Psychopathy and Accounting Students’ Attitudes towards Unethical Professional Practices

41 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2013 Last revised: 18 Dec 2015

Charles D. Bailey

University of Memphis

Date Written: December 17, 2015


Psychopathy is a personality trait characterized by deficits of conscience and empathy, leading to callous attitudes and manipulative behavior, and is one of the “Dark Triad” of personality variables, along with Machiavellianism and narcissism. It has gained some attention in accounting literature, and clearly has serious implications for fraud and unethical behavior by accountants and auditors. Using a national sample of accounting students, this study documents the levels of this personality variable, the correlations with certain attitudes about unethical professional practices, and potential differences across age, gender, and academic class level. Comparisons are made to previous samples of college students, accounting faculty, prisoners, and the general population. The responses of individuals high on the scale are described to provide insight into the attitudes and beliefs of those individuals. Implications for the theory and practice of fraud and forensic accounting are discussed.

Keywords: fraud, fraud triangle, psychopathy, dark triad, accounting students

Suggested Citation

Bailey, Charles D., Psychopathy and Accounting Students’ Attitudes towards Unethical Professional Practices (December 17, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Charles D. Bailey (Contact Author)

University of Memphis ( email )

Memphis, TN 38152
United States
901 678-5614 (Phone)


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