“While disciplines such as business and economics often rely on the assumption of rationality when explaining complex human behaviors, growing evidence suggests that behavior may concurrently be influenced by infectious microorganisms,” Dr. Johnson relates. “The goal of our study was to investigate how infection by a globally distributed parasite, through its potential influence on individual human behavior, is associated with local to large-scale cultural and business-related outcomes, specifically entrepreneurship.
“Using a saliva-based assay, we found that, of the 1,495 CU undergraduate students who participated, the 22 percent that tested IgG positive for T. gondii exposure were 1.4 times more likely to major in business and 1.7 times more likely to have an emphasis in ‘management and entrepreneurship’ over other business-related emphases, when compared with the students who tested negative,” Dr. Johnson elaborates.
To understand patterns of infection among professional entrepreneurs, Dr. Johnson’s team collected data from 197 individuals attending entrepreneurship events. Among those 197 participants, the T. gondii-positive individuals, also determined by saliva tests, were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business compared with other attendees.
As an additional endeavor, the CU researchers evaluated global patterns of toxoplasmosis and entrepreneurship.
“We compiled national statistics from 42 countries spanning the last 25 years and found the infection prevalence of T. gondii, which range from 9 percent in Norway to 60 percent in Brazil,” Dr. Johnson relates. “We combined those statistics with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of entrepreneurial activity, and the results proved to be a consistent, positive predictor of entrepreneurial activity at the national scale, even when we controlled for relative national wealth and opportunity factors. We believe all of our findings emphasize the hidden role of parasites as potential drivers of complex human behavior and economic outcomes.”—L.L.L.