Ego Depletion and Auditors' JDM Quality

40 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2016 Last revised: 2 Mar 2019

See all articles by Patrick J. Hurley

Patrick J. Hurley

Northeastern University - Accounting Group

Date Written: February 28, 2019


I report two experiments with senior-associate auditors that investigate whether self-control requirements in auditing tasks cause ego depletion, and whether depleting tasks impact auditors' judgment and decision-making (JDM). In Experiment 1, I find that using self-control to maintain vigilance/focus leads to greater levels of depletion than does using self-control to engage in cognitive processing in an audit planning task or inhibit impulses in a task from the psychology literature. However, I do not find that task-specific experience significantly reduces self-control resources required for task performance. In Experiment 2, I find evidence that depleting tasks – compared to a non-depleted control group –significantly reduce auditors’ cognitive processing in the form of auditors’ ability to generate plausible alternative hypotheses for client-provided explanations for trends. Finally, I find that depleting tasks reduce auditors’ confidence in task performance, when compared to a non-depleted control group.

Keywords: ego depletion; self-control; audit quality; judgment and decision-making; hypothesis generation; cognitive processing

Suggested Citation

Hurley, Patrick J., Ego Depletion and Auditors' JDM Quality (February 28, 2019). Northeastern U. D’Amore-McKim School of Business Research Paper No. 2735088, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Patrick J. Hurley (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - Accounting Group ( email )

360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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