We humans like to believe that we are intelligent and rational, that we are in full control of all of our actions and choices.
However, science seems to be slowly debunking this particular notion by showing us just how much of our decision-making is influenced by outside forces such as bacteria and viruses.
A new study is adding onto this myth busting process by suggesting that a parasite found in cats could affect people and make them more likely to take risks and start businesses.
The parasite in question is named T. gondii and is what is known as a protozoan parasite; a single-celled organism that can reproduce by itself.
There have been previous studies that linked T. gondii to impulsive and risky behaviour but this time, it is being attributed to the tendency to become entrepreneurs.
From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of the parasite seems to be to encourage prey to lose their fear of felines and take greater risk when around them. This makes animals like mice more likely to be eaten.
The research was carried out by an associate professor at the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder’s Leeds School of Business named Stefanie K. Johnson, and a professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology named Pieter Johnson.
To conduct this experiment, the team took saliva samples from more than 1500 college students and discovered that those infected showed 1.4 times more likely to be interest in business and management, with a 1.7 times more likelihood of favouring management and entrepreneurship over other aspects of business.
They also conducted the same test on 200 adults who took part in entrepreneurship events, where they noticed that the results showed that those infected showed a 1.8 times more likelihood of starting their own businesses than those without.
The final bit of research they did was examine national statistics of T. gondii infections from more than 42 different countries, which revealed that the presence of the parasite predicted entrepreneurial activity to an eerily consistent degree.
They also found that countries with the highest infection rate had the lowest rate of people who cited ‘fear of failure’ as the main reason not to start a business.
So what does this mean?
Despite the additional research needed to verify this, the results of their experimentation and investigation points towards the possibility that people who are infected by this cat-borne parasite might experience a reduced fear of failure.
This in turn may prompt them to try more things and make more bold ventures, which is exactly what the discipline of entrepreneurship values.
Now we’re not saying that cats make us braver by infecting us with parasites.
However, this research does point to interesting possibilities, and highlights just how much outside influences change human behaviour and thinking.
The world truly is a weird, wonderful place, isn’t it?
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