Ego Depletion and Auditors' Busy Season

26 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2015 Last revised: 10 Jul 2019

See all articles by Patrick J. Hurley

Patrick J. Hurley

Northeastern University - Accounting Group

Date Written: February 28, 2017


This study examines the impact of busy season on auditors through ego depletion theory. Ego depletion theory posits that using self-control depletes a cognitive resource and decreases the ability to exercise self-control on subsequent tasks, which can decrease judgment and decision-making (JDM) quality. Using a within-subjects quasi-experiment, I compare selfcontrol resources at the onset of days within and outside of busy season to determine whether auditors experience a between-day accumulation of depletion. I predict and find that auditors experience an accumulation of ego depletion, and therefore begin workdays within busy season in a depleted state. Starting a workday in a depleted state can exacerbate within-day depletion, as studied in prior research. This research contributes a theoretical mechanism linking busy season to auditors’ JDM quality and expands ego depletion theory by predicting and finding initial evidence of an accumulation effect, a more severe form of depletion than studied in prior literature.

Keywords: busy season; auditors; severe ego depletion; accumulation; audit quality; judgment and decision-making quality

JEL Classification: M41

Suggested Citation

Hurley, Patrick J., Ego Depletion and Auditors' Busy Season (February 28, 2017). Hurley, P.J. 2017. Ego depletion and auditors' busy season. Behavioral Research in Accounting 29 (2), 25-35., Available at SSRN: or

Patrick J. Hurley (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - Accounting Group ( email )

360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics