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    The Impact of Task Information Feedback on Ethical Reasoning
    research summary posted May 9, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind 
    The Impact of Task Information Feedback on Ethical Reasoning
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest that task information feedback has potential for increasing the auditors’ tendency to consider the public interest in resolving ethical dilemmas throughout the audit.  Training and education may be able to gain higher ethical  easoning.


    Massey, D.W., and L. Thorne. 2006. The impact of task information feedback on ethical reasoning. Behavioral Research in Accounting 18 (1): 103-116.

    Purpose of the Study:

    This study evaluates the effectiveness of task information feedback in promoting auditor’s ethical reasoning.  Giving an individual task information feedback provides guidance about the desired decision making process.  The main goal of the study is to assess whether the use of task information feedback prompts auditors to use a higher level of ethical reasoning such as moving from a non-societal-focused (e.g. self-interest) ethical reasoning stage to a societal-focused (e.g. public interest) ethical reasoning stage.  Ethical decisions necessitate a societal view as they involve multiple stakeholders, and in an audit setting the auditor is representing the stakeholders of the firm in addition to public interest.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Entry level auditors and senior auditing students participated in the three-phase experimental study.  Participants were pre-tested to  determine baseline ethical reasoning.  One group received a task information feedback one level above their baseline level before completing four audit-based ethical dilemma case studies, whereas the control group did not receive task information feedback. 
    Then an assessment of their ethical reasoning level was performed.

    •  The participants who received the task information feedback use less non-societal-focused (e.g. self-interest) ethical reasoning than the participants in the control group.
    • The proportion of societal-focused (e.g. public interest) ethical reasoning in the task information feedback condition increased more than the control group, however not by a statistically significant amount.
    Independence & Ethics, Auditor Judgment
    Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind
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