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    The Effects of Cognitive Style and Feedback Type on...
    research summary posted May 7, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 07.0 Internal Control, 07.02 Assessing Material Weaknesses, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind 
    The Effects of Cognitive Style and Feedback Type on Performance in an Internal Control Task
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for auditors for two reasons. First, ICQ design is an important determinant of beginning auditors’ success at detecting relevant audit information. While it is impractical to design search-aids containing prompts for all possible auditee cues, this study underscores the importance of ensuring that the ICQ design is as comprehensive as possible. Second, in designing training programs, audit firms should provide both outcome feedback and cognitive style feedback to maximize auditor learning.


    Bryant, S., Murthy, U., and Wheeler, P. 2009. The effects of cognitive style and feedback type on performance in an internal control task. Behavioral Research in Accounting 21 (1): 37-58.

    Cognitive style; internal control evaluation; feedback; search-aid design
    Purpose of the Study:

    The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (§404) and Auditing Standard No. 5 (PCAOB 2007) both require auditors to publicly report on the efficacy of their client’s internal controls. As a result, auditors have placed greater emphasis on evaluating the client internal control structure (typically using structured search-aids such as internal control questionnaires (ICQs)). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) classifies people as either “sensors” or “intuitive,” based on their cognitive processing. Psychologists contend that sensors tend to be detail-oriented and focus on discrete pieces of information, while intuitives are better able to recognize patterns in the details and are less likely to be constrained by predefined structures. This paper examines the following: 

    • Whether an auditor’s cognitive style can affect performance at identifying within-cycle (for a specific accounting cycle, e.g., revenue) and out-of-cycle (information indicative of significant internal control problems relating to a different accounting cycle) internal control information. 
    • Whether alternative types of feedback, especially in combination, can improve auditors’ ability to recognize internal control information. Academic research and psychology theory demonstrate that intuitive (sensor) auditors will be more successful than sensor (intuitive) auditors at recognizing and identifying out-of-cycle (within-cycle) information on the ICQ.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Participants were upper-level and graduate accounting majors and data was collected in the early 2000s. Participants first completed the MBTI and were categorized as possessing either a sensor or an intuitive cognitive style. Using an ICQ for one accounting cycle, participants identified within-cycle and out-of-cycle internal control cues. After receiving either no feedback, outcome feedback only, cognitive style feedback only, or combined cognitive style and outcome feedback, they repeated the task using an ICQ for a second accounting cycle.

    • Results of the study indicate cognitive style had no effect on participants’ performance in the first (pre-feedback) task.
    • Both sensor and intuitive participants, however, were significantly less successful at initially (pre-feedback) identifying out-of-cycle than within-cycle internal control problems.
    • For the second ICQ task (post-feedback), participants who received both outcome feedback improved more in identifying out-of-cycle internal control information, compared to those receiving no feedback or only cognitive feedback.
    • Outcome feedback strengthened sensors’ detail-orientation to within-cycle internal control information, while it weakened intuitives’ to a greater degree.
    Internal Control, Auditor Judgment
    Assessing Material Weaknesses, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind
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