1. Researchers create new tool that measures active learning in classrooms

    March 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the San Francisco State University press release:

    Researchers at San Francisco State University have developed a tool that for the first time can measure the extent to which instructors use innovative teaching methods by analyzing simple audio recordings of classroom sounds, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

    Researchers analyzed recordings of more than 1,486 sessions from 67 different courses using the tool, dubbed DART -decibel analysis for research in teaching.

    “The breakthrough here is that for the first time we can effectively and inexpensively measure the use of innovative teaching strategies that have previously been shown to produce better learning than lecture only,” said SF State Professor of Biology Kimberly Tanner, principal investigator on the study. Tanner’s research focuses on novel teaching strategies.

    “In my work, I’ve found that many faculty members want to improve their teaching, but they don’t have the tools to help them see how they’re doing,” said Tanner. “It’s like trying to lose weight without a scale — you can’t improve what you can’t measure. DART provides a simple, easy way to answer the question ‘How much of class time do I devote to engaging my students in active learning?'”

    The findings are based on a comprehensive SF State project that includes 83 community college and university instructors involved in examining and promoting innovative teaching methods.

    Tanner says DART can be used in any classroom, and at this time it’s free and can be accessed online at http://dart.sfsu.edu/. SF State researchers have secured a provisional patent for the technology and eventually plan to create an app.

    According to Tanner, traditional teaching often focuses on a lecture that’s delivered by a faculty member to a group of students. Modern educational research has shown that active learning – a term used to describe a variety of related methods where students interact with each other and engage in problem-solving activities – drives stronger learning and better educational outcomes than lecture alone.

    But widespread adoption of innovative teaching methods that foster increased learning has been slowed by the lack of a way to quantify how much they are really being used by instructors, Tanner said. For example, faculty members can overestimate how often they truly engage students. In addition, educational reform leaders and funding agencies do not currently have easy and efficient ways of monitoring if teaching changes are happening in real-world courses.

    As part of the SF State research project, faculty members affiliated with 22 colleges and universities recorded their classes, which ranged in size from 4 to 300 students, using standard audio recorders. At the same time, trained evaluators took notes about what happened in the classes and identified the various instructional methods used, including faculty lecture, small-group discussions and quiet problem solving.

    Researchers then used an optimized computer program to classify sound in the audio recordings. Using only the classroom sounds, DART could classify the audio into three categories — single voice (traditional lecture with question and answer), multiple voice (student interactive group work), or no voice (student thinking, writing or individual problem solving) — with over 90 percent accuracy, which matched the ability of the human evaluators to correctly classify the classroom environment. It wasn’t necessary for DART to classify the actual content of the recorded speech, so student and instructor privacy was protected. DART could do its work based solely on the overall level and type of noise in the classroom.

    “Although the initial research focused on biology classes, the DART method can be applied in almost any teaching situation,” said Melinda Owens, postdoctoral scholar and lecturer at SF State, one of three lead authors on the paper. “Just like a person can track their progress toward their daily steps with a fitness tracker, a faculty member could track their progress toward adopting active learning with the DART system.”

    “DART looks like a great new tool for solving the biggest outstanding question in undergraduate science education ? namely, what teaching methods are actually being used in college classrooms, and how can we routinely monitor those. Before this work, it appeared impossible to answer these critical questions,” said Nobel Prize-winning physicist and physics education researcher Carl Wieman of Stanford University. “This work now shows how to do that quite easily. I am surprised that this method is so effective at characterizing the teaching taking place, but the massive scale of the analysis and the care in which it was carried out are very convincing.”

  2. Wise deliberation sustains cooperation

    by Ashley

    From the University of Waterloo press release:

    Giving people time to think about cooperating on a task can have a positive effect if they are big-picture thinkers, but if they tend to focus on their own, immediate experience, the time to think may make them less cooperative, University of Waterloo research has found.

    A series of three experiments, conducted by University of Waterloo researchers Igor Grossmann, Justin Brienza and Romana Bobocel, also found that wise, or big-picture, thinkers were able to sustain their cooperation with others when given time to deliberate.

    “What this study tells us is that the effect of thinking time on cooperation depends on the type of deliberation people use,” says Igor Grossmann, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo and the study’s lead author.” In practical terms, people trying to get groups to cooperate, such as employers or in school settings, may really need to understand people’s deliberation styles before deciding how much time to give them for a given task.”

    The series of three studies looked at over 1,000 people with varying capacities for wise reasoning — the ability to think big picture, take an outside perspective, recognize the limits one’s own knowledge — and how well they were able to participate in cooperative tasks with others.

    Grossmann and his colleagues’ study consisted of three experiments. In experiment one, researchers measured participants’ individual differences in wise reasoning and how cooperation was impacted by time delays versus time pressure.

    In experiment two and three, the researchers manipulated the type of reasoning participants used to make decisions — either by asking participants to use third party language when making decisions or with graphics that remind people of an observer perspective.

    The study’s findings were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

  3. Study suggests PTSD risk can be predicted by hormone levels prior to deployment

    by Ashley

    From the UT Austin press release:

    Up to 20 percent of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder from trauma experienced during wartime, but new neuroscience research from The University of Texas at Austin suggests some soldiers might have a hormonal predisposition to experience such stress-related disorders.

    Cortisol — the stress hormone — is released as part of the body’s flight-or-fight response to life-threatening emergencies. Seminal research in the 1980s connected abnormal cortisol levels to an increased risk for PTSD, but three decades of subsequent research produced a mixed bag of findings, dampening enthusiasm for the role of cortisol as a primary cause of PTSD.

    However, new findings published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology point to cortisol’s critical role in the emergence of PTSD, but only when levels of testosterone — one of most important of the male sex hormones — are suppressed, researchers said.

    “Recent evidence points to testosterone’s suppression of cortisol activity, and vice versa. It is becoming clear to many researchers that you can’t understand the effects of one without simultaneously monitoring the activity of the other,” said UT Austin professor of psychology Robert Josephs, the first author of the study. “Prior attempts to link PTSD to cortisol may have failed because the powerful effect that testosterone has on the hormonal regulation of stress was not taken into account.”

    UT Austin researchers used hormone data obtained from saliva samples of 120 U.S. soldiers before deployment and tracked their monthly combat experiences in Iraq to examine the effects of traumatic war-zone stressors and PTSD symptoms over time.

    Before deployment, soldiers’ stress responses were tested in a stressful CO2 inhalation challenge. “Healthy stress responses showed a strong cortisol increase in response to the stressor, whereas abnormal stress responses showed a blunted, nonresponsive change in cortisol,” Josephs said.

    The researchers found that soldiers who had an abnormal cortisol response to the CO2 inhalation challenge were more likely to develop PTSD from war-zone stress. However, soldiers who had an elevated testosterone response to the CO2 inhalation challenge were not likely to develop PTSD, regardless of the soldiers’ cortisol response.

    “The means through which hormones contribute to the development of PTSD and other forms of stress-related mental illness are complex,” said Adam Cobb, a UT Austin clinical psychology doctoral candidate and co-author of the study. “Advancement in this area must involve examining how hormones function together, and with other psychobiological systems, in response to ever-changing environmental demands.”

    Knowing this, the scientists suggest future research could investigate the efficacy of preventative interventions targeting those with at-risk profiles of hormone stress reactivity. “We are still analyzing more data from this project, which we hope will reveal additional insights into risk for combat-related stress disorders and ultimately how to prevent them,” said Michael Telch, clinical psychology professor and corresponding author of the study.

  4. How to fit in when you stand out: Don’t try so hard

    March 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    When in Rome you do as the Romans do, right? Not necessarily. When it comes to fitting in with foreign cultures, “just be yourself” might be the more appropriate mantra, according to Brigham Young University professor Stephen Moody.

    Looking at language specifically, Moody’s research shows that you don’t have to speak like a native to be accepted by natives; in fact, trying too hard to fit in might just set you back. Instead, he found, you can actually use your status as a foreigner to advance yourself socially or professionally.

    “A lot of language teaching focuses on doing things according to local conventions,” said Moody, a professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages. “Our research kind of challenges the idea that this is always necessary by noticing that there are times when a visiting foreigner is not expected to follow conventions and, in such situations, following conventions too closely can actually be seen as unusual.”

    For the research, published in Applied Linguistics, Moody tracked American students interning at Japanese firms, analyzing how they used formalities of Japanese language to assimilate — or not — into their workplace culture.

    Honorifics, elements of Japanese used to convey politeness and formality, help construct identity, establish roles and define social relationships. By analyzing this specific aspect of the language, Moody was able to identify what does and doesn’t work when it comes to fitting in.

    The biggest takeaway? Regardless of how well you speak, there are still circumstances where you will be seen as a foreigner. Don’t resent it; accept it and use it.

    “It’s not always about whether or not you’re using the language correctly, but if you’re comfortable being who you are,” Moody said. “If you try to fit into the local convention so much that you step away from who you are, you’re not going to fit in as well, even if you’re using the language ‘correctly.'”

    One group of interns, he said, was so determined to “become Japanese” that they overused honorifics to the point of unnatural politeness.

    “It would be like someone coming in and saying, ‘Um, excuse me, I’m sorry, could I perhaps impinge on your time for a brief moment?'” Moody said. “If you’re talking like that all the time it’s a little too much.”

    Another group of interns was all business; they used honorifics appropriately and could maneuver through the professional world effectively, but they were stiff and formal and continually seen as outsiders on a social level.

    In contrast, one intern intentionally used the language incorrectly — but with positive results. “He went in and just played up the fact that he’s a foreigner,” Moody said.

    According to Moody, this intern used exaggerated honorifics to play the role of goofy foreigner. His ironic and playful humor allowed everyone to laugh and connect on a more personal level, and his boss told Moody, “He’s one of us; he fits right in.”

    Different situations will call for different approaches to assimilating into a foreign culture, but Moody hopes that this research will provide insight into understanding the context-specific challenges of being in a foreign workplace.

    At BYU, which recently ranked 30th for global university employability, approximately 65 percent of students speak a second language. And, said Moody, “The role that language plays in facilitating relationships in the workplace is becoming more important. As more cultures combine in the workplace, employees are going to have to relate across cultures and build relationships.”

  5. In learning, every moment counts

    March 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Friedrich Schiller University Jena press release:

    Psychologist at University of Jena uncovers strong variability in motivation in learning situations: In the current issue of the journal Learning & Instruction Dr Julia Dietrich of Friedrich Schiller University (FSU) published her findings together with Jaana Viljaranta (University of Eastern Finland), Julia Moeller (Yale University) and Bärbel Kracke (FSU) on students’ expectations and efforts.

    Motivation can be a fickle thing — if we are motivated, we can achieve a great deal, but if motivation is lacking, we are easily overwhelmed. And we all know people who give the impression of being highly motivated all the time, while others seem to be chronically lacking in drive.

    Just how variable individual motivation can be is the subject of research by Dr Julia Dietrich of Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (FSU), and she has published her findings in the current issue of the journal ‘Learning & Instruction’. Together with Jaana Viljaranta (University of Eastern Finland), Julia Moeller (Yale University) and Bärbel Kracke (FSU), she investigated students’ expectations and efforts.

    “It is known that motivation is an important factor for learning and performance, but research has so far been relatively general,” explains psychologist Dr Dietrich. To date, studies have primarily recorded how motivated people are in general and what drives them. “However, until now no one has studied the state of an individual’s motivation in a specific, time-limited situation, such as during a lecture or lesson at school,” she adds.

    Three snapshots in a lecture

    In order to determine this, during one semester 155 student teachers recorded their motivation three times within 90-minute lectures. “To do this they had to answer questions, which were always the same, during 10 lectures on Educational Psychology, either using their smartphone or on paper. Among other things, we wanted to know how competent they felt at that particular moment, whether they understood the material or found it a strain to follow the lecture. They were also asked whether they enjoyed the content of the lecture and whether they found it useful,” explains Dietrich.

    Even the researchers were astounded by the results of the non-representative study, because motivation fluctuated much more strongly during the 90 minutes than had previously been assumed. During a lecture, every single participant experienced phases of high motivation and of strong demotivation — completely independently of the other students in relation to the timing of those phases. “Interests are of course specific to individuals. So far, at any rate, we have been unable to detect any systematic trends such as particular materials or topics that caused motivation to rise or fall in all participants,” reports Dietrich. “The causes for the fluctuations need to be considered more carefully in future, in order to make learning contexts as a whole more motivating.”

    The study was also able to show how closely intertwined motivation and effort are. The more effort one makes, the more motivated one feels. The reverse is also true: “A person who is motivated also makes more effort,” the 33-year-old psychologist explains.

    Deriving recommendations for teachers

    According to Dietrich, the crucial thing is to recognise that every learning situation and every moment counts: lecturers can ‘lose’ students at any time as they address them in the lecture theatre, but they can also win them back again. In spite of differences between individuals, the task is now to develop initial practical recommendations for teacher training as regards, for example, content, teaching methods or the use of materials. In addition, the investigation demonstrates how teaching staff can obtain immediate evaluations of changes to course content or new methods, instead of having to wait until the end of a semester for an evaluation using a questionnaire.

    Julia Dietrich studied Psychology in her home town of Erfurt, Germany, and obtained a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Erfurt in 2010. She subsequently spent two years at the University of Helsinki. Since 2013 she has been a member of Prof. Bärbel Kracke’s team at the University of Jena’s Department of Educational Psychology. Here, Dietrich will be doing further research on the ‘dark side’ of motivation. Giving an insight into the team’s future work, she says: “There are people who are very motivated and perform very well, but find it a great effort. Investigating what it ‘costs’ them to study, so that they are not at risk of burn-out at some time, will be the aim of our future studies.”

  6. Skilled workers more prone to mistakes when interrupted

    March 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Expertise is clearly beneficial in the workplace, yet highly trained workers in some occupations could actually be at risk for making errors when interrupted, indicates a new study by two Michigan State University psychology researchers.

    The reason: Experienced workers are generally faster at performing procedural tasks, meaning their actions are more closely spaced in time and thus more confusable when they attempt to recall where to resume a task after being interrupted.

    “Suppose a nurse is interrupted while preparing to give a dose of medication and then must remember whether he or she administered the dose,” said Erik Altmann, lead investigator on the project. “The more experienced nurse will remember less accurately than a less-practiced nurse, other things being equal, if the more experienced nurse performs the steps involved in administering medication more quickly.”

    That’s not to say skilled nurses should avoid giving medication, but only that high skill levels could be a risk factor for increased errors after interruptions and that experts who perform a task quickly and accurately have probably figured out strategies for keeping their place in a task, said Altmann, who collaborated with fellow professor Zach Hambrick.

    Their study, funded by the Office of Naval Research, is published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

    For the experiment, 224 people performed two sessions of a computer-based procedural task on separate days. Participants were interrupted randomly by a simple typing task, after which they had to remember the last step they performed to select the correct step to perform next.

    In the second session, people became faster, and on most measures, more accurate, Altmann said. After interruptions, however, they became less accurate, making more errors by resuming the task at the wrong spot.

    “The faster things happen, the worse we remember them,” Altmann said, adding that when workers are interrupted in the middle of critical procedures, as in emergency rooms or intensive care units, they may benefit from training and equipment design that helps them remember where they left off.

  7. Facebook ‘likes’ don’t work like marketers think they do

    by Ashley

    From the Tulane University press release:

    Social media managers who think that simply building up followers on Facebook is enough to boost a brand’s sales may not “like” a new Tulane University study featured in Harvard Business Review.

    Turns out, Facebook likes don’t work the way most brand managers think. Likes alone don’t drive purchases. If companies want to convert social media fans into more active customers, they have to engage them with advertising, said lead author Daniel Mochon, assistant professor of marketing at A. B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.

    “When we think of Facebook, we think of it as a very social platform. Most companies think that those social interactions will lead to more customer loyalty and more profitable customers,” Mochon said. “That’s not necessarily the case. Customers rarely post on a brand’s page on their own and typically only see a fraction of a brand’s Facebook content unless they are targeted with paid advertising”

    Mochon, Janet Schwartz, Tulane assistant professor of marketing and Dan Ariely of Duke University worked with Karen Johnson, deputy general manager of Discovery Health, to design a study using the Facebook page of the insurance company’s wellness program Discovery Vitality. Consumers can earn points for engaging in healthful behaviors, such as exercising, and redeem those points into rewards.

    The team wanted to find out if getting customers to like Vitality’s page would spur them to earn more health points. They invited new customers to take a survey and randomly invited them to like Vitality’s Facebook page. Those who weren’t invited served as a control group.

    The team monitored both groups for four months and found no difference in reward points earned, suggesting that liking the page and being involved in its social community weren’t enough to change behavior. Vitality then paid Facebook to display two posts per week to the liking group for two months. That group earned 8 percent more reward points than those in the control group.

    Authors suspect that the ads were effective because they were more likely to reach customers. Facebook’s algorithm filters content by users’ preferences and activities. When a company posts content, there’s no guarantee it will make it into their followers’ timeline unless it’s boosted content.

    “To our knowledge this is the first causal demonstration of the effect of Facebook page liking on customer behavior — specifically behavior that takes place offline,” Schwartz said. “The results suggest that Facebook pages are most effective when they are used as a form of traditional advertising rather than as a platform for social interactions.”

    The full study, “What are likes worth? A Facebook page field experiment,” is online and pending publication in the Journal of Marketing Research.

  8. Are market bubbles caused by traders’ testosterone levels?

    March 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev press release:

    Research conducted at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has determined that psychological momentum significantly affects performance among men but not among women, which may account for exaggerated risk-taking in financial and business endeavors among males.

    Psychological momentum is defined as a state-of-mind where an individual or a team feels things are going unstoppably their way and is known to be caused, among other factors, by shifts in testosterone levels. The study, “Psychological Momentum and Gender,” is published in the March volume of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    According to Dr. Danny Cohen-Zada, a lecturer in the BGU Department of Economics, “The purpose of our study was twofold: to estimate the causal effect of psychological momentum on performance in real tournament settings, and to examine whether there are any gender differences in the corresponding response.”

    The researchers analyzed two different samples of men’s and women’s judo competitions from 2009 to 2013. In the first, they looked at the bronze medal fights of each tournament. While competitors in this fight won the same number of total bouts, some had won their most recent bout while others did not. Those who reached the bronze medal fight following a win have a potential momentum advantage.

    The authors examined this unique setting to determine whether the contestants with the momentum advantage had a higher probability to win the fight.

    “Our results showed that based on a cross-section analysis of 106 men’s and 111 women’s fights from eight major annual judo events, having a psychological momentum advantage significantly increases the winning probability in men’s contests but not in women’s,” says Dr. Alex Krumer of the Swiss Institute for Empirical Economic Research (SEW), University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

    In the second part of the study, based on the head-to-head history of the pairs from the first sample and analyzing 225 men’s and 231 women’s fights, the researchers obtained similar results by analyzing how the performance of the same pair of judokas (judo experts) is affected by varied momentum statuses in different tournaments. As expected, the results of these specifications indicate that the psychological momentum effect exists among men, but not among women.

    The researchers believe that their findings have implications for business. “We can connect our findings to the effect of psychological momentum in financial markets of which 90 percent are men,” says Dr. Ze’ev Shtudiner from the Department of Economics and Business Administration, Ariel University, Israel. Drs. Krumer and Shtudiner earned their doctoral degrees in economics from BGU.

    “Such an effect may lead male traders, driven by an increase in testosterone due to a successful investment, to take exaggerated risks, which, in turn, create price bubbles,” says Dr. Shtudiner. “By increasing the number of women in financial markets, it may be possible to stabilize these markets since women have less dramatic shifts in testosterone levels, which can make them less prone to the momentum effect. This argument is consistent with our results that momentum effects are generated only among men, since it is only among them that testosterone levels increase after success.”

    According to Dr. Krumer, “An increased frequency of positive feedback from managers after successful actions may turn into a positive psychological momentum and thus increase productivity. Similarly, managers should exert efforts to reduce the influence of unsuccessful actions of their workers to avoid productivity losses.”

    Given these findings, Dr. Cohen-Zada believes additional research would be beneficial focusing on the role of psychological effects on performance in male-dominated positions, such as stockbrokers, high-profile managers, politicians, and military commanders.

  9. Values gap in workplace can lead millennials to look elsewhere

    by Ashley

    From the University of Missouri-Columbia press release:

    Much has been made in popular culture about millennials as they join the working world, including their tendency to job hop. Although this behavior often is explained as a loyalty issue, new research from the University of Missouri reveals one reason young workers choose to leave a firm is because they find a disconnect between their beliefs and the culture they observe in the workplace.

    “We were interested in workers’ values regarding sustainability and corporate sustainability practices and whether a gap existed,” said Rachel LoMonaco-Benzing, a doctoral student in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Not only did we find a gap, but we also found that workers were much more likely to leave a job if they felt their values were not reflected in the workplace.”

    For the study, LoMonaco-Benzing and Jung Ha-Brookshire, an associate professor of textile and apparel management and associate dean of research and graduate studies in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, interviewed employees in the textile and apparel industry involved in corporate supply chains. They found that workers expressed the most frustration if their employers touted a commitment to environmental sustainability publicly but did not follow through substantively in areas such as:

    • Materials selection, including the use of recycled materials
    • Proper management of pollutants, including chemicals and dyes
    • Working conditions in textile factories
    • Product packaging, distribution and marketing to consumers

    “Fewer people of this generation are just looking for a paycheck,” Ha-Brookshire said. “They have been raised with a sense of pro-social, pro-environment values, and they are looking to be engaged. If they find that a company doesn’t honor these values and contributions, many either will try to change the culture or find employment elsewhere.”

    To ensure a good fit with a potential employer, the researchers recommend that job seekers speak with current and former employees at various levels of the organization, asking questions about areas that are particularly important to them, such as sustainability, work-life balance policies or community partnerships.

    Conversely, in order to attract and retain the best employees, the researchers encourage companies to understand that the new generation of workers have high ethical and social expectations. Being transparent with potential employees about corporate culture can head-off some frustration, they said. In addition, giving employees the opportunity to shape cultural decisions through membership on committees and outreach efforts will help to increase morale.

    “I think this is another sign to the industry that business as usual is not going to work if you want to attract and retain these valuable workers,” Ha-Brookshire said.

    The study, “Sustainability as Social Contract: Textile and Apparel Professionals’ Value Conflicts within the Corporate Moral Responsibility Spectrum,” was published in the journal Sustainability.

  10. Harnessing ADHD for business success

    March 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Technical University of Munich (TUM) press release:

    The symptoms of ADHD foster important traits associated with entrepreneurship. That conclusion was reached in a study conducted by an international team of economists, who found that entrepreneurs with ADHD embrace new experiences and demonstrate passion and persistence. Their intuitive decision making in situations involving uncertainty was seen by the researchers as a reason for reassessing existing economic models.

    Poor concentration, hyperactivity, a lack of self-regulation — at first glance, the symptoms of ADHD would seem to lower performance. On the other hand, successful entrepreneurs are frequently reported to have ADHD. “We noticed sometime that some symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship — in a positive sense,” says Prof. Holger Patzelt of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

    In cooperation with Johan Wiklund, professor at the Syracuse University, and Dimo Dimov, professor at the University of Bath, Patzelt asked 14 self-employed people with ADHD about their diagnoses, their careers and their personal background. The study shows that important symptoms of ADHD had a decisive impact on the subjects’ decision to go into business and on their entrepreneurial approach:


    People with ADHD are quick to lose their patience. Several of the participants in the study cited boredom in their previous jobs as a reason for setting up their own company, where they could follow up on their own ideas whenever they wanted. One woman reported that she had introduced 250 new products within just a few years. In situations that would be highly stressful for others, such as difficult meetings with important customers, many of those surveyed felt at ease and stimulated. “Their impulsiveness, resulting from ADHD, gives them the advantage of being able to act under unforeseen circumstances without falling into anxiety and paralysis,” says Patzelt.

    Most of those surveyed act without thinking, even when making far-reaching decisions. One of the entrepreneurs described buying a friend’s company over lunch. He only learned of the friend’s plan to retire during the meal. Other participants reported that they make investments with no strategy and commit large sums of money to projects with highly uncertain outcomes. Some entrepreneurs believe that this kind of quick decision making is the only way to be productive, and are willing to live with setbacks as a result. Some have difficulty coping with structured activities.

    “A marked willingness to try out new things and take risks is an important entrepreneurial trait,” says Patzelt. However, the respondents’ impulsive actions led to success only when they focused on activities essential to the development of their businesses. One disadvantage of their impulsiveness was mentioned by all of them: problems with routine tasks such as bookkeeping.


    When people with ADHD have a strong interest in a task, they display an unusual level of concentration known as hyperfocus. One entrepreneur reported that he often becomes completely absorbed in crafting customer solutions. Another constantly keeps up with the new technologies in his industry to the point that he is now much in demand as an expert. “With their passion and persistence, and the expertise they acquire as a result, entrepreneurs can gain a substantial competitive advantage,” says Patzelt.

    High activity level

    Many of the entrepreneurs in the study work day and night without taking time off. That is due to the their hyperfocus, but also to the physical restlessness associated with ADHD. The entrepreneurs use this to fuel their workload. As their energy levels are not constant throughout the day, an advantage in running their own businesses is that they can set their own hours.

    “Logic of people with ADHD symptoms is better attuned to entrepreneurial action.”

    Summing up the results, Patzelt says, “ADHD was a key factor in their decision to go into business for themselves and decisively impacted important entrepreneurial traits: risk taking, passion, persistence and time commitment. Impulsiveness has a special role to play. For People with ADHD it is okay to make intuitive decisions even if the results are bad.”

    Although one third of those surveyed failed in their business ventures or had little success, Patzelt sees the results of the study as vital for prompting a reassessment of prevailing assumptions in entrepreneurship research: “The way we evaluate entrepreneurial decisions is largely based on rationality and good outcomes. In view of the multitude of uncertainties, however, can such decisions always be rational? People with ADHD show us a different logic that is perhaps better suited to entrepreneurship.”