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Evolutionary psychology, corporate culture and family business


Academy of Management Perspectives


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Nicholson N


Publication Year



The paper aims to show how evolutionary psychology can provide a fresh, compelling, and overarching explanatory framework for contrasting evidence about the special capabilities and vulnerabilities of family businesses, compared to nonfamily firms. It is argued that this encompasses the predominant theoretical frameworks, including the principal-agent perspective, and goes further to explain how family capital can create competitive advantage through the cultures family business leaders are able to build. The key elements are analyzed with case examples. A Darwinian analysis of kinship explains what is unique about family firms in terms of the identity of the business, its continuance over generations, and the character of its leadership. Throughout, the lessons and implications for nonfamily firms are discussed.


Family-owned business enterprises; Evolutionary psychology; Corporate culture; Agency theory; Leadership; Kinship

Available on ECCH


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