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    Negative Affect: A Consequence of Multiple Accountabilities...
    research summary posted October 20, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.01 Supervision and Review – Effectiveness 
    Negative Affect: A Consequence of Multiple Accountabilities in Auditing.
    Practical Implications:

    This study is unique to the accountability literature in that the author examines how professionals’ affective states are impacted by the multiple sources of accountability auditors face from within their firm. The study also contributes to the auditing affect literature by examining how an aspect of the audit environment, accountability, influences negative affect. The study is important for audit practitioners as well. The author finds that the multiple accountabilities that are pervasive in auditing can cause negative affect and that the resulting negative affect can harm low-complexity audit task performance. These findings are important to practitioners in that they identify a source of harm to audit efficiency and audit effectiveness.


    Bagley, P. L. 2010. Negative Affect: A Consequence of Multiple Accountabilities in Auditing. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 29 (2): 141-157.

    accountability, multiple accountabilities, negative affect
    Purpose of the Study:

    Accountability is the requirement to justify one’s decisions or actions to another and is operationalized in the audit through the review process. Accountability, an essential part of the audit environment, allows experienced auditors to monitor the appropriateness of conclusions made on the basis of audit work performed predominately by less experienced auditors. Accountability has been extensively examined in accounting literature, with research finding that it has an overwhelmingly positive impact on audit task performance. However, this literature focuses on review from one superior (i.e., a single accountability requirement), whereas auditors are frequently held accountable to multiple parties with various preferences for performance simultaneously. According to psychology research, the increased scrutiny from being held accountable to multiple parties can lead to negative consequences including negative affective (i.e., emotional) responses.

    The purpose of this paper is to examine whether the multiple accountabilities inherent in the audit environment cause auditors to experience negative affect and whether this negative affect impacts audit task performance.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    One hundred thirty-six auditors in one of three accountability conditions (no accountability, single accountability, or multiple accountabilities) completed both a low-complexity and high-complexity audit task. Immediately following each task, participants answered a series of questions to assess their negative affect. The evidence was gather prior to June 2008.

    • The author finds that auditors confronted with multiple accountabilities experience significantly more negative affect than auditors in the single accountability or no accountability conditions. Auditors in the single accountability and no accountability conditions do not experience significantly different negative affect, indicating that it is multiple accountabilities which induce negative affect.
    • The findings are not task dependent. Auditors in the multiple accountabilities condition experience significantly higher negative affect than those in the single accountability and no accountability conditions when performing both low-complexity and high-complexity tasks.
    • In addition, task complexity itself contributes to negative affect independent from accountability. In particular, the author finds that auditors experience significantly higher negative affect when completing a high complexity task than when completing a low-complexity task.
    • Finally, the author finds evidence that high negative affect can harm low-complexity task performance.
    Audit Quality & Quality Control
    Supervision & Review – Effectiveness