Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Management & Entrepreneurship

First Advisor

Joseph G. Rosse

Second Advisor

Russell S. Cropanzano

Third Advisor

Mathew L.A. Hayward

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Baron

Fifth Advisor

Bret R. Fund


The perception, pursuit, and exploitation of opportunity are central to entrepreneurship (new venture, corporate, social) and some theories of behavioral strategy. While relatively unfettered cognition, appetitive impulse, and behavior may favor perceiving and acting on opportunities, such disinhibition may present a social liability and thus interfere with reaching opportunity exploitation. This dissertation examines the connection between disinhibition and nascent opportunity pursuit. Drawing primarily on psychological and entrepreneurial literature, this work develops hypotheses related to the effects of disinhibition in a would-be founder/entrepreneur on other individuals. The research focuses on the earliest stage of nascent entrepreneurial action. The underlying research motivation is based on abductive reasoning, triangulating existing findings, cases, and theory. An experiment was designed to provide a focused, causal test of the research hypotheses. The design eliminated endogeneity issues, confounds, winners' bias, retrospective post-hoc bias, and other biases inherent to highly nascent entrepreneurship. The results shed light on a multilevel tension at the heart of early stage entrepreneurship. In particular, previous research has shown a positive relationship between disinhibition and entrepreneurial intention, nascent entrepreneurial action, and being an entrepreneur. However results of the research presented here show a significant negative social effect of disinhibition. Specifically, apparent disinhibition in a potential founder has sizable adverse effects on others' assessments: of the founder, of the likelihood of venture success, and of interest in supporting (joining) the venture. These findings indicate that an individual factor impelling individual entrepreneurial action presents a friction for advancing in the entrepreneurial process. This research makes several contributions to existing literature. In relation to entrepreneurship, it contributes needed insight into the social psychology of nascent opportunity pursuit. In relation to the psychological sciences, it provides a vocationally contextualized examination of disinhibition. In connection with other work reviewed, this dissertation contributes to a developing disinhibition perspective of entrepreneurial action. In relation to other organizational literature, it suggests important cross-level tensions related to less inhibited actors and innovation. In relation to broader policy, it suggests the importance of programs and other interventions to harness entrepreneurial behavior and proclivities, and to channel disinhibition to productive ends.