The claim that “entrepreneurs are born, not made” captures the idea that entrepreneurial ability is largely determined by a person’s inborn characteristics. Despite longstanding scholarly interest in assessing the validity of this claim, the belief that entrepreneurial ability is inborn remains largely unexamined. This is unfortunate, because many people around the world hold this belief even though the belief itself is inconsistent with contemporary social science. In an effort to advance research in this area, this chapter reviews recent social psychological research on lay theory and, in particular, on the concept of “essentialism,” the idea that members of large social groups possess an underlying set of immutable characteristics. Extending those ideas, the chapter applies them to the case of occupational groups and introduces a construct to capture the belief that entrepreneurs possess an underlying essence that is fixed and inborn. It goes on to explain how this belief is likely to affect important choices people make about the creation and management of new ventures. Taken together, these arguments expand scholarly conversations at the intersection of entrepreneurship and cognition by raising new questions about how and with what effects people think about entrepreneurial ability.
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