Attitudes to Risk and Entrepreneurship
Info: 5458 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019
Entrepreneurship, as defined by Stevenson (1983) “… is the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control”. Stevenson and Gumpert (1985, pp. 85-94) advise that the preceding definition represents both the individual as well as the society that he or she is embedded in as he or she identifies an opportunity they desire to pursue, and as an entrepreneur they thus must seek the resources from the broader society.
The approach to entrepreneurship as voiced by Stevenson and Gumpert (1985, pp. 85-94) builds upon earlier scholars such as Schumpeter (1934) who identified the context of the interaction of the individual and wider society. The title of Schumpeter’s (1934) work “The Theory of Economic Development” could almost be suited to a title for entrepreneurship, as Harper (2003, p. 1) advises that one of the prominent features “… of a competitive enterprise economy is the ability of people continually to seek out and seize opportunities for profitable new activities in local and world markets”. That statement mirrors the definition of entrepreneurship as put forth by Stevenson and Gumpert (1985, pp. 85-94).
French economist Say, around 1800 stated that the entrepreneur “…shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield” (Dracker, 1985, p. 21). However, starting a new venture does not necessarily constitute entrepreneurship, and is not limited to new and or small businesses. Dracker (1985, p. 22) advises that entrepreneurship is indeed being practiced by all sizes of companies and corporations, and said activity represents the creation of something new, or different, and or the change / transmutation of value.
As such, Dracker (1985, pp. 21) cites McDonald’s, which is an example of entrepreneurship. And while its product did not represent anything new, the management concepts, techniques, standardization of the product, the process of designing systems and tools, the understanding of the work that needed to be done, and devising working and training techniques to transmit this to others is what defines it as being entrepreneurial (Dracker, 1985, p.21).
He also uses General Electric as an example in that the company’s“… long history of starting new entrepreneurial businesses from scratch, and raising them into sizable industries” is another example of this process (Dracker, 1985, p. 23), as well as Marks and Spencer of the United Kingdom.
Sheller (2006) advises that “Entrepreneurship is a delicate organism”, continuing that “It needs the right environment to flourish”. Welsh (2003, p. 4) elaborates on Sheller’s (2006) view by stating:
1. Entrepreneurship flourishes in communities where resources are mobile,
2. Entrepreneurship is greater when successful members of a community reinvest excess capital in the projects of other community members,
3. Entrepreneurship flourishes in communities in which the success of other community members is celebrated rather than derided, and
4. Entrepreneurship is greater in communities that see change as positive rather than negative.”
Given the risk taking nature of entrepreneurs, an examination of the context of this word is deemed as an important consideration before delving into the examination of the attitudes to risk and entrepreneurship. Inherent in the analysis of an entrepreneurial environment is risk, but, as stated by Culp (2001. 3) “Risk is everywhere”. Burt (2001) advises that “risk is the probability that an event will occur” and is “… often used to express the probability that particular outcome will happen following a particular exposure” and also denotes the probability, or possibility of a loss. However, there are differing views and attitudes regarding risk, just as there are regarding entrepreneurship. These facets shall be examined herein, equating the various attitudes and approaches to these two areas.
Chapter 1 – Introduction
Implicit in understanding the context of attitudes to risk and entrepreneurship, are the words that constitute this examination. The simplistic nature of the statement belies the striations inherent in the different contexts. Follendore (2002) in commenting on that fact that words carry meaning, also states that words also can limit potential meanings. As shown by the preceding brief exploration of entrepreneurship and risk, these words have a broader dimension that one usually associates with them in general conversation, and or use.
Termed linguistics, the meaning of words represents the context in which they are used in combination with other words and permits us to communicate with one another (Hill, 1969, p. 3). The character of the word stock of English has its roots in the Germanic tribes of the preromantic era and consists of French, Italian and other languages that have been incorporated into the body of words utilized by English speakers (Leith, 1997, p. 62).
The foregoing is important in understanding that the word dictionary is 1. “A reference book containing an alphabetical list of words, with information given for each word …” that 3. Lists “…words or other linguistics items in a particular category …” (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Its etymology stems from Medieval Latin dictinrium, and from Latin diction, which is a derivative of diction (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
The weakness of the English language lies in its lexical ambiguity. Lin and Ahrens (2001) provide a further understanding of the importance of words that in most instances have multiple meanings, thus the phrase lexical ambiguity. They go on to add that “… multiple meanings associated with … (words) … can be etymologically associated…” The words utilized in the title of this examination fall into the category of words that have “… greater number of meanings …” thus they are “… recognized faster than words with few meanings” (Lin and Ahrens, 2001).
Dictionary meanings, as stated by Lin and Ahrens (2001) are the form that is usually preferred by researchers as a result of their having standardized meanings “… comprehensive, and easy to obtain”. However, semantically speaking, the meaning of the words attitudes, risk and entrepreneurship change depending upon the context, thus variables are added as a result of using these words in combination, further compounding the equation. As borne out by the limited exploration of meanings for entrepreurship and risk. Thus in exploring the attitudes to the preceding, this examination shall explore these combinations and seek to find common linkages to result in an understanding of the foregoing.
Chapter 2 – Attitude
The context of this examination, which represents an exploration into the ‘Attitudes to risk and entrepreneurship’, embodies looking at the relationships of these words to define the phrase and bring out its meanings. It is the context in which these words reside, as well as the implications thus resulting, represent the underlying precepts that provide for a broad field of interpretations and thus variants.
In beginning with the word ‘attitudes’, Houghton Mifflin (2007) defines its “1. A position of the body or manner of carrying oneself, 2. a. Astute of mind or a feeling; disposition, 2. b. An arrogant or hostile state of mind or disposition, 3. The orientation of an air or spacecraft relative to a reference …” Its etymology is French, from the Italian word ‘attitudinal, which was adopted from late Latin‘aptitd’ (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
Schneider (2006) advises that the word ‘attitudes’ consists of two components. One represents belief, and the other represents feeling (Schneider, 2006). Beliefs are a mental concept association that are usually “… associated with an identity … and as Dr. Schneider (2006) states, “… are often stereotypical”. He continues that these stereotypical beliefs are usually stemmed in the “… socio demographic differences of a person … (as well as their) … personal experience”.
Thus, based upon the context as well as usage, ‘attitudes’ brings with it the usage context as formulated within an individual’s historical framework as well. These historical preconceptions, however slight, represent influencing factors acting upon the individual as they mentally traverse through their personal feelings, and beliefs regarding the word sets that follow, thus triggering other memory concepts, feelings and beliefs. Schneider (2006), refers to Sheriff in discussing ‘norm formation which represents the prevailing understanding(s) associated with a particular word in contemporary common usage.
We as individuals have grown through experiences, associations, and circumstances in our environments as impacted upon by family, friends, acquaintances, and our abilities to cope, to develop personalities as well as thinking patterns that are the outgrowth of these variables.
We see the environment, filter out what isn’t relevant, evaluate what remains, then process this information through our individual self-images “… and / or sets of expectations, and /or personal characteristics, motivational factors and life experiences …and then we respond with either “… reflective or spontaneous behaviour…” (Rice University, 2003). The preceding would appear in a diagram as follows:
Figure 1 – Individual Environmental Perceptions
(Rice University, 2003)
The next step in the process is the examination of individualbehavior in the context of two individuals as an interaction. Such can consist of one of three types of interactions, as represented by superior to subordinate, leader to peers, and leader to boss (Rice University, 2003).
The importance of these distinctions is that such interactions often tend to influence, impact, change, and or colour person’s perceptions, and or processing thus causing them to arrive at differing conceptualizations.
Figure 2 – Individual Environmental Perceptions in a Two Party Relationship
(Rice University, 2003)
Under Figure 2, it illustrates the interactive effects of environmental perceptions in a two-party relationship, and how the images of Individual A can impact upon the perceptions of Individual B.
Another facet of how external influences can impact upon an individual’s thinking has been put forward by Janis (1972, pp. 15-30) who states that groupthink is the psychological drive for consensus at any costs which suppresses disagreement, and thus prevents the appraisal of potential alternatives in decision making groups. Thus, an individual in a bank will have a completely different set of mental references that will occur when he or she hears the word risk, than will an entrepreneur.
In a limited and distant way, the preceding represents a variant of groupthink, or the thinking adopted by an individual as represented by being part of a group or enterprise. The symptoms can be mild to strong based upon the degree of adaptation, position and or other factors, and can fall into any of the following categorizations (Janis, 1972, pp. 174-195, 242-258):
1. Negative Outcomes
– The examination of only a few alternatives,
– Not being critical of the ideas of others,
– Failure to examine alternatives early,
– Failure to seek expert opinion,
– Being very selective in terms of gathering information,
– Failure to have contingency plans,
– An illusion of invulnerability,
– The rationalization of poor decisions,
– A belief in the morality of the group,
– The sharing of stereotypes that guide the decision process,
– The exercising of direct pressure on others,
– Failure to express true feelings,
– The maintenance of the illusion of unanimity,
– The use of what are termed mind guards to protect others in the group from receiving or evaluating negative information
– The utilization of a policy forming group that thus reports to a larger group, thus forcing or bringing wider thinking latitudes into the equation,
– Having the leaders remain impartial,
– The utilization of differing policy groups to accomplish different tasks,
– The division of individuals into groups and then a discussion on differences to open up potential alternatives and additional thinking,
– Having discussions in sub groups that report back,
– The utilization of a Devil’s advocate to call into question all of the ideas raised by the group,
– Holding second meetings to provide another opportunity for other courses of action
The idea of the preceding is to help minimize preconceived notions, ideas, and approaches to open them up to a broader field of discussion, ideas, alternatives, and possibilities. The foregoing is applied in individual situations by the individual taking the time for reflective thinking away for the instant pressures of now or of another’s influence.
Chapter 3 – Risk
The Houghton Mifflin (2007) dictionary defines risk as “ 1. The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger, 2. A factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger; a hazard …”. It, risk, represents a concept that carries with it the potential for a negative outcome or less that desired outcome that can potentially arise from a specific, desired or combination of actions in the present or sometime in the future (Douglas, 1992, pp. 102-105). Viscose (1998, p. 5)advises that “Individual risk perceptions are often in error …”,explaining that “… people make mistakes with respect to how they perceive risk and behave in the presence of uncertainty”. Douglas(1992, p. 102) states that it has been a long held belief that individuals are risk averse, which is based upon “… the theory of rationale choice … (that) … assumes that the individual will always choose according to his own self-interest …” which are choices, thus a factor of rational behaviour. Adams (1995, p. 1) simplifies the understanding of risk by personalizing it in order for us to gain aclearer perspective.
He states that each and every one of us is “… a true risk expert …” in that “… we have been trained by practice and experience in the management of risk” (Adams, 1995, p. 1). Risk represents something that we as human being learn in infancy, starting with our trial and error processes representing learning how to crawl, walk, and then talk (Adams, 1995, p. 1).
He adds to Douglas’ (1992, p.102) statement that individuals are risk averse as he points out the example of that although we as child tend to act out of “… curiosity and a need for excitement … (we are ) … curbed by … “ our sense of danger (Adams, 1995, p. 1).
The importance of investigating the components and foundations of risk as a part of the equation of this examination is crucial to the examination of attitudes, risk and entrepreneurship in that one needs the foundation of the theories, and usages attributed to these words and concepts. Risk, as a function of perceived uncertainty and dangerous also subject to prevailing public views, experience factors and acceptance.
By any account, taking a flight in a piece of metal whose outer skin is thin, with the entire container flexing while one travels at speeds in excess of 400 km would not only sound risky to those born in ancient Rome, it would be viewed as insane. Thus risk is a changing variable based upon our degrees of exposure, the exposure of others, and its place in what we subscribe to as normal routines.
Risk taking for one used to making investments, such as a financier, stock trader or venture capitalist, whose circle of acquaintances, friends, upbringing, and experiences is less than it is for a doctor, lawyer, cab driver or railroad engineer, as they lack the exposure, and mental familiarity that underpins uncertainty, and how to deal with it. The foregoing represents the third of Starr’s (1969, pp. 1234) three laws describing behavioural phenomena “… 3. The acceptable level of risk is inversely related to the number of persons exposed to that risk”. The other two segments of this law are (1969, p. 1238):
– “1. The public is willing to accept voluntary risks about 1,000 times greater than involuntary risks.
– 2. The acceptability of risks appears to be roughly proportional to the third power of the benefits”
Starr’s (1969, p. 1238) three putative laws however have not gained wide spread acceptance with risk specialists on all grounds, however there are those who agree with his assertion that there is a relationship between risk acceptability ad benefits. Otway and Chen(1975, pp. 76-80) however found that through a replication of the analysis that the resulting data did not support Starr’s (1969, p.1238) assertion in qualitative formulations, and instead found that individuals were indeed willing to accept high involuntary risks with large benefits. Despite the findings of Otway and Chen (1975, pp.76-80) the jury is still out regarding Starr’s (1969, p. 1238) three putative laws. And while we have been discussing risk as on an individual basis, risk exists in all forms, thus the exploration of it in institutions also has relevance as it is still a human facet.
Culp (2001, p. 15) advises that we find it “… tempting to associate definition of risk with measures of risk, such as the variance of returns on some asset” or in order mathematical means. Culp (2001, p.15) asserts that risk can be shown through mathematical formulas to that”… make sense in illustrative purposes”, adding that “Risk is concept, not a particular statistical construct”. In further exploring risk, Culp (2001, p. 15) adds that attempting to glean an understanding of risk “… at the conceptual level …” is a daunting task.
He states that there is a tendency to use terms such as interest rate risk, maturity, accident, credit and so forth, which have their applications, and adds that the conceptualization of the “… definition of risk varies with the perspective” (Culp, 2001, p. 15). Thus, he offers perspectives on how risk can be defined, and the relationships between them.
Firstly, Culp (2001, p. 15) offers what he terms the “event-driven definition of risk” which works on the principle of “… the type of event that can result in a loss”, such as a flood or earthquake. The second type of risk Culp (2001, p. 16) defines is ‘market risk’ that“… arises from the event of a change in some market determined asset price, reference rate or index”. He explains that ‘delta represents the value that is the “exposure that deteriorates as a result of the price, or value of some risk factor changes”, with “‘gamma’ as the risk that delta will change when the value of an underlying risk factor changes “and ‘rho as the “risk that the interest rates used to discount future cash flows in present value calculations will change and impose unexpected losses on the firm (Culp, 2001, p. 17). Culp (2001, p. 18)defines ‘liquid risk’ as that which “occurs in the event that cash flows, and current balances are insufficient to cover cash outflow requirements”, and ‘credit risk’. The other types of risk Culp (2001,pp. 18-22) defines are ‘operational risk’, and ‘legal risk’, with other risks representing a broad array of items such as intellectual risk, customer loss risk, and supply chain risks as a few examples.
In equating risk with the subject of this examination, risk aversion represents the division of risk that is associated with individuals. Culp (2001, p. 34) refers to this as “…. the shape of a utility function dictating the degree to which an individual is risk-averse, risk-neutral, or risk-loving”. Barrett (1993, p. 2) states that inside of these risk categories is what he terms the ‘disaster threshold ‘whereby one engages in behaviour that includes risk only when it does not touch their threshold of misfortune beyond which they will not goes such would ”… be experienced as a disaster”. He adds that when individuals have a preference for “… risk-aversion … (it) … displaces the preference for rational decision making” (Barrett, 1993, p. 79).Under this type of thinking the rule is “… to take as few risks as incompatible with the perception of opportunities, and to expect corresponding attitude in others” (Barrett, 1993, p. 79).
Lane and Cheek (2000) conducted a study on risk-aversion examining the“… role of contingencies and experimental context in human decision-making”. They subjected twelve individuals to “… a series of conditions that provided response alternatives of a small, high-probability reinforce (non-risky alternative), or a larger, low probability reinforce (risky alternative)”. The range of therein forcer probabilities and amounts were utilized via a discrete trial design that had repeated trials conducted in multiple sessions.
In comparing the results with prior data it was found that the subjects in the study “… displayed a strong preference for the non-risky response alternative, even when doing so resulted in lost earnings” (Lane and Cheek, 2000). These results support decision, and risk models that emphasize the subjective as opposed to mathematically expected value of reinforces, and “… the data highlight the important role of reinforcement contingencies, and context in risk-taking behaviour” (Lane and Cheek, 2000).
Risk, as explained by Adams (1995), Viscose (1998),Douglas (1992), Starr (1969), and others is inherent in any choice that involves probabilistic outcomes. Lane and Cheek (2000) found that in“… contexts with two or more response alternatives, both the probability, and size of each alternative presumably influence decisions”.
Lawrence (1992) concurs with Lane and Cheek (2000) in that the choice of decision making that occurs under uncertainty usually includes options of selecting, and or choosing to use an informational system, and a set of probable messages that take in current decisions. Under this type of thinking the rule is “… to take as few risks as incompatible with the perception of opportunities, and to expect corresponding attitude in others” Barrett (1993, p. 79) whereby the taking of as few risks as possible is the preference in compatibility with opportunity perception, and the corresponding attitude of others. Hahnemann and Tversky (1979, pp. 341-350), Silberberg et al (1988, pp.187-195), and Slavic and Lichtenstein (1968, pp. 1-17) all conducted studies in risk aversion, and noted the tendency toward a mild approaching conditions as represented by gain versus no-gain.
Hahnemann andTversky (1979, pp. 341-350) found that under some conditions“…equivalent outcomes with real, and hypothetical outcomes, but results from other studies are not so straightforward, and suggest that there may be differences in subjects’ decision making when real payoff contingencies are implemented”. Slavic (1969) found “… when choices were hypothetical, subjects maximized gains and discounted the probability of loss, but were more risk averse under conditions in which they actually played out their choices”.
In equating risk as a variable of simply participating as opposed to gain and or loss Reuchlin and Frankel (1969, pp. 444-449) found that in the utilization of gambling situations that contained no payoffs, the individuals involved in the study were indifferent to the response they selected, but when the probabilities of winning, and losing were introduced whereby monetary gains, and or losses were involved, they were real sensitive to the choices made.
The understanding of why people make decisions in situations whereby an alternative is the better choice based upon some attributes of values and in others the alternative is better based upon some other attribute represents a problem of preferential choice, and judgment in psychology. Castellan (1993, p. 20) advises that in general, when people are “…faced with more complex decision problems involving many alternatives, people often adopt simplifying strategies that are much more selective in the use of information”. He continues that“…strategies adopted tend to be non-compensatory, in that excellent values on some attributes cannot compensate for poor values on other attributes” (Castellan, 1993, p. 20).
He elaborates on the foregoing by making reference to a number of job applicants with basically the same qualifications, however, the interviewer might decide that a published article background is a determining factor which he utilizes to aid in the decision process. The preceding represents a simplification strategy for getting through, and or making a decision, which is termed heuristics for choice, which can change based upon the conditions. Tversky ( 1972, pp. 281-299) referred to such a strategy as an elimination-by-aspects process.
Heuristics such as the equal weighting rule, majority of confirming dimensions, and lexicographic represent differing methods for simplifying processing in the making of choices(Castellan, 1993, p. 20). The preceding represents a factor of risk as individuals work through their own history and experience base as well as any applicable organizational or society rules in reaching a risk based decision.
The equal weighting strategy simplifies the decision making process by virtue of ignoring information concerning the relative importance of each attribute (Castellan, 1993, p. 21). In the confirming decisions heuristic, the general process entails the processing of pairs of alternatives whereby “…values for each of the two alternatives are compared on each attribute, and the alternative with a majority of winning (better) attribute values is retained ….” (Castellan, 1993, p.21).
In this manner “…processing is simplified by requiring only ordinal judgments of which alternative is better on an attribute, rather than assessments of the degree to which one alternative is better than the other … (thereby the) … process of pairwise comparison is repeated until all alternatives have been evaluated, and the final winning alternative identified” (Castellan, 1993, p. 21). In the final heuristic, lexicographic choice works by “…first determining the most important attribute, and then examining the values of all alternatives on that attribute. The alternative with the best value on the most important attribute is selected” (Castellan, 1993, p. 21). In cases of ties, the second most important attribute is considered and the process repeated until the decision making tie is eliminated.
The foregoing are aspects in risk decision making that some individuals use in arriving at their choices, and are usually reserved for more long term risk analysis decision making such as investment, business decisions, long term purchases of higher monetary value and so forth. These types of risk taking processes are also associated with entrepreneurs.
Chapter 4 – Entrepreneurship
The Houghton Mifflin dictionary (2007) defines entrepreneur as “Adperson who organizes, operates and assumes the risk for a business venture”. An entrepreneur represents an individual who is usually of high aptitude, who possesses certain characteristics that are found in only a small portion of people in general, who pioneers change(Quick MBA, 2007).
The more popular definition that is thought of by society when this word is mentioned, is of a person who wants to work for themselves. The origin of entrepreneur is French, based on the word ‘entreprendre, which means ‘to undertake’.
Entrepreneurship represents the practice of beginning new companies, and or organizations as usually represented by a new business as a result of new opportunities that have, or are presenting themselves. Such naturally entails elements of risk. The equation of risk in entrepreneurship is represented by the spectre of failure, which can beat result of a multitude of business, supply, sales, market condition, financing, timing, competitive, new innovations, cost, locale, another problems that are all interweaved to result in a complex series of risks that must be examined, explored, decided upon, and dealt with correctly to minimize failure, which does not necessarily translate into success.
Stevenson (1983), as previously referred to, describes entrepreneurship represents “… the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control”, which he further amplifies with Gumpert (Stevenson and Gumpert, 1985, pp. 85-94) that entrepreneurship represents both the individual as well as the society that he or she is embedded in as he or she identifies an opportunity they desire to pursue and as an entrepreneur they thus must seek the resources from the broader society.
Given all of the research, and studies devoted to entrepreneurship no universal theory has been generated, as various disciplines have their “…own unique way of viewing entrepreneurship which remains relatively unaffected by the perspectives of other disciplines …”(Gartner, 2001). All of the foregoing have been engaged in as a part of the purpose of this study, which is to equate attitudes toward risk and entrepreneurship. The three critical words that comprise this examination have extremely broad interpretations as well as context that are dependent upon when, and how they are used. For Dracker (1985,p. 28) entrepreneurship is about risk.
But his view does not take the skew of said risk being negative or positive, but rather that risk is inherent with the concept as it, risk, is inherent with business in general, simply that entrepreneurial risk is a different form. Thus, the attitudes concerning risk and entrepreneurship are individual and dependent upon the prevailing social circle, or societal views that can take on any the differing contextual concepts of any of the words in arriving at a mental conceptualization of what these words mean in combination.
He describes entrepreneurship as “… ‘risky’ mainly because so few of the so-called entrepreneurs know what they are doing(Dracker, 1985, p. 29). And continues that they “… lack the methodology… (and) …violate elementary and well known rules (Dracker, 1985, p.29). Thus Dracker (1985) is seemingly saying that the high degree of complexity inherent in entrepreneurship, as either demands or requires an individual who is usually of high aptitude, who possess certain characteristics that are found in only a small portion of people in general, who pioneers change (, 2007).
The attention being devoted to an examination of entrepreurship is deemed as an important part of the risk attitude equation in that like risk, and attitude, it, entrepreurship, entails a large number of variants in how they are viewed contextually. Dracker (1985, p. 30) aids in providing clarity by advising that entrepreneurship requires innovation, as it “… is the specific instrument …” of the process. It represents the factor “…that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth …” (Dracker, 1985, p. 30). He explains that innovation“… creates a resource …” and that a resource represents something that has no value until a need, and use is found for it, and thus endows it with an economic value (Dracker, 1985, p. 30).
To illustrate, he points to various plants, rock, and minerals that went unused for centuries until a use were found for them. Owing to this view, Dracker (1985, p.33) advises that innovation represents an economic term, in this context, as opposed to a social or technical one. He adds that it, innovation, “…can be defined the way J. B. Say defined entrepreneurship, as changing the yield of resources …” as well as being “… defined in demand terms rather than in supply terms, that is, as changing the value and satisfaction obtained from resources by the consumer …” (Dracker, 1985, p. 33).
Francis and Demirep (2006) address the issue of entrepreneurship in the context of “Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Occupational Experience “citing that as a factor of the probability of becoming an entrepreneur, one is likely to be male, a member of the Caucasian race, in the upper middle age bracket, and married. They cite that the theoretical aspects of the preceding profile represent facets such as risk aversion, along with entrepreneurial ability, as mentioned by Dracker (1985, p. 30) “…and the desire to be one’s own boss” (
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