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    Audit risk Assessments Using Belief versus Probability
    research summary posted October 29, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, last edited November 10, 2014, tagged 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism 
    Audit risk Assessments Using Belief versus Probability
    Practical Implications:

    The primary contribution of the paper is the presentation of four alternative concepts or definitions of audit risk. The feasibility and impact on auditor judgments of auditors applying these approaches to audit risk assessments are tested in an experimental setting where a second aspect of auditing – how assertions are framed – is also examined. Both the risk assessment approach and assertion framing had a significant impact on risk assessment both before and after audit evidence was evaluated. Importantly, auditors who were given a negatively stated audit assertion tended to be more skeptical than those who were given a positively framed assertion. This result has possible audit effectiveness and efficiency implications. 


    Fukukawa, H., and T. Mock. 2011. Audit risk assessments using belief versus probability. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 30 (1): 75-99.

    auditors’ risk assessments; belief functions; probability; assertion framing effects
    Purpose of the Study:

    To present and experimentally compare alternative approaches to defining audit risk based on probability theory and the theory of belief functions and the effects of these approaches and of assertion framing on audit judgment. The risk measures studied were:

    1. Belief that an assertion is false
    2. Plausibility that an assertion is false, which is the sum of the belief that an assertion is false and the explicitly measured ambiguity and thus is the most conservative measure
    3. Probability that an assertion is false
    4. Cobb-Shenoy transformed belief that an assertion is false

    The first two approaches are belief-based, while the third is a probability-based approach. The logical connection between probability and belief assessments is used to define and operationalize the forth measure.

    Additionally, this study experimentally tests the effects of positive and negative  assertion framing on risk assessment and whether or not these effects are contingent on the approach to risk assessment and the evidence presented.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    An experiment was conducted using practicing auditors drawn from Big 4 firms in Japan. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of four conditions where the factors manipulated were assertion framing and approach to risk assessment. The participants were presented with tasks for which they made a series of audit risk assessment judgments related to assertions presented about trade accounts receivable.


    The authors found the risk assessment approach effects to be significant with the belief-based risk assessments being smallest, the plausibility assessments being largest, and the probability assessments and the Cobb-Shenoy transformed belief assessments being in-between. Most of the paired comparisons between these measures were statistically significant. These results imply that any audit methodology that focuses on any one of these risk assessment measures is likely to result in substantially different risk assessments and potentially significant effects on audit efficiency and effectiveness.

    The authors also found evidence of significant audit assertion framing effects. Firstly, auditors who were given a negatively stated audit assertion tended to be more skeptical than those who were given a positively framed assertion. Also, the results showed that auditors are prone to confirm a given assertion regardless of whether it is stated positively or negatively. The pervasive framing effects are more significant after audit evidence is presented, more significant when stronger audit evidence is presented, and are influenced by the risk assessment approach. The existence of such assertion framing effects clearly may directly affect audit effectiveness and efficiency.

    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement, Auditors’ Professional Skepticism