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    The Effects of Auditor Rotation, Professional Skepticism,...
    research summary posted September 15, 2015 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.07 Audit Firm Rotation, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind 
    The Effects of Auditor Rotation, Professional Skepticism, and Interactions with Managers on Audit Quality.
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for both audit firms and regulators when considering the potential impact of mandatory audit firm rotation. Standard setters appear to increasingly advocate for auditors to utilize a mental frame in which they evaluate management assertions in terms of their level of dishonesty relative to verification their honesty. If this preference is ultimately paired with mandatory audit firm rotation, it could actually have a deleterious effect on audit quality. Conversely, this study finds that audit firm rotation can increase audit quality when auditors frame their mental representations of management’s assertions in terms of verification of their honest representations.


    Bowlin, K. O., J. L. Hobson, and M. D. Piercey. 2015. The Effects of Auditor Rotation, Professional Skepticism, and Interactions with Managers on Audit Quality. The Accounting Review 90 (4): 1363-1393.

    auditor rotation, professional skepticism, audit quality, game theory
    Purpose of the Study:

    Regulators argue that audit firm rotation can improve audit quality by reducing the potential for longstanding auditor-client relationships to impair auditor independence. Standard setters have also recently noted that auditors often focus on verifying the honesty of management representations, and have encouraged auditors instead to evaluate them in terms of their potential dishonesty. This study examines whether the effects of auditor rotation on audit quality is dependent upon the mental frame used to evaluate either the honesty or dishonesty of management representations about the financial statements.

    Mental frame refers to whether an auditor frames their assessments of management representations in terms of either their potential honesty or their potential dishonesty. Psychology research finds that individuals do not make subjective probability assessments, like the probably that management’s assertions are honest (dishonest), based on normative laws of probability, but rather on the amount of subjective psychological support that comes to mind. When decision makers feel relatively unfamiliar with, and therefore, less competent to evaluate, subjective probabilities these individuals often find it difficult to produce psychological support for the probably of their current assessment frame, making them less likely to choose the action associated with that mental frame.  

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors’ model the auditor-client relationship as a strategic game in which the auditor chooses a level of effort based on their perceived level of honesty within management’s financial statements whereas managers choose a level of honesty in reporting based on their perceived level of effort outlayed by the auditor. The researchers utilized an experimental economics experiment. The participants were undergraduate students who were tasked to repeatedly play a game for money designed to model this strategic interaction between auditors and clients. In the audit firm rotation condition the auditor was paired with a different manager each round. The evidence was gathered prior to October 2012.

    • When auditors assess the honesty of management representations, auditor rotation increases audit effort and decreases the frequency of low-effort audits paired with aggressive financial reporting, decreasing the likelihood of audit failure.
    • When auditors assess the dishonesty of management representations, auditor rotation decreases audit effort and increases low-effort audits paired with aggressive reporting.
    • Increasing the level of interpersonal interaction between auditors and managers via informal communication decreases audit effort, but does not interact with the auditor’s mental frame (honest versus dishonest).
    Auditor Judgment, Independence & Ethics
    Audit Firm Rotation, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind