Auditors’ Professional Skepticism: Traits, Behavioral Intentions, and Actions
69 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2020 Last revised: 22 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 12, 2021
We integrate existing conceptual models of auditors’ professional skepticism with the Theory of Planned Behavior to develop an empirically testable model that explains the processes underlying the association between trait skepticism and skeptical actions. We use data from a sample of 663 auditors across all ranks who each completed an experiential questionnaire. The results reveal that partners and managers are more skeptical than seniors and staff and that individual differences and personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, narcissism, and psychopathy) are associated with differential levels of trait skepticism. In empirical tests of our conceptual model, we find that trait skepticism is positively associated with attitudes, subjective norms (i.e., social pressure to behave skeptically), and perceived behavioral control over skepticism (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn affect intentions to act skeptically. Subjective norms are the strongest predictor of intentions. Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are positively associated with skeptical actions (in terms of evidence collection and evaluation), and intentions to act skeptically positively mediate these associations. Results of testing the associations in our conceptual model do not differ by rank, revealing that antecedents to skeptical action do not differ based upon auditor experience.
Keywords: professional skepticism; auditor judgment; personality; attitudes
JEL Classification: M42; J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation