Auditors' evaluation of evidence: The effect of communication medium and management information
MetadataShow full item record
This study investigates the effect of communication channel (e.g., face-to-face, written) and management information (i.e., background information on the reliability of client personnel) on auditors’ judgments of evidence persuasiveness in a management inquiry setting. Management information directs auditors to focus on the source of the evidence, creating a goal of assessing management during evidence collection. Auditors are distracted away from the evidence when the communication channel presents management characteristic cues (i.e., face-to-face), unrelated to the message and related to their new unconscious goal of assessing management. By comparison, when evidence is communicated by a channel that does not provide additional management characteristic cues (i.e. written), auditors are better able to evaluate the evidence without distraction. I predict an interaction effect, where communication channel effects auditor judgments when management information is provided, but not otherwise. I design a 2x2 between-participants experiment to test my theory and present results of an experiment with 122 practicing senior auditors. Auditor participants receive an explanation from a client’s assistant controller to explain an unexpected fluctuation in a financial ratio. I manipulate the means by which the assistant controller communicates with the auditor (communication channel) and the presence of background information about the assistant controller (management information). Results of my experiment indicate an interaction effect of the communication channel and management information. When management information is provided, auditors assess the evidence as more persuasive when communication is face-to-face versus text. Auditors not receiving management information do not assess the evidence any differently, irrespective of communication channel. I also find evidence that auditors assess management differently when management information is provided. The results suggest that auditors are focused more on evaluating management when communicating through face-to-face versus written channels. Further, these assessments of management are consistent with the pattern of persuasiveness, indicating that they use this information more in their judgments when communicating face-to-face versus text and only when management information is provided. The results of this research suggest auditors may be assessing evidence as more persuasive than merited when management information is present and auditors are communicating with management face-to-face. Auditors as well as regulators should be aware of this effect so that adjustments can be made. Future researchers should consider these results in future research on management inquiry.