Projection or Reflection? The Effect of Social Projection, Dark Triad, and Moral Identity on Auditor Risk Assessments and Ethical Action-Taking

43 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2019 Last revised: 5 Sep 2019

See all articles by Kristen Steury

Kristen Steury

University of South Carolina, Darla Moore School of Business, Department of Accounting

Chad M. Stefaniak

University of South Carolina

Date Written: September 05, 2019

Abstract

Using two distinct scenarios, we investigate how auditors’ personality traits influence their risk assessments and ethical action-taking. First, we draw upon social projection theory (i.e., assigning a state of one’s own to someone else) to determine whether auditors’ use of their own ethical predispositions (i.e., Dark Triad) as a proxy for their clients’ predispositions affects risk assessments. We find a significant interaction between social projection and Dark Triad traits, suggesting that higher Dark Triad auditors assess client risk to be as high, or higher, than lower Dark Triad auditors, depending on whether they exhibit social projection. Second, we extend prior ethical action-taking literature in accounting by finding that while an auditors’ level of Dark Triad personality has historically been directly linked to ethical action-taking, it is ultimately auditors’ moral identities (i.e., the degree to which morality is important to a person’s self-concept) that significantly influences their ethical actions. Our findings support our prediction that auditors’ moral identity is the predominate self-regulatory mechanism restricting unethical actions.

Keywords: risk assessments, social projection, dark triad, moral identity, management motives

Suggested Citation

Steury, Kristen and Stefaniak, Chad M., Projection or Reflection? The Effect of Social Projection, Dark Triad, and Moral Identity on Auditor Risk Assessments and Ethical Action-Taking (September 05, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3391744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3391744

Kristen Steury (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina, Darla Moore School of Business, Department of Accounting ( email )

The Francis M. Hipp Building
1705 College Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States
3214741950 (Phone)

Chad M. Stefaniak

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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