An Experimental Examination of Professional Skepticism

38 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2008

See all articles by Kathy Hurtt

Kathy Hurtt

Baylor University - Department of Accounting & Business Law

Martha M. Eining

University of Utah - School of Accounting and Information Systems

David Plumlee

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business

Date Written: May 2008

Abstract

Professional skepticism is an important concept in audit practice as evidenced by its prominence throughout auditing standards. Several empirical studies that explore whether auditors exhibit skeptical behavior when the audit circumstances warrant do not find a clear link between professional skepticism and behaviors. We explore whether viewing professional skepticism as a trait rather than strictly as a response to audit circumstances provides a clearer link between professional skepticism and auditors' behaviors. Using a scale developed specifically to measure an auditor's professional skepticism level, we examine its impact on two behaviors; evidence assessment and generation of alternatives. In an experimental workpaper review task, skeptical auditors engage in moderately more behaviors under ordinary audit circumstance and react to skepticism-inducing conditions by generally increasing their behaviors more than less skeptical auditors. Overall, we conclude that auditors with higher levels of professional skepticism behave systematically differently than less skeptical auditors.

Keywords: Professional skepticism, audit behaviors, workpaper review

JEL Classification: C91, M49

Suggested Citation

Hurtt, R Kathy and Eining, Martha M. and Plumlee, David, An Experimental Examination of Professional Skepticism (May 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1140267 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1140267

R Kathy Hurtt

Baylor University - Department of Accounting & Business Law ( email )

Waco, TX 76798
United States

Martha M. Eining

University of Utah - School of Accounting and Information Systems ( email )

1645 Campus Center Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

David Plumlee (Contact Author)

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business ( email )

1645 E Campus Center Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9303
United States

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