or culture inform the more general task of making information processing-based comparisons among entrepreneurs across many contexts (e.g., age, education, gender, industry, recency of immigration, religion, etc.; see e.g., Shane, 1996)?

While our proposed approach to answering the above questions is intended to be neither exhaustive nor dispositive of the issues raised, it is nevertheless our intention to do some of the "heavy lifting" necessary to make the expert information processing-based approach to the study of how entrepreneurs think (Mitchell et al., 2007) more comprehensive and more accessible to researchers in the community of entrepreneurial cognition research. To do this, we: (1) utilize a portion of an earlier-reported primary data set (Mitchell et al., 2000) in a unique manner: as a peer-reviewed secondary-type data set that provides a foundation of base credibility that enables us, with minimal repetition, to effectively address the above questions; and (2) employ the sequential technique of first testing two foundational hypotheses, which then permits us to engage in the post hoc analysis required to address the four research questions.

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