Brain Parasite Theory of Entrepreneurship

As always, we should take new theories with a grain of salt. In this case, you might get a little grossed out!

The Toxoplasma gondii parasite is carried by felines (cats) and has be found to infect their human masters too. The parasite can be caught through contact with the animals and their bodily fluids and solids. The parasite causes brain cysts that last a lifetime and lead to behaviors including bipolar disorder, reduced fear, and lower IQ.

Some have estimated that over 2 billion humans have been infected, though infection rates differ greatly by country. For instance, the U.S. infection rate is around 3%, while it may be as high as 50 to 70% in France and Mexico. Petr Houdek at University of Economics in Prague reviewed the literature in a 2017 paper published in the Academy of Management Perspectives.

Research by Stefanie Johnson (Leeds School of Business) and colleagues (a gang of non-biologists) suggests that those infected by the virus are 1.7 times more likely to choose entrepreneurial career paths. They test subjects for infection by taking saliva swabs. They find significant positive associations between infection and entrepreneurial activity and intention, and a significant negative association with fear of failure.

The explanation for this change in behavior is due to the association between a Toxoplasma Gondii and an increase in testosterone levels (Zouei et al., 2018). Research suggests that higher testosterone levels is associated with greater risk-taking behavior and entrepreneurial intent in humans (Bönte et al., 2016).

A recent control group study by Lerner et al. (2020), was conducted on 16,068 female founders from 11,433 startups and found that there were multiple links between the Toxoplasma Gondii and entrepreneurship thus replicating the results of Johnson’s (2018) study. Lerner et al., go on to state that the infection of the parasite precedes entrepreneurial ventures meaning that individuals are significantly more likely to pursue a new venture following a Toxoplasma Gondii infection. 

This research is pretty new and should be replicated several times before budding entrepreneurs decide to expose themselves to felines voluntarily.

This research is pretty new and should be replicated several times before budding entrepreneurs decide to expose themselves voluntarily.

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Tim Collins said…
This theory could be true, but I do not think it is something to ever think about. This is sort of fear mongering like not going in the ocean cause the jellyfish might sting you.
Unknown said…
This is a very interesting theory. I wonder why this is not more well know? I believe it is likely that there are more parasites and diseases transferred from animals to humans than people think.
Travis Mayfield said…
Interesting article about Brain parasite theory of entrepreneurship. The parasites when transmitted seem to have good effects and bad on their human hosts. Positively, it helps us think with our own minds and aspire for better. Negatively, it leads to mental illnesses and perceptions we may fail as entrepreneurs or in our every day life. I'll stay away from cats from now on! Great post.