Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat feces may give people the courage needed to start their own business, as it appears to influence risk-taking and entrepreneurial behavior.
T. Gondii Parasite And Entrepreneurship
Findings of a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday, July 25, found that people infected with the mind-controlling parasite are more likely to pursue a major in business and to have started their own business compared with non-infected people.
Study researcher Stefanie Johnson, from the University of Colorado, and colleagues said that the parasite could be reducing people's fear of failure. T. gondii is known to make mice unafraid of cats.
For their study, Johnson and colleagues tested the presence of T. gondii antibodies in nearly 1,500 undergraduate students attending biology and business classes.
The results revealed that the students who tested positive for T. gondii were 1.4 times more likely to be a business major compared with those who were not infected. Of business major students, those who tested positive were also found to be 1.7 times more likely to focus on management and entrepreneurship.
The researchers also collected saliva samples from nearly 200 people who attended entrepreneurship events. They found that those who tested positive for the parasite were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own company.
Johnson and colleagues likewise attempted to test for connections between the parasite and entrepreneurship on the global level.
They analyzed the rate of infection in 42 countries relative to national surveys of entrepreneurial activities and attitudes. They found a positive correlation between presence of toxoplasmosis in the population and the rate of people engaged in business activities or have intention to launch their own business.
"While correlational, these results highlight the linkage between parasitic infection and complex human behaviours, including those relevant to business, entrepreneurship and economic productivity," the researchers wrote in their study.
Dangers Of Toxoplasmosis
Despite the seemingly positive effect of the parasite on people's entrepreneurial behavior, Toxoplasma infection can be dangerous. The parasite, for instance, can cause miscarriage and birth defects, which is why pregnant women need to stay away from cat feces.
In a 2015 study, researchers discovered that the parasite can cause mental illnesses in humans such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. A 2016 study also found a link between exposure to the parasite and uncontrollable bouts of anger. Researchers found that Toxoplasma infection is linked to altered brain chemistry that can lead to a disorder known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder.