Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Entrepreneurship, PhD

Committee Chair

Ahuja, Manju

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Cardon, Melissa S.

Committee Member

Cardon, Melissa S.

Committee Member

Carter, Robert E.

Committee Member

Davis-Sramek, Elizabeth


Businesspeople--Psychology; Entrepreneurship--Psychological aspects


Very few topics in entrepreneurship have received as much attention as the entrepreneurial process. It consists of the discovery, evaluation and exploitation of opportunities to create future goods and services. Evaluation is at the center of this process because it follows discovery and is the main precursor of the decision to exploit an opportunity. However, we know very little of the factors informing evaluation decisions. Furthermore, research on the topic is limited in that it mostly examines either opportunity-based or individual-based factors in simple models of evaluation. Of course, evaluation decisions are more sophisticated and include a plethora of other factors. This dissertation uses social cognitive theory as a basis to develop an integrative model of opportunity evaluation. Building on social cognitive theory's assertions that the environment, the individual and his/her focal behavior will interact to explain individual actions, I propose a multilevel, integrative research model. The model seeks to examine the complex contingent relationships between social capital relatedness, entrepreneurial experience, regulatory focus, entrepreneurial passion and resource attributes in the context of opportunity evaluation decisions. The theoretical model posits that resource attributes, social capital relatedness, regulatory focus and entrepreneurial passion will have a direct effect whereas entrepreneurial passion and entrepreneurial experience will have a moderating effect on evaluation decisions. I empirically test this model using a conjoint experiment and hierarchical linear modeling on data from a sample of entrepreneurs. The findings support social cognitive theory's assertions that the environment, the individual and his/her focal behavior will interact to explain individual actions. Results indicate that experience and age will have an impact on how entrepreneurs perceive resources, which could be an explanation for the high failure rate of new businesses. Further, entrepreneurs will find opportunities that relate to entrepreneurs' social capital more attractive. Additionally, there is evidence that entrepreneurs who are motivated by the need for security will rate opportunities as less attractive. Finally, data indicates that being highly passionate in all passion identity dimensions, and not just one, could be a spark for entrepreneurial action. Thus, this dissertation offers new insights for the opportunity evaluation literature and strengthens our understanding of the importance of studying the joint effects of environmental, individual and behavioral factors playing a role on opportunity evaluation.