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Tesi etd-02072018-165416

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Settore scientifico disciplinare
Corso di studi
tutor Prof. Cavaliere, Vincenzo
commissario Prof. Dalli, Daniele
commissario Chiucchi, Maria Serena
commissario Prof.ssa Liguori, Mariannunziata
Parole chiave
  • decision-making
  • entrepreneurial cognition
  • emotion
Data inizio appello
Data di rilascio
Riassunto analitico
It is widely acknowledged that small and medium enterprises (SME) are vital for entrepreneurial activities, innovation, job creation, and industry dynamics of local, national and international economies (Liberman‐Yaconi, Hooper, & Hutchings, 2010; Shepherd & Wiklund, 2005). Moreover, there is a general agreement that the success, longevity and survival of SMEs are deeply linked to the effectiveness of the decision-making process (Beaver & Jennings, 2005; Brouthers, Andriessen, & Nicolaes, 1998; Liberman‐Yaconi et al., 2010; Woods & Joyce, 2003). As Baron (1998: 17) points out, “entrepreneurs are creative individuals who generate a tremendous number of potentially valuable ideas; as such, they are a priceless human resource for any society”. From this point of view, entrepreneurs and how they make decisions assume a critical role.
Specifically, research has pointed to the entrepreneur as a principal force behind the initiation, development, sustenance, and success of SME because of the responsibility for and involvement in the decisions of the firm (Carpenter & Fredrickson, 2001; Coda, 1984; Cole, 1999; Hambrick, Cho, & Chen, 1996; Zappa, 1957). Due to the complexity of entrepreneurial decision making, rationality should be the most useful information process to use; however, entrepreneurs often have to decide quickly with no time and resources to evaluate a great amount of information. Given this, they frequently use the intuitive and heuristic process (Curşeu and Vermeulen, 2010). In line with this, there is a broad agreement that rationality and intuition are opposite sides of cognition, and decisions are the results of the steady relationship between them (Dhami & Thomson, 2012). Consequently, understanding how entrepreneurs think and make effective decisions is necessary for the development of the research (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000) from the cognitive point of view.
At the same time recent research (R. A. Baron, 2008; Lerner et al., 2015) underlined the necessity to consider emotions when decision-making process is discussed. Recent studies argued that entrepreneurial emotion is a “hot topic” (Cardon et al., 2012); accordingly, research show that emotions influence both opportunity evaluation and exploitation decision (Hayton & Cholakova, 2012; Welpe, Spörrle, Grichnik, Michl, & Audretsch, 2012). This is due to the fact that “entrepreneurship generates substantial emotions because it is an extreme context in terms of time pressures, uncertainty, and the extent of personal consequences tied up in the fate of the firm” (Cardon et al., 2012).
Accordingly, we can think of entrepreneurial decision-making as the result of interconnection between cognitive and emotional factors (Forgas, 1995; Lerner et al., 2015). Indeed, there is a broad agreement that cognitive decision-making is composed by the interconnection between rationality and intuitive (non-rational) (Khatri & Ng, 2000; Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2004; Semin & Smith, 2013; H. A. Simon, 1987) but, as I discussed previously also emotions have a deep effect on entrepreneurial decision-making (Cardon, 2012), that are considered as the irrational component of the decision-making process .
Few studies examine cognitive and emotion aspects of the decision-making process as a whole, for this reason my interest in understanding and testing the relationship between cognition, emotions and entrepreneurs’ decision-making effectiveness is therefore consistent with the need to consider more in depth the complex, multilevel and dynamic process of entrepreneurship (Grégoire, Cornelissen, Dimov, & Burg, 2015).
Based on these considerations, the main questions that are at the bottom line of this doctoral thesis are:
How entrepreneurs think and make effective decisions? Is the entrepreneurial decision-making process the result of both intuition and rationality?
What is the combination of emotions and cognition which enables a more effective decision-making process?

Starting from these general research questions and grounding on the cognitive research assumptions that there are two main different, but interdependent, processes to evaluate emotions (Forgas & George, 2001; Lerner & Keltner, 2000) - intuitive and rational processes (Stanovich and West, 2000; Dane and Pratt, 2007) -, I developed and tested a conceptual framework which helped to better understand entrepreneurial decision-making effectiveness.
In order to answer at the research questions and contribute to entrepreneurial cognition literature, this doctoral thesis is composed of three different papers. All of them are part of my general doctoral research project which was awarded as best doctoral project by entrepreneurship strategic interest group at the Doctoral Colloquium of European Academy of Management (EURAM), Paris – France, 30-31 May 2016.
The first paper’s (Chapter 2) aim is to offer a clear, systematic, and bibliometric review of EC as a field of study from a more dynamic perspective, building on socially situated cognition theory. Based on a data set that covers 18 years of research, from 1998 to 2016, the study analyzes all of the 151 papers available in the Web of Science Core Collection. The results of this study demonstrated that only in the last few years has there been a slight growth in the interest in understanding how emotion influences entrepreneurial cognition (R. A. Baron, 2008; R. A. Baron, Tang, & Hmieleski, 2011).
For this reason, in the paper 2 (Chapter 3) a conceptual framework which considered affect, cognition and decision-making effectiveness is presented. The conceptual model relies on three main pillars: the inputs to the decision-making process, namely the affect, considered as information to process (Forgas, 1995); the processes that allow identify the way decisions are made, investigated in this paper by focusing on the judgmental strategies (Forgas, 1995); and the outcome of the decision making, explored as the extent of the entrepreneurial decision-making effectiveness. In developing the argument, I also propose that the emotional intelligence may play an important role in influencing the relationship between affect and judgmental strategies.
Finally, the third paper (Chapter 4) offers a quantitative test of the conceptual framework. Based on a survey which involved 98 entrepreneurs of the manufacturing sector of Tuscany, an Italian Region. This study wants to test a model which links affect, positive and negative, and entrepreneurial decision-making effectiveness, considering cognitive process, intuition and rationality, as a mediator of this relationship. The results showed that the relationship between entrepreneurs’ positive affect and decision-making effectiveness is fully mediated by entrepreneurial rationality.
Finally, Chapter 5 concludes by answering the research questions, stating both factual conclusions that arose from the findings, and conceptual conclusions. A contribution to knowledge and justification for the claim is presented. In addition, an agenda for future research and my reflections are presented