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Originating in social psychology, Regulatory Focus Theory [RFT] (Higgins, 1997, 1998) allows for a better understanding of the mental processes mobilized by entrepreneurs when they define their goals and select the means they consider most adequate to attain these (Brockner, Higgins et Low, 2004). By studying regulatory foci and their impact on opportunity ideation, resources allocation, and/or the performance of young ventures, one can obtain a finer understanding of the affective, behavioral, and cognitive processes that underpin entrepreneurial action. Nevertheless, RFT’s explicative potential implies a number of challenges for entrepreneurship research. In this article, we identify three such challenges and conduct a systematic literature review to evaluate their consideration in prior entrepreneurship studies. Building on these analyses, we first invite entrepreneurship scholars to address potential confusions between RFT dynamics and approach-avoidance models of motivation. Second, we encourage scholars to open up the organizational “black-box” to better understand the manner in which entrepreneurs’ objectives can be articulated in project- and circumstances-specific regulation strategies and tactics—and thus the articulation of RFT dynamics at different underlying levels. Finally, we remind entrepreneurship scholars that addressing the tradeoffs between different regulatory foci remains an important issue in entrepreneurial action; we thus encourage future studies of the tension between different foci—and their possible integration. We conclude by proposing concrete strategies for addressing these challenges.


  • Self-regulation
  • regulatory focus
  • regulatory fit
  • approach-avoidance
  • entrepreneurship
Vincent Angel
Julie Hermans
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