Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and academic entrepreneurial preference: is there an association?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and academic entrepreneurial preference: is there an association?
Ivonne Canits 0 2 3 4 5
Indy Bernoster 0 2 3 4 5
Jinia Mukerjee 0 2 3 4 5
Jean Bonnet 0 2 3 4 5
Ugo Rizzo 0 2 3 4 5
Mario Rosique-Blasco 0 2 3 4 5
0 J. Mukerjee Montpellier Business School, Montpellier Research in Management , Montpellier , France
1 Department of Applied Economics, Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam , Rotterdam , The Netherlands
2 JEL classifications I10 . L26
3 M. Rosique-Blasco Polytechnic University of Cartagena , Cartagena , Spain
4 U. Rizzo Department of Economics and Management, University of Ferrara , Ferrara , Italy
5 J. Bonnet Department of Economics and Management , Normandie Univ, CNRS, CREM, Caen , France
Although commercialization of research activities has drawn some research attention, more studies are warranted to clearly understand the drivers behind academic entrepreneurship. The present paper investigates the association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and academic entrepreneurial preference. ADHD symptoms have typically been associated with impaired occupational functioning among wage employees. Recent studies, however, indicate that the same symptoms of ADHD that are a liability for wage employees may work out differently for entrepreneurs. Building on previous studies that link ADHD symptoms to entrepreneurship, and using the theoretical lens of person-environment fit, we hypothesize that ADHD symptoms (at the so-called subclinical level) are associated with academic entrepreneurial preference. Results of our data from academic researchers in France, Spain, and Italy (N = 534) show that there is a negative association between attention-deficit symptoms and academic entrepreneurial preference. However, there is no link between hyperactivity symptoms and academic entrepreneurial preference.
Academic entrepreneurial preference; Attention-deficit symptoms; Hyperactivity symptoms
Due to the increasing involvement of universities in
entrepreneurial activities, interest in the study of
academic entrepreneurship has started to gain valence in the
(Klofsten and Jones-Evans 2000; Zucker
et al. 2002)
. Although variously defined in the literature
(Klofsten and Jones-Evans 2000; Guerrero and Urbano
, we define academic entrepreneurship as being
involved in the commercialization of research output,
for instance, in the form of creating an organization
(academic spin-off) or patenting. Some studies have
attempted to determine the drivers of academic
entrepreneurship. For example, the intention to engage in
academic entrepreneurship has been shown to be directly
influenced by perceptions of desirability and feasibility of
entrepreneurial activities, and only indirectly by
university entrepreneurial climate and the perceived fit between
the academic department’s values and entrepreneurship
. Additionally, attitudes and
perceived behavior control have been found to be some of
the important psychological determinants of academic
(Goethner et al. 2012)
However, more studies are warranted to clearly understand the
drivers behind academic entrepreneurship, particularly
drivers pertaining to individual characteristics.
The individual characteristics that make an
entrepreneur have been a matter of significant interest in both
(Shane 2003; Parker 2009; Gorgievski and
and popular press
. Studies have shown that individuals who engage
in entrepreneurship score high in an array of
characteristics such as energy level, persistence
selfefficacy, openness to new experience, need for
achievement, entrepreneurial orientation (characterized by
autonomy, innovativeness, risk-taking, proactivity, and
(Frese and Gielnik 2014)
and psychological resilience
(Markman and Baron
. Recently, the entrepreneurship literature has
started showing interest in individual characteristics
associated with psychiatric disorders
(Mathieu and St-Jean
2013; Johnson et al. 2015)
. One such disorder that has
grabbed scholarly attention is
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
(Verheul et al. 2015; Thurik et al.
2016; Wiklund et al. 2016a, b)
. This relatively common
developmental disorder (Egger and Angold 2006) is
characterized by attention-deficit, hyperactivity, and
and typically starts in childhood.
Although its prevalence generally declines with age
among clinical samples
(Biederman et al. 2000)
large-scale study in ten countries revealed its prevalence
to be between 3 and 5% in adults
(Fayyad et al. 2007)
Due to its primary symptoms and the associated
comorbidities with depression, substance use, and anxiety
(Barkley et al. 2010)
, ADHD is often related to
negative consequences within the wage-employed work
context such as suboptimal job performance,
unemployment, and a higher incidence of absence days
et al. 2005; Kessler et al. 2009)
. Popular press, however,
suggests that within the entrepreneurial context, those
with ADHD may actually benefit from their symptoms,
and has gone so far as to call ADHD an
Bentrepreneurfriendly affliction^ (The Economist 2012). Examples
include entrepreneurs David Neeleman (founder of
JetBlue Airlines), Paul Orfalea (founder of Kinko’s),
and Richard Branson (Virgin group), who claim that their
high levels of energy and risky behavior pertaining to
their ADHD symptoms give them the ability to break
through business routines, to envision and create new
realities: the ingredients of an entrepreneur
. According to the person-environment
fit (P-E fit) literature, individuals engage in environments
and work tasks that are congruent to their personal traits
(Kristof-Brown et al. 2005)
. While individuals with
higher levels of ADHD symptoms do not fit well in a
wage-paid work environment, these same symptoms often
attract them to entrepreneurship, which is Bthe process of
discovery, evaluation, and exploitation of opportunities^
(Shane and Venkataraman 2000, p. 218)
characterized by high risk, less routines, and more independence
(Mannuzza et al. 1993)
, with ample room for novelty
seeking and innovation (
Anckarsäter et al. 2006
Indeed, several recent studies show a positive
association between ADHD symptoms and different
aspects of entrepreneurship—like entrepreneurial
choice, intention, and behavior. For example,
et al. (2015)
showed that students with higher
selfreported levels of ADHD are more likely to have
entrepreneurial intentions. This association was partly
explained by risk propensity as a mediator. Among
entrepreneurs diagnosed with ADHD, impulsivity
mediated the relation between ADHD symptoms and
entrepreneurial actions like proactivity and risk-taking
(Wiklund et al. 2016a)
. In the same line, a study
conducted on a sample of small business owners revealed a
positive association between ADHD symptoms and
entrepreneurial orientation measured using risk
aversion, innovativeness, and proactivity
(Thurik et al.
. While all these studies focused on ADHD-like
behavior, a recent study by
Lerner et al. (2018)
that there is also a positive association between the
clinically diagnosed condition of ADHD and
entrepreneurial intention and action.
Research that has made a finer distinction between
the attention-deficit and hyperactivity symptoms of
ADHD shows that there is a positive link between
the hyperactivity symptoms and rates of
self-employment, but a negative one between the attention-deficit
symptoms and rate of self-employment
(Verheul et al.
. These are precisely the hypotheses that we aim
to test in the present paper, albeit in the context of
The above studies thus seem to suggest an association
between ADHD symptoms and entrepreneurial measures
in different samples: notably among students, a general
adult sample, and small business owners. However, in the
present paper, we investigate the association of ADHD
symptoms with academic entrepreneurial preference
among academic researchers in an attempt to connect to
the literature on academic entrepreneurship. Specifically,
we hypothesize that hyperactivity symptoms drive the
preference for academic entrepreneurial activities, while
attention-deficit symptoms hamper the same. We
investigate these hypotheses using a sample of academic
researchers in France, Spain, and Italy (N = 534).
We do so in view of the importance of academic
entrepreneurship and the previously discussed recent
promising results on the relation between ADHD
symptoms and different aspects of entrepreneurship
Antshel 2017 for a review)
. The second reason that
motivates our study is that in relatively homogeneous
groups, the influence of personality traits on preferences
may be corrected for context. Preferences (such as for
entrepreneurial activities) are not just connected to
someone’s personal traits (as represented by
measurements using psychological disorder scales) but also to
what degree, there is a fit between one’s personality and
the context (such as the work environment)
. This leads to the obvious observation that the
relation between personal traits and preferences can be
blurred by context. Choosing a homogeneous context
may then become a necessary condition for identifying
this relation. This is precisely what we do in the present
paper by confining ourselves to the academic
environment. The third reason is the recent call for research to
better understand which specific industry and context
are related to entrepreneurship outcomes for adults with
as environmental context may
be a salient predictor of ADHD symptoms
(Crea et al.
. Moreover, we believe that academics with
ADHD symptoms can be seen as a special subgroup
within the ADHD population, as high intelligence is
typically associated with a better prognosis and coping
for individuals with ADHD symptoms
(Mahone et al.
2002; Biederman et al. 2006)
hyperactivity may also, for academics, explain a drive to move
beyond their normally accepted duties and pursue a
riskier path of academic entrepreneurship.
Our study aims to make three contributions. Firstly,
investigating the relation between ADHD symptoms
and academic entrepreneurial preference enhances our
understanding of entrepreneurial activities in this
specific context. We chose this highly relevant context
because of a rising trend among universities
internationally to promote and foster academic entrepreneurship.
Exploring the association between ADHD symptoms
and academic entrepreneurial preference may add to
our knowledge of the drivers of academic
entrepreneurship, which is of both theoretical and practical value.
Secondly, it contributes to the nascent literature of
psychological disorders (albeit at the subclinical level, i.e.,
not manifesting in the level of diagnosable clinical
disorder) and its link to entrepreneurial preference and
behavior. By doing so, it not only adds (in a general
sense) to the large body of literature that attempts to
answer the question: what makes an entrepreneur1
(Ripsas 1998; Burke et al. 2008)
, but also joins hands
with the literature that tries to unravel the role of
psychology in the development of a comprehensive view of
entrepreneurship (Hisrich et al. 2007). Thirdly, and in
complement to the previous general contribution to the
literature of psychological disorders and different
aspects of entrepreneurship, it has a more specific
contribution related to the role of context. As explained
before, choosing a homogeneous context may be a
necessary condition for identifying the relation between
different aspects of entrepreneurship (such as
entrepreneurial intention) and personal traits (such as those measured
using psychological disorder scales). This is precisely
what we do in the present paper by confining ourselves
to the academic environment. Taken together, our study
aims to partially validate and extend prior research.
2 Theoretical background
2.1 Person-environment fit
The person-environment fit is defined by the extent to
which the characteristics of an individual and that of his/
her environment match
. The basic tenet
of this theoretical approach is that of an interaction
between the individual and his/her environmental
context, such that neither the personal nor the
environmental factors can provide a Bstand-alone^ explanation of
(Edwards and Cooper 1990; Edwards
et al. 2006)
. The notion of the Benvironment^ has also
been extended to the work/occupational context. Thus,
1 This literature started with Blanchflower and Oswald (1998).
more specifically, the person-organization fit
refers to the congruence between a person and his
organizational values, and the person-job fit
refers to the congruence between an
individual’s characteristics and his/her job requirements.
The implication of the broad theoretical perspective of
P-E fit is far reaching, both for individuals and the
organization. For example, congruence between an
individual and the organization has been shown to be
associated with greater organizational commitment,
better job performance, higher job involvement, improved
employee attitudes, lower turnover, to name a few
(O’Reilly et al. 1991)
In the entrepreneurship domain, scholars have argued
that closer is the congruence between an entrepreneur’s
personal characteristics and the demands of being an
entrepreneur, better is the person-entrepreneur fit and,
consequently, the likelihood of entrepreneurial success
(Markman and Baron 2003)
. In other words,
entrepreneurs possess distinct individual characteristics (that
differ from non-entrepreneurs), which make them fit
for the entrepreneurial journey and its success.
However, not all entrepreneurial journeys are the same; the
context has a vital role to play in this regard. Thus,
studying a particular context such as academic
entrepreneurship can effectively contribute to the literature on
context specificity in entrepreneurship.
It should be kept in mind that in the case of ADHD,
Bthe terms hyperactive or attention-deficit are
contextdependent by definition^
(Rosenberg 2006, p. 419)
means that attention-deficit and hyperactivity symptoms
for an individual would vary from high to low, depending
on the environmental context, considering that behavioral
traits, or even psychopathology, change with situation.
The diagnostic criteria for ADHD (American Psychiatric
Association (APA) 2013) clearly point to this context
specificity for measuring and labeling behaviors as
(Lasky et al. 2016)
. In the occupational
context, work environmental norms as well as the work itself
dictates which behavior is acceptable. For example,
welldefined, repetitive, and/or routine-based tasks are often
perceived by people with ADHD to be boring, not
intrinsically motivating and hence effortful
(Lasky et al. 2016)
Such work context and tasks are thus often incompatible
with symptoms of attention-deficit or hyperactivity and
may even intensify these symptoms.
The entrepreneurship path, on the other hand, is
often marred with uncertainty and risk.
Consequently, it demands a high tolerance for instability and risk,
proactiveness, flexibility in routines, and the ability
to engage in novel and innovative tasks
Venkataraman 2000; Baron 2008)
. Symptoms of
ADHD-like impulsivity make closely supervised
structured work difficult, but favor the path of risky,
uncertain self-employment; attention problems make
working on structured tasks hard but favor
fastpaced, non-routine, intrinsically motivating tasks,
which have a dash of creativity (Verheul et al.
2015). Not surprisingly, individuals with ADHD
report that a highly stimulating environment
characterized by fast-paced, multitasking, intrinsically
interesting tasks with high levels of novelty, challenge,
and stress provides them with the best P-E fit and
helps them cope effectively with ADHD symptoms
(Lasky et al. 2016)
. Entrepreneurship and its demands
often match the criteria of such a highly stimulating
work e nviro nment. In dee d, in his re view of
entrepreneurship and ADHD,
that individuals with ADHD symptoms often tend to
find entrepreneurship more suitable (hence attractive) as
an occupation, given that their personal characteristics
Bfit^ with the demands of entrepreneurship.
2.2 ADHD symptoms and academic entrepreneurial
There is a growing research interest to uncover the
brighter side of ADHD symptoms in the entrepreneurial
(Thurik et al. 2016; Wiklund et al. 2016a, b)
Rather than viewing ADHD symptoms as a deficit for
individuals in the work context, this stream of research
has empirically shown that there is a positive association
between several aspects of entrepreneurship and both
overall ADHD symptoms and hyperactivity symptoms
(for a review see Antshel 2017).
Despite what we already know about this association,
there are still questions that remain unanswered and
. One intriguing
question is that of the role of entrepreneurial context in
this association between symptoms of ADHD and the
different aspects of entrepreneurship. This question can
only be answered when the issue of context is corrected
for, by confining the investigation to a relatively
homogenous group. In the present paper, we therefore
investigate the association between ADHD and
academic entrepreneurial preference in the specific context of
Over the last few decades, universities have acquired a
new role, in complement to that of providing research and
transmission of knowledge: the role of providers of new
technology and business ventures in order to be a force in
the economic development
public authorities are also increasingly paying attention to the
economic valorization of research activities and its
commercial exploitation through patenting, consultations
with private sector researchers, and private/public
(Shane 2004; Vincett 2010)
. Rather than being
Bisolated island of knowledge^ (Klofsten and
JonesEvans 2000, p. 299), universities and the academics
therein have embarked on more risky forms of
entrepreneurial activity, like forming start-up companies around a
university-developed technology or licensing to small
(Powers and McDougall 2005)
Research indicates that a variety of environmental
and individual factors act as drivers of academic
entrepreneurial activities. For example, industry resource
funding, number of patents produced by the university,
and venture capital munificence in the universities’
(Powers and McDougall 2005)
have been shown to be some of the important
environmental drivers. On the other hand, previous
(Cooper and Dunkelberg 1986)
self-employment, exposure to small business
, personal need for
achievement, the desire for independence, an internal locus of
, and perceptions of desirability
and feasibility of entrepreneurial activities
are some of the individual factors associated
with eventual preference and involvement in academic
As in the case of entrepreneurship in general, where
the individual personality factors indeed matter
(Markman and Baron 2003)
, we conjecture that
academic entrepreneurial preference and activities would
also be influenced by one’s personality. Our motivation
to investigate this becomes even more compelling when
we notice that given the same environmental factors and
resources, such as the industry R&D revenue, the
importance attached to patenting by the universities as well
as universities’ patent portfolio, presence of venture
capitalists in the region, etcetera
, some academics engage in
entrepreneurial activities while others do not. We thus
hypothesize that academic researchers with hyperactivity
symptoms would prefer engaging in entrepreneurial activities
in complement to their usual work duties.
Hypothesis 1: There is a positive link between
hyperactivity symptoms and academic
Based on earlier research which shows a negative
association between attention-deficit and
(Verheul et al. 2016)
, we also believe that
attention-deficit symptoms would deter one’s
preference for academic entrepreneurship, as focusing
one’s attention to the entrepreneurial activity on
top of the normal job duties would be overly taxing
for such individuals.
Hypothesis 2: There is a negative link between
attention-deficit symptoms and academic
3.1 Data and sample
A French research team2 collected data using a
survey with the aim to investigate why the
creation of firms can be a viable professional
orientation for academic researchers and administrative/
technical personnel. The survey was replicated in
Spain (Polytechnic University of Cartagena) and in
Italy (University of Ferrara).3 The total sample
consisted of academic researchers (N = 534) and
administrative/technical personnel (N = 232). To
test our hypotheses, we used the academic
researcher group as our sample. The division among
countries is as follows: France (N = 98), Spain
(N = 169), and Italy (N = 267). Participants received
a 46-item questionnaire4 which took approximately
20 min to fill in.
2 Thomas Brau and Jean Bonnet of University of Caen Normandy.
Many questions of the survey were adapted from the doctoral thesis of
on psychological characteristics of innovative
entrepreneurs. The survey benefited from the contributions of Roy
Thurik and Ingrid Verheul (Erasmus University Rotterdam), Domingo
Garcia (University of Cartagena), Dominique Martin (University of
Rennes 1), Marcus Dejardin and Julie Hermans (University of Namur),
Alina Gomez (University Javeriana Cali), Esperanza Roman (Distrital
University in Bogotá), and Haifa Naffaki (University of Caen).
3 Data in Spain (Polytechnic University of Cartagena) was collected by
Domingo Garcia and in Italy (University of Ferrara) by Ugo Rizzo.
4 The questionnaires were translated in the appropriate language
(French, Italian, and Spanish).
3.2.1 Dependent variables: academic entrepreneurial preference
Using some questionnaire items, it was possible to
create a general construct measuring a preference for
academic entrepreneurial activities. These particular
items were then split into two separate constructs: one
construct measuring if there was a preference for
commercialization of research results and the other construct
related to the preference of possible consequences of
commercialization. Both constructs are explained in
detail below. These constructs are novel and not based
on prior research. We are aware of the limitations of
using such non-validated constructs and will discuss this
in Section 6.
Academic entrepreneurial commercialization To mea
sure academic entrepreneurial commercialization, the
question BIf the results of your research or the use of
your abilities led to commercialization, under what form
would you consider it?^ was used. Participants chose
their response from the following multiple options: (1)
BThe creation of a firm,^ (2) BThe creation of a firm in
the special legal setting of a young innovative firm,^ (3)
BPatent registration and development by the use of
licenses,^ (4) BSell patents to firms which have interest
in them,^ and (5) BLet others deal with the
commercialization of the research results.^ This resulted in five
binary variables, where the value 1 corresponds to
choosing an option. Of these five options, the first four
were interpreted as a positive preference towards
commercialization of research results, while the fifth option
was interpreted as a negative preference. In other words,
the fifth variable was reversed. Academic
entrepreneurial commercialization was then calculated by the sum of
the five variables.
Personal attitude towards entrepreneurship We mea
sured personal attitude towards entrepreneurship as a
formative construct in order to span over several
dimensions. We used six items which express the
prospectively envisioned consequences of firm creation if the
individual was to create his/her own firm. The items were
BThe creation of your own firm would personally give
you the feeling of doing more for the wellbeing of
others,^ BThe creation of your own firm would
personally lessen the abilities you have in your own
professional field because the firm would keep you
away from it^ (reversed), BThe creation of your own
firm would personally enable you improve considerably
your curriculum vitae,^ BThe creation of your own firm
would personally make you take the risk of an unwanted
break in a promising career^ (reversed), BThe creation
of your own firm would personally create relations with
the structures of research development of your
workplace,^ and BThe creation of your own firm would
personally bring you to be preoccupied by technical,
commercial or other issues linked to your firm, during
your free time^ (reversed). All items were measured on a
scale ranging from 0 to 100, where higher scores
indicated higher agreeableness. For each participant, the
average of the scores on the items was used for analysis.
3.2.2 Independent variable: ADHD symptoms
ADHD symptoms were assessed using the six-item
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale v1.1 (ASRS v1.1): a
short screening scale used for the general population
(Kessler et al. 2005)
. This six-item screener has been
proven to be effective in predicting adult ADHD. The
items, rated on a 5-point scale (1 = never, 5 = very
often), were averaged into two sub-dimensions:
attentiondeficit and hyperactivity. The attention-deficit
dimension was measured by four items: BHow often have
you had trouble wrapping up the final details of a
project, once the challenging parts have been done?^,
BHow often do you have difficulties getting things in
order when you have to do a task that requires
organization?^, BHow often do you have problems
remembering appointments or obligations?^, and BWhen
you have a task that requires a lot of thought, how often
do you avoid or delay getting started?.^ The
hyperactivity dimension was measured by the remaining two
items: BHow often do you fidget or squirm with your
hands and feet when you have to remain seated for a
long time?^ and BHow often do you feel overly active
and compelled to do things, as if you were driven by a
motor?.^ Although this six-item screener is effective in
predicting adult ADHD, the aspects of attention-deficit
are probably better captured than those of hyperactivity
due to the use of negative words (such as Btrouble,^
Bdifficulties,^ Bproblems,^ and Bavoid or delay^) in the
attention-deficit items; the hyperactivity items on the
other hand do not have any negative words. Reliability
scores measured by Cronbach’s alpha were .64 and .50,
respectively. Although relatively low, these scores are
still close to the lower bound of .63 as reported in
Kessler et al. (2007)
study on the validation of this
3.2.3 Control variables
Demographic variables We included age as a control
variable as studies have pointed out that it is an
important factor for determining a person’s propensity to
found a firm
(Levesque and Minniti 2006)
. Age was
asked in the following categories: BLess than 25 years
old^ (N = 14), Bfrom 26 to 30^ (N = 121), Bfrom 31 to
35^ (N = 68), Bfrom 36 to 40^ (N = 75), Bfrom 41 to 45^
(N = 82), Bfrom 46 to 50^ (N = 64), Bfrom 51 to 55^
(N = 52), Bfrom 56 to 60^ (N = 23), Bfrom 61 to 65^
(N = 20), Bfrom 66 to 70^ (N = 15), Bfrom 71 to 75^
(N = 0), Bfrom 76 to 80^ (N = 0), BMore than 81 years
old^ (N = 0). Similarly, education has also been
associated with entrepreneurship
(Dickson et al. 2008)
was thus included in our analysis. Education was
measured by the highest level of education accomplished at
the time of the questionnaire as follows: 1 = high school
level and less (N = 0), 2 = undergraduate level (N = 12),
3 = graduate level (N = 187), 4 = PhD level (N = 335).
Perceived skills and abilities Based on the relation
between entrepreneurial self-efficacy and entrepreneurial
(Rauch and Frese 2007)
, and the close
connection between entrepreneurial self-efficacy and
entrepreneurial skills and ability, we also controlled for these
skills and abilities. This was measured in four
categories: (1) leadership and communication skills (BYou
have a personal charisma which can convince people
without offending them,^ BYou have the ability to use
your instinct in order to evaluate a situation or an issue,^
BYou are capable of spurring, coordinating and
synthesizing the work of a group,^ BYou can be
available and receptive to others,^ and BYou are capable of
taking into account different opinions and harmonize
them for general interest^); (2) networking and making
professional contacts (BI feel at ease with all type of
persons,^ Bwhen I have an important investment or
purchase to do, I know who to talk to,^ and BI trust
others easily^); (3) competitiveness and prestige (BYou
usually look for a job in which you can improve the
wellbeing of others,^ BYou usually look for a job in
which you may compete with others with the hope to
prevail,^ BYou usually look for a job in which you can
acquire prestige in your domain,^ and BYou usually look
for a job in which you are well paid^); and (4)
innovativeness (BAbility to innovate and identify new issues^).
These 12 items were averaged to form an overall
measure of perceived skills and abilities. The reliability of
this scale, measured by Cronbach’s alpha, is .77.
To test Hypothesis 1 and 2, linear regressions for both
academic entrepreneurial commercialization and
personal attitude towards entrepreneurship were
performed in two ways: one without control variables and
one with control variables. We used ordinal least square
(OLS) to estimate the coefficients of these regressions.
A l l v a r i a b l e s w e r e s t a n d a r d i z e d f o r e a s e o f
Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations (SDs),
correlations, and Cronbach’s alpha (on the diagonal of
the correlation matrix) of the main variables.
− 0.21*** 0.64
− 0.10* 0.28***
− 0.20*** 0.05
0.22*** − 0.27***
− 0.04 0.77
Correlations range from − .26 to .29. Note that, as may
be expected, the correlation between the two dependent
variables academic entrepreneurial commercialization
and personal attitude towards entrepreneurship was
significantly positive (r = .20, p < .001). In addition,
the correlation between attention-deficit symptoms and
hyperactivity symptoms was significantly positive
(r = .28, p < .001). To test for common method bias
(CMB), we applied Harman’s single factor test, where
a single unrotated principal component should not
explain more than 50% of the variance
(Podsakoff et al.
. The first principal component in our data
explained 16.2% of the variance, indicating that CMB is
unlikely to be of a major concern.
Table 2 shows the OLS regression results.5 With
respect to academic entrepreneurial commercialization,
no significant associations for attention-deficit or
hyperactivity were found in the model that included controls.
It is worth noting however that the sign of
attentiondeficit was negative but not significant, both with and
without controls. With respect to personal attitude
towards entrepreneurship, attention-deficit was
5 We performed several robustness checks to investigate robustness of
the results. First, we performed the analysis on another group of
university employees: administrative and technical personnel
(N = 232) as this data was also available. Results were similar with
respect to personal attitude towards entrepreneurship, although the
negative association between attention-deficit and academic
entrepreneurial commercialization disappeared for the administrative
personnel. The fact that attention-deficit and personal attitude towards
entrepreneurship were also negatively associated for the administrative and
technical personal could be due to the university environment. Maybe
it is not Bbeing academic,^ but Bbeing in a university environment^ that
drives the relation between attention-deficit and personal attitude
towards entrepreneurship. Second, we split the sample of academic
researchers on countries, to investigate the results in France (N = 98),
Italy (N = 267), and Spain (N = 169). From these country-level
analyses, we found that the main results were mostly driven by the
French, followed by Spain and Italy. With respect to Italy, none of the
coefficients of interest were significant, while for Spain,
attentiondeficit and personal attitude towards entrepreneurship were negatively
associated. This negative association was even stronger in the French
dataset. In all three analyses, the association between attention-deficit
and academic entrepreneurial commercialization disappeared. Finally,
we considered a different operationalization of academic
entrepreneurial commercialization since items 1 and 2 are about creating a firm,
items 3 and 4 about patenting, and item 5 about commercialization by
others. We wanted to focus on the more extreme cases explicitly.
Therefore, we operationalized the variable as binary, where 1 meant
that option (i.e., item) 1 or 2 was chosen and option 5 was not chosen.
We performed a logistic regression and found a negative association
between attention-deficit and the new operationalization of academic
entrepreneurial commercialization in the regression without controls,
but this association disappeared in the regression including controls.
Thus, the results were similar to our main findings.
significantly negatively associated, independent of the
inclusion of controls. This confirms our Hypothesis 2.
The coefficient estimated in the model with controls was
− .142, which means that an increase of one standard
deviation in attention-deficit results in .142 standard
deviations decrease in personal attitude towards
entrepreneurship, ceteris paribus. Hyperactivity was not
associated with personal attitude towards
entrepreneurship. In other words, researchers who scored higher on
hyperactivity symptoms were not more inclined to
commercialize their research results by starting up a firm
and/or by patenting. Hypothesis 1 was therefore
The aim of the present study was to explore academic
entrepreneurial preference among academic researchers
and connect it to hyperactivity and attention-deficit
symptoms. Specifically, we looked at two measures of
academic entrepreneurial preference: the willingness to
commercialize research results in the form of a firm or
by the use of patents, and the personal attitude towards
entrepreneurial activities. Our study follows a recent
stream of investigations starting from the premise that,
while symptoms of ADHD are a liability for
wageworkers, they may be positively associated with
entrepreneurial intention, orientation, and activities in
general. Yet, the association between ADHD symptoms and
specific groups in contexts has not yet been explored—a
gap that the present study aimed to fill. Building on
previous studies that link ADHD symptoms (and more
specifically hyperactivity symptoms) to
entrepreneurship, and using the theoretical lens of P-E fit, we
hypothesized that ADHD symptoms (at the subclinical
level) are associated with academic entrepreneurial
preference for our specific group of academic researchers. In
particular, we hypothesized that hyperactivity
symptoms have a positive link with academic entrepreneurial
preference while attention-deficit symptoms have a
The present study contributes to the emergent
literature that tries to understand the relationship between
mental-health conditions and entrepreneurship
et al. 2016, 2017)
by focusing on ADHD, which is not
only a common mental-health condition that affects
hundreds of millions of adults worldwide (De Graaf
2008), but also considered as a proof-of-concept
phenomenon for studies that links mental health with
entrepreneurship in general.
Our study, using a sample of 534 academic researchers
from three European universities in France, Italy, and
Spain reveals that there is no association between
hyperactivity and the two measures of academic
entrepreneurial preference. In other words, academic researchers who
score higher on hyperactivity symptoms do not espouse
to be more inclined to commercialize their research
results by starting up a firm and/or by patenting; neither do
they have a more positive attitude towards entrepreneurial
activities as compared to those who do not score high on
hyperactivity symptoms. This finding does not support
previous research that indicates a link between ADHD
and entrepreneurship, and where a positive association
was found between hyperactivity and several
entrepreneurial outcomes among a sample of students and
(Verheul et al. 2015; Wiklund et al. 2016a,
. However, our result showing a negative association
between attention-deficit symptoms and personal attitude
towards entrepreneurship is in line with that of the
Verheul et al. (2016) study.
The absence of a positive association between
hyperactivity symptoms and academic entrepreneurial
preference among an academic sample could be explained by
the theory of P-E fit. An academic environment has
similarities with an entrepreneurial environment. Unlike
a typical wage-employed environment, the academic
environment allows relatively more autonomy, the
likelihood to translate hyperactivity into work related
actions, and provides more opportunities to express one’s
creativity. Hence, there may not be any reason for a
significant attraction to and preference for
entrepreneurship besides the usual research activities. On the other
hand, those with a higher incidence of attentional
problems may perceive activities beyond their research to be
a burden and a further distraction from their focus on
current work, which could explain the negative
association that we found between attention-deficit and
personal attitude towards entrepreneurship. Furthermore,
only few adults who experience ADHD symptoms are
actually found in higher-ranked occupational positions
(i.e., obtain a PhD degree) due to the negative
consequences of their ADHD symptoms
(De Graaf 2008)
is likely that those in higher-ranked positions may have
found effective ways to cope with their symptoms,
which in turn could be due to a good P-E fit (i.e., a fit
with the academia).
An alternative explanation for not finding the
positive association between hyperactivity symptoms and
academic entrepreneurial preference lies in a different
interpretation of the theory of P-E fit. It may be the case
that there simply is no such association in general
between ADHD and entrepreneurial preference. One
could as well argue that personal traits not only
influence one’s preference (occupational in this case) but also
one’s choice of the environment (context). Results of
previous studies that show the relation between ADHD
and entrepreneurial preference may have been blurred
by the heterogeneity of contexts. By restricting our
context to the academic environment, the present study
corrects for the context heterogeneity.
6 Limitations and suggestions for future research
The present study has several limitations. First, both scales
for attention-deficit and hyperactivity from the six-item
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale v1.1 (ASRS v1.1) used in
this study had a relatively weak reliability as shown by the
Cronbach’s alpha of .64 and .50, respectively.
Nonetheless, these reliabilities are still close to the lower
bound of .63 reported in
Kessler et al. (2007)
study of this six-item screener, and reliabilities reported in
other studies on ADHD and entrepreneurship
et al. 2015; Wiklund et al. 2016b)
In the same line, although the null effects suggest that
hyperactivity is not related to entrepreneurial preference
among researchers, they might also indicate a mismatch
between the preference construct we measured and the
scales we used, which have not been validated. This
emphasizes the explorative nature of the present study.
If future studies using validated entrepreneurial
preference measures (or closely related measures such as
entrepreneurial intention) reach the same conclusions
as the present study, it would bolster the claim that
hyperactivity is not related to academic entrepreneurial
Second, information on gender, a well-known
predictor of entrepreneurial activities
(Carter et al. 2003)
was not available in our dataset and could therefore not
be included as a control variable in the regression.
Future studies should try to overcome this limitation.
Third, the explained variance of our entrepreneurial
preference constructs is low; the antecedents of
academic entrepreneurship included in the model of the present
study are also not exhaustive.
Due to high prevalence of comorbidity, clinical
researchers state that assessment of ADHD is problematic
(Jensen et al. 1993)
. In fact, researchers even assert that
distinguishing forms of ADHD by comorbidity, such as
grouping people with ADHD into more homogenous
groups based on their pattern of comorbidity, is required,
for which, methodological innovation is necessary
(Biederman et al. 1992; Jensen et al. 1997)
. Since we
used only the ADHD screener, we may well have picked
up certain symptoms pertaining to the comorbidities
associated with ADHD. Further research needs to take
this issue into account.
A possible research avenue could be to investigate
the association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity
symptoms and actual firm start-up among academic
researchers as we expect this relation could be more
prominent. Yet another future research avenue worth
mentioning is the explicit modeling of the P-E fit
mechanism in the relation between ADHD symptoms and
different aspects of entrepreneurship. As we have
argued above, it is possible that the positive association
that has been found in heterogeneous samples could be
because this mechanism was not taken into account.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source,
provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if
changes were made.
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