The eclipse and new dawn of individual differences research: Charting a path forward

David Townsend, J. Robert Mitchell, Ronald K. Mitchell, Lowell Busenitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Over the past two decades, significant advances have been made in exploring the role of individual differences in entrepreneurial phenomena (Mitchell et al. 2007). Times have not always been so good. Early in the twentieth century, many scholars posited that entrepreneurs possessed unique and systematic differences (i.e. the entrepreneurial personality) that distinguished them from other economic actors such as corporate managers. For several decades these theoretical musings motivated a sizable stream of individual-level entrepreneurship research. However, despite the intuitive appeal of this line of reasoning, empirical support for these perspectives was mixed (e.g. Brockhaus 1982; Gartner 1988; Gasse 1982; Low and MacMillan 1988; Martin 1984; Sexton and Bowman 1985) leading some scholars to declare that the entrepreneurial personality was a myth (Gartner 1988). So instead of searching for systematic personality differences between entre - preneurs and non-entrepreneurs, a growing volume of critical research contended that researchers should look for systematic similarities in the actions/behaviours of entrepreneurs and not for the individual-level personality differences between entrepreneurs and other actors (Gartner 1988). As a result, throughout much of the 1980s until the early 1990s, all individual-level research was eclipsed in the entrepreneurship journals by new perspectives based in the other core disciplines of the social sciences (e.g. sociology – Reynolds 1991; Low and Abrahamson 1997; Thornton 1999; economics – Kirzner 1979; Casson 2003; and not psychology).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Entrepreneurship
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781136218620
ISBN (Print)9781138363182
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


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