Can Personality Dimensions Influence Entrepreneurial Occupation Preference? an Exploratory Study of Dispositional Influences on Cognitive Processes

Article excerpt


This study seeks to discern if there is a significant dispositional foundation for occupational preferences. Specifically, this paper seeks to determine if personality dimensions have any effect on an individual's cognitive expectancies (concerning perceived intrinsic and extrinsic occupational rewards) when considering an entrepreneurial career. Personality dimensions composing the Five-Factor Model of Personality are applied in this study and include Conscientious, Agreeableness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience. Conscientiousness determines responsibility versus inconsistency, Agreeableness measures sociability versus detachment, Extraversion determines assertiveness versus timidity, Neuroticism measures self-assurance versus insecurity, and Openness to Experience involves uniformity versus self-determination. Each of these dimensions is related to occupational preference for an entrepreneurial career and examined utilizing the Valence Model of the Expectancy Theory. The model consists of two variables, Instrumentality and Valence. Instrumentality (I) concerns the belief that the attainment of work-related goals will lead to rewards; and, Valence (V) refers to the value of those rewards to the individual.

Results indicate that individuals who are highly Conscientious are significantly attracted to an entrepreneurial career due to the intrinsic rewards of independence and a satisfying way of life. Further, individuals who are highly Open also prefer an entrepreneurial career due to the perceived satisfying lifestyle.


A key question in the study of entrepreneurship is what factors increase the likelihood that an individual will decide to pursue an entrepreneurial career given a multitude of more traditional alternatives. Even though entrepreneurship has been recognized as a complex, multidimensional construct that has avoided stable definition (Palich & Bagby, 1995), interest in entrepreneurship education has increased dramatically around the globe. The many new hordes of entrepreneurial-minded students seem to choose entrepreneurship as a major area of focus due to their perceptions about an entrepreneurial career and their estimated fitness for the craft of entrepreneurship. This study seeks to determine if there might be a dispositional basis (in the form of personality dimensions) to cognitions that form the preference for an entrepreneurial career (based on expected work rewards) and serves to influence prospective entrepreneurs.

Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to try to determine if there is a significant relationship between any of the personality dimensions in the Five-Factor Model of Personality and an individual's preference for an entrepreneurial career based on their cognitive estimation of perceived intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of the occupation. First, dispositional research in entrepreneurship is reviewed. Second, the Five-Factor Model of Personality is described. Next, cognitive process literature in entrepreneurship is reviewed and the expectancy theory and its possible relation to entrepreneurial career preferences is presented. Then, hypotheses are developed and the research methodology is described. Last, results are discussed and conclusions are elaborated.


This section addresses a number of the major studies contributing to the entrepreneur literature on personality traits and cognitive processes. Specifically, it will detail how the Five-Factor Model of Personality and expectancy cognitions may result in significant relations to entrepreneurial occupational preferences. To be succinct, it scrutinizes those topics that will be key variables in this study.

Personality Dimensions and Entrepreneurship

Personality traits have routinely been studied as possible differentiators of entrepreneurs from other individuals. The most common include a high need for achievement (McClelland, 1961), internal locus of control (Brockhaus & Nord, 1979), and risk taking propensity (Brockhaus, 1980; Sexton & Bowman, 1985). …


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