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    Trust and Professional Skepticism in the Relationship...
    research summary posted June 22, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism 
    Trust and Professional Skepticism in the Relationship between Auditors and Clients: Overcoming the Dichotomy Myth
    Practical Implications:

    The findings from this study have direct implications for practitioners and policy makers. Current legislation efforts separate the auditor from the client and are not effective in raising the client’s perception of professional skepticism. Instead, the authors propose regulators giving auditors and clients sufficient leeway to establish identification-based trust.


    Aschauer, Ewald, et al. “Trust and Professional Skepticism in the Relationship between Auditors and Clients: Overcoming the Dichotomy Myth.” Behavioral Research in Accounting 29.1 (2017): 19.

    auditing; trust; professional skepticism; coexistence
    Purpose of the Study:

    Professional skepticism is a key attribute for an auditor to have. Broadly, this study examines how the relationship between auditors and client managers affect professional skepticism. Specifically, if an auditors’ identification-based trust causes the client to view the auditor as having higher or lower professional skepticism. The authors in this paper define identification-based trust as interpersonal trust. Research in prior studies have reached different conclusions regarding the effects of identification-based trust on professional skepticism, so it is somewhat of a contested subject.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    There were two studies that took place. In Study 1 the authors sent emails to selected auditors, managers and partners, inviting them to be interviewed for the research project along with their clients. Both the auditors and corresponding clients were interviewed separately about the general mechanisms of their relationship. The purpose of this study was to develop a hypothesis.

    In Study 2 the authors contacted 6,500 auditors in Germany by phone encouraging them to take a survey with their clients. The final sample size was comprised of 233 auditor/client groups. The auditors and clients were sent questionnaires and the data collected from the results were analyzed through an ordinary least squares regression.



    The overall finding of this study is that auditors’ identification-based trust in their clients is positively related to the clients’ perceptions of the auditors’ professional skepticism.

    The authors find:

    • Auditors may feel uncomfortable about this identification-based trust and compensate by increasing their professional skepticism.
    • Identification-based trust improves the information exchange between auditor and client which leads to a higher perception of professional skepticism by the client.
    • Identification-based trust reduces opportunism in the auditing process and allows for there to be more efficiency in areas such as negotiation.
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Independence & Ethics
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism