The research discovered a linkage between exposure to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite and a higher likelihood to pursue business and entrepreneurship.
“Cat poop” and “business” are not two terms that one would ever think belong in the same sentence, let alone in a research paper. However, a new study is revealing how a parasite commonly found in cat feces may be help people find the courage to start their own business.
The new study published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, highlighted a linkage between exposure to Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite commonly found in cat feces, and entrepreneurial behaviors. In the study, researchers found that people who had been infected with parasite were more likely to major in business and to have started their own businesses than non-infected people.
Using saliva collected from a group of almost 1,500 students, researchers found that those who were exposed to Toxoplasma gondii were 1.4 times more likely to major in business and 1.7 times more likely to have an emphasis in “management and entrepreneurship” instead of other common business emphases.
In addition to the group of students, the study also surveyed a group of nearly 200 professionals attending entrepreneurship events and found that those who had been exposed to the parasite were 1.8 times more likely to have started their own business compared to the other non-infected attendees.
Usually, the Toxoplasma gondii parasite infects rodents and causes them to be unafraid of the smell of cat urine. This side effect benefits the parasite because cats are more likely to eat the unafraid mice, which in turn keeps the parasite’s life cycle moving and thriving. The researchers for the study believe the parasite is having a similar effect on the people it infects, causing a reduction in a human’s fear of failure.
The study also admits that while their research does show a possible linkage between reduced fear of failure in human and exposure to the parasite, they know that they still have work to do to officially prove it.
“While correlational, these results highlight the linkage between parasitic infection and complex human behaviors, including those relevant to business, entrepreneurship and economic productivity,” the study reads.
Stefanie Johnson, an associate professor of management at the University of Colorado and one of the authors of the study, often told her students about this parasitic phenomenon and after talking with her husband Pieter Johnson, who teaches biology at the university and also co-authored the paper, he revealed that he frequently lectures his students on the same exact topic. They concluded that the parasite’s side effects were too interesting to not pursue further and eventually teamed up with a few others to complete the study.
Despite the progress they’ve made on the study, Stefanie admits that their research into the topic is far from over.
“Our next research is conservatism, whether, toxoplasmosis affects conservatism,” she tells NBC News. “So what if all the businesses started by toxoplasma-positive people fail? What if that fear was a good thing? We want to know.”
After learning about Toxoplasma gondii, the cat parasite that encourages risky behavior in humans, read about a zombie parasite that lives in a fish’s eyeball and ontrols its behavior. Then, read about famous people who were also advocates for drugs.