ADHD is a predictor of entrepreneurship?

There’s a guy who writes a blog where he summarizes every day all the latest research into a wide variety of economic and social issues.    I have it as one of my tabs when I open Google Chrome every morning.  It’s very interesting stuff.  There is a pile of research on issues of interest to an economic developer.

One of my fascinations relates to how a region fosters an entrepreneurial culture.  I am interested in that sweet spot beyond lifestyle or home-based businesses where insatiable entrepreneurs look to build products and services and take them global.

The blog today summarizes new research in the U.K. that suggests the tendency to be an entrepreneur may be influenced by genetic variation. Sensation seeking is more common among entrepreneurs than among the general population.

Twin studies show that the tendency to be an entrepreneur is heritable and that common genes influence both sensation seeking and entrepreneurial tendency (Nicolaou et al. Manag Sci 54:167-179, 2008a; Strateg Entrep J 2:7-21, 2008b). Since dopamine receptor genes have been associated with novelty seeking/sensation seeking (Benjamin et al. Nat Genet 12:81-84, 1996; Ebstein et al. Nat Genet 12:78-80, 1996; Noblett and Coccaro Curr Psychiatry Rep 7:73-80, 2005), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been reported to occur at greater rates among entrepreneurs, we examined the association between five dopamine receptor genes and four ADHD-associated genes, with the tendency to be an entrepreneur in a sample of 1,335 individuals from the UK. We found a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs1486011) of the DRD3 gene on chromosome 3 to be significantly associated with the tendency to be an entrepreneur. This result is the first evidence of the association of a specific gene with entrepreneurship. Further studies are needed to replicate this association.

ADHD is a predictor of entrepreneurship?  I guess that makes some intuitive sense when you meet some of these amped up entrepreneurs.

4 thoughts on “ADHD is a predictor of entrepreneurship?

  1. Excellent Post David

    Recent brain research (brain scans) reveals that people having certain unique brain structures and/or compositions often are suited to perform certain mental processing tasks much better than those not possessing similar brain functions. All that to say it won’t be long before some employers may want to first see a prospective employee’s brain scan before making the hiring decision. Onlt time will tell if that is good thing or not.

  2. Oh how a I love bad science.

    1. An SNP is no indicator of ANYTHING. What we know now of genetics is that the environment around the gene has as much to do (even more) with its expression as the gene itself.

    2. Dopamine receptors have been associated with virtually EVERYTHING. Want to change your dopamine receptor number? Go for a run or eat some sugar.

    3. ‘Common genes’ will associate not only with entrepreneurs and ‘novelty seekers’. In fact, common genes will associate with 98% of the population.

    4. Novelty seeking and entreprenial activity? By that definition virtually every teenager is an entrepreneur. A couch potato playing “Tour of Duty” or watching Saw is your entrepreneur of the future (suuuuure).

    5. Given that there is no standard accepted for ADHD, it is a condition that can be predefined for a particular population. It is no doubt also true for artists, writers, video game store clerks. It is also even more prevalent amongst prisoners.

    6. RS1486011 in DRD3 is also associated with: autism, schizophrenia and tumours. Not much telling there.

    7. By these definitions virtually every compulsive gambler, alcoholic, drug seeker, and athlete by definition has a ‘tendency towards entrepreneurial activity’.

    8. There is always a silver bullet in a lot of bad studies, here it is: “We found a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs1486011) of the DRD3 gene on chromosome 3 to be significantly associated with the tendency to be an entrepreneur”

    Notice it doesn’t say its associated with BEING an entrepreneur, but with the TENDENCY to be an entrepreneur. So they AREN”T saying “we took this number of entrepreneurs and this SNP seems to occur more frequently than in other populations”. That would be one thing, not much, but SOMETHING. But they don’t say that, they say the TENDENCY, meaning a single characteristic. Well, take two seconds and ask yourself what those tendencies are? They are virtually identical in so many factor groups that they are all encompassing (they define the ‘tendency’ as the willingness to take risks toward gaining a particular end. That’s every gambler and burglar out there).

    This is a GROSS misuse of science to try to make Johns point. What we know of the ‘elastic brain’ is that inherited qualities are practically insignificant. We also know that the environment can actually shape your inherited characteristics. We live in a world where all we know about ‘reality’ is that it is composed of fields and particles that pop in and out of existence. This poor example of eugenics just feeds into the populations learning curve that is still a hundred years behind.

    Want to make thousands of entrepreurs? Do like Providence and fire all the teachers. Tell them the province will hire them back, based on the number of skills they can teach per child. You’ll suddenly find yourself with thousands of entrepreneurs, just like structural changes to the taxi industry creates thousands of entrepreneurs, just like Irving firing truckers and only employing contractors does. Its ALL about the environment (as David pretty much accepts as a starting point, otherwise you might as well just start genetically testing NBers to see who should do what)

    By the way, that SNP has been found to be VERY rare in caucasians, and most prolific in african americans-which should make you suspect the study from the outset, since it was done in the UK.

  3. ” we examined the association between five dopamine receptor genes and four ADHD-associated genes, ….. We found a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs1486011) ….significantly associated with the tendency to be an entrepreneur.”

    The article is behind a pay wall, so I can’t examine it. But two things seem strange here 1) a genetic survey is being published in an obscure economics journal(?????), and 2) the authors say they are exploring the relationship between ADHD genes and dopamine genes, then report that a particular polymorphism was found at a higher frequency in entrepeneurs. Did they not find the relationship between ADHD and dopamine to be significant?

    I think I will be a bit sceptical until the work is replicated by others.

  4. Agreed – according to van der Loos et al (2011), the study was flawed:

    “Candidate gene studies of human behavior are gaining interest in economics and entrepreneurship research. Performing and interpreting
    these studies is not straightforward because the selection of candidates influences the interpretation of the results. As an example, Nicolaou et al. (Small Bus Econ 36:151–155, 2011) report a significant association between a common genetic variant in the DRD3 gene and the tendency to be an entrepreneur. We fail to replicate this finding using a much larger, independent dataset. In addition, we discuss the candidate gene approach and give suggestions to avoid the publication of false positives.”

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