Client Data Files and Auditor Skepticism: How Do 'Dirty' Files Influence Auditors’ Skeptical Judgments and Actions?
49 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 28, 2019
Auditors receive an abundance of client-prepared data files when performing audit work. With today’s increasingly data-rich environment, these files are likely becoming even more challenging for auditors to cognitively process. Specifically, these data files may have characteristics (e.g., contain errors or irrelevant information; aka “dirty” files) that could challenge their ease of use and interpretation (i.e., processing fluency). Depending on this ease, auditors may view these files as relatively less reliable and trustworthy, resulting in skeptical judgments and actions that are sometimes excessive. This paper reports two experiments examining whether two features of the data files, the presence of minor errors (absent or present) and information load (low or high), influence auditors’ processing fluency, skeptical judgments, and actions. While minor errors should raise auditors’ concerns, greater information load should not. However, we find the lowest processing fluency and highest skeptical judgments and actions when minor errors are present and information load is higher. Our study contributes to the literature by presenting an alternative issue to those raised by regulators (i.e., too much skepticism rather than too little) that can occur when auditors struggle to interpret large amounts of data. From a practical perspective, while access to increased amounts of client data may have benefits, audit firms and clients need to be wary of the potential for wasted time that could create inefficiencies that may affect audit quality.
Keywords: Client-Prepared Data Files; Processing Fluency; Skeptical Judgments and Actions; Eye Tracking
JEL Classification: M42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation