What Personality Traits Make Auditors Professionally Skeptical? Opportunities for Future Research on Trait Professional Skepticism

Posted: 16 Jun 2015 Last revised: 2 Dec 2017

See all articles by Carmen Olsen

Carmen Olsen

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law; Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Erlend Brevik

University of Bergen

Astri Lundervold

University of Bergen

Iris Stuart

California State University, Fullerton; Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration

Date Written: November 10, 2017

Abstract

It is unclear what personality traits determine the enduring trait of professional skepticism among auditors. Examining determinants of professional skepticism may be important to the profession in recruitment, evaluation and team-building activities and ultimately as an element in the documentation of professional skepticism in audit firms’ methodologies. This paper examines what personality traits are associated with an auditors’ trait professional skepticism. Eighty-three Norwegian master-level accounting students with an average of one year of audit experience responded to items in two instruments; one instrument assesses trait professional skepticism using the multidimensional Hurtt Professional Skepticism Scale. The other instrument, the Revised NEO Personality Inventory, measures all traits associated with the personality of participants. We gathered rich data comprising 42 measurements of our participants’ personalities; seven scores measuring various dimensions of trait professional skepticism and 35 scores measuring general personality traits including that of trust. We expect the trait of trust to be associated with the trait of professional skepticism. Surprisingly, the results suggest that personality traits that make auditors professionally skeptical comprise far more complex and diverse personality traits (e.g., being both extroverted and reserved, both sympathetic and distrustful, and a tendency to experience emotional reactions) than initially thought (i.e., in addition to curiosity, conscientiousness, extraversion and trust). More surprisingly, the “questioning mind” dimension of trait professional skepticism was associated not with the opposite of trust, as initially conceptualized, but rather with frankness, no reluctance to express anger, and competence to deal with any situation. We extend professional skepticism theory by mapping the determinants of trait professional skepticism dimensions which audit firms can use for recruitment and team-building purposes. Finally, we suggest opportunities for future research on professional skepticism.

Keywords: Hurtt Professional Skepticism Scale; Questioning mind; NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R); Trait professional skepticism; Trust

Suggested Citation

Olsen, Carmen and Olsen, Carmen and Brevik, Erlend and Lundervold, Astri and Stuart, Iris, What Personality Traits Make Auditors Professionally Skeptical? Opportunities for Future Research on Trait Professional Skepticism (November 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2618363 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2618363

Carmen Olsen (Contact Author)

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5045 Bergen
Norway

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences ( email )

Inndalsveien 1,
Bergen, 5063
Norway

Erlend Brevik

University of Bergen ( email )

Muséplassen 1
N-5008 Bergen, +47 55 58
Norway

Astri Lundervold

University of Bergen ( email )

Muséplassen 1
N-5008 Bergen, +47 55 58
Norway

Iris Stuart

California State University, Fullerton ( email )

800 N State College St
Fullerton, CA 92834-9480
United States

Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration ( email )

Helleveien 30
Bergen, 5045
Norway

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