Date: February 1995
Creator: O'Donnell, Ed
Description: Auditors form judgments by integrating the evidence they gather with information stored in memory (knowledge). As they acquire experience, auditors have the opportunity to learn how different patterns of evidence are associated with particular audit problems. Research in experimental psychology has demonstrated that individuals with task-specific experience can match the cues they encounter with patterns they have learned, and form judgments without consciously analyzing the individual cues. Accounting researchers have suggested that auditors develop judgment templates through task-specific experience, and that these knowledge structures automatically provide decisions in familiar situations. I examined whether auditor knowledge leads to reliance on judgment templates. To test this thesis, I synthesized a theoretical framework and developed research hypotheses that predict relationships between task-specific experience (my surrogate for knowledge) and (1) measures of cognitive effort, (2) accuracy of residual memory traces, and (3) performance with respect to identifying potential problems. To test these predictions, I provided senior auditors with comprehensive case materials for a hypothetical client and asked them to use analytical procedures to identify potential audit problems. Subjects acquired information and documented their findings on personal computers using software that I developed to record their activities.
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