Are 'Good' Auditors Impacted More by Depletion? Threats to Valued Auditor Attributes
39 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2015 Last revised: 16 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 10, 2016
Auditing involves activities that psychology research characterizes as requiring self-regulation — such as switching mindsets, complex thinking, and resisting temptations. This line of literature characterizes the phenomenon whereby individuals use self-regulation resources for an action, and then have insufficient resources for a subsequent action requiring self-regulation (as such resources are limited), as depletion. We develop new theory that depletion impairs auditor performance, especially for “good” auditors (those who naturally engage in more effortful processing in complex tasks via their inherent attributes). We conduct two experiments examining how depletion interacts with examples of auditor attributes predictive of more effortful processing — professional identity and trait skepticism. Consistent with predictions, results show that the effects of depletion on performance are amplified at higher levels of the attributes. Specifically, we find that the positive relationships between the auditor attributes and performance on a complex audit task absent depletion (i.e., in the control condition) are eroded when individuals are depleted. Process-model results support our theory that effortful processing mediates the relationships between the attributes and performance and that depletion impairs individuals’ effortful processing, which negatively impacts performance. These findings help explain why “good” auditors sometimes fail to provide effective audits — their performance on complex tasks is limited under depleting conditions.
Keywords: auditor attributes; auditor effectiveness; professional identity; self-regulatory depletion; trait professional skepticism
JEL Classification: M40, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation