An Experimental Examination of Professional Skepticism
38 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2008
Date Written: May 2008
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: Suggested Citation