In progress Entrepreneurship and mental health



Mental health is an important topic for entrepreneurial research and practice. During my PhD trajectory, I would like to advance current understanding of entrepreneurship by conducting four research projects through the lens of psychology. These include the relationship between psychiatric symptoms and entrepreneurship, the relationship between narcissism and entrepreneurial activities, the work-life interaction of entrepreneurs, and the possibility of applying neurophysiological techniques to entrepreneurial studies.


Neuroeconomics, sub-clinical psychiatric symptoms, resting state EEG, entrepreneurial activities, narcissism, work-family conflict

Time frame

2015 - 2019


In the last few decades the limitations of the traditional ‘homo economicus’ perspective led to the development of the field of behavioral economics with ample room for psychological, cognitive and emotional perspectives. More recently, the high level of heritability of many economic behaviors has led to a field called ‘geno-economics’ which attempts to identify specific genetic polymorphisms underlying these behaviors. There are several reasons why research focusing on genes alone will fail to adequately contribute to the ‘explanation’ of economic behavior. One is that the pathways from genes to economic behavior are not only long (‘distal determinant’) but also insufficiently understood (because of the many moderators and mediators) and highly multi-genetic.

An entirely new and very promising step is to turn to research on psychiatric symptoms as measured by interview, self report and observation and associated neurophysiological activities as measured by techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG). As opposed to the world of genes, the association between economic behaviors and psychiatric symptoms is less ‘distal determinant’. We benefit from the recent and exciting findings in modern psychiatry about the relation between psychiatric symptoms and neurophysiological activity. Also, many psychological symptoms are well captured using validated psychiatric symptom scores (e.g., in the framework of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; DSM-5).

The present project takes entrepreneurship (as an example of economic behavior) as a starting point to investigate the triangle of this type of economic behavior, psychiatric symptoms (e.g., symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD), addiction, psychopathy or hypomania) and neurocognitive measures like electroencephalography (EEG) (e.g., Event-Related Potentials measured during cognitive tasks). These neurocognitive measures can be viewed as techniques to increase the reliability and validity of our research and to examine psychological characteristics that are difficult to measure by self-reported data. It is expected to provide a biological basis. How precisely this works is the major challenge of the present proposal. See Figure 1 for an intuitive starting point.

The initial emphasis on entrepreneurship builds on the strong position that the participating ESE group has experience in this area and in the area of ‘geno-economics’. The research will start with entrepreneurship but will certainly not be confined to it: other manifestations of economic behavior, in particular in the area of occupational choice, such as unemployment or education will follow.

Resulting knowledge will advance the field of economics (economic behavior, in particular occupational choice) as well as those of psychology and psychiatry. Moreover, it will advance the fields of mental well-being (satisfaction or happiness) and physical well-being (health). A mismatch between the real occupational choice and the one predicted by a psychiatric symptom profile (person-environment fit) can be detrimental to one’s mental and hence physical well-being. This is known as the ‘stress’ or ‘imbalance’ hypothesis.

It is essential to emphasize that the present proposal does not focus on full-blown, psychiatric disorders. For our purpose psychiatric symptoms are used while defined across a continuum: the symptoms’ levels of the persons range from none, hardly any, some problems to severe problems. Here we focus on individuals with subclinical traits of symptoms only. Psychiatric research is typically directed towards the negative aspects of severe symptoms. Here we investigate the potentially positive affects of only moderate symptoms. Given the high occurrence of moderate psychiatric symptoms, it is plausible (from a Darwinian perspective) that psychiatric symptoms not only confer risks but can also be beneficial for the individual.

Supervisory Team

Roy Thurik
Professor of Economics and Entrepreneurship
  • Promotor
  • Daily Supervisor
Ingmar Franken
Ingmar Franken
  • Promotor
  • Daily Supervisor
Patrick Groenen
Professor of Statistics
  • Promotor