Example-Based Reasoning and Fact-Weighting Guidance in Accounting Standards
37 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2014 Last revised: 17 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 15, 2015
The provision of examples as implementation guidance is pervasive in accounting standards. Prior research has established that preparers engage in “example-based reasoning,” a tendency to favor the accounting treatment in an example, even when the example does not exactly match the transaction at hand. In this paper, we investigate whether fact-weighting guidance counteracts this tendency. Such guidance, now found in some accounting standards, indicates whether particular transaction facts are more important than others in determining the appropriate accounting treatment. Using an experiment, we find that fact-weighting guidance does reduce preparers’ tendency to favor the accounting treatment in an example. However, results also suggest that some degree of example-based reasoning persists even with fact-weighting guidance, and that preparers are not fully aware of how fact-weighting guidance affects their judgments. Our findings have practical implications. They suggest to standard setters a potential remedy — namely, fact-weighting guidance — for the misuse of accounting examples. They also provide insights to accounting preparers regarding how fact-weighting guidance influences their judgments in ways they may not anticipate.
Keywords: accounting standards, implementation guidance, examples, fact-weighting guidance, debiasing
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