Auditor Task Prioritization: The Effects of Time Pressure and Psychological Ownership

53 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2019 Last revised: 29 Nov 2022

See all articles by Bart Dierynck

Bart Dierynck

Tilburg University

Christian Peters

Nanyang Technological University

Date Written: November 26, 2022


This paper reports three studies examining easy task prioritization among auditors. The first study
is a survey of auditors providing evidence that auditors perceive easy task prioritization to be a
threat to audit quality, yet auditors do expect other auditors to prioritize easy tasks. In our first
experiment, we find that auditors indeed prioritize easy tasks. Easy task prioritization is also
exacerbated under time pressure. We further find that psychological ownership is only able to
alleviate easy task prioritization in low time pressure conditions, but not in high time pressure
conditions. In our second experiment, we find that prioritizing the easy task leads to lower
judgment performance, and by extension, audit quality. The performance detriment of easy task
prioritization manifests itself in the difficult task, and in particular in finding errors for which more
cognitive processing is needed. Combined, our studies document easy task prioritization in
auditing, the audit quality implications, and the role of time pressure and psychological ownership.

Keywords: Auditing, easy task prioritization, time pressure, psychological ownership

JEL Classification: M42, C91, M49, D02

Suggested Citation

Dierynck, Bart and Peters, Christian P. H., Auditor Task Prioritization: The Effects of Time Pressure and Psychological Ownership (November 26, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Bart Dierynck

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE

Christian P. H. Peters (Contact Author)

Nanyang Technological University ( email )

Nanyang Business School
91 Nanyang Avenue #05-094
Singapore, 639956
+65 6790 4656 (Phone)

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