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    Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism
    research summary posted May 2, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 08.0 Auditing Procedures – Nature, Timing and Extent, 08.04 Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind 
    Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism
    Practical Implications:

    This study provides accounting firms with the first instrument theoretically designed to measure professional skepticism in auditors.  Objective measures of professional skepticism may be helpful to firms looking to increase audit efficiency or effectiveness, specifically in critical areas such as hypothesis generation, risk identification and fraud detection.


    Hurtt, R. K. (2010). Development of a Scale to Measure Professional Skepticism. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 29(1): 149-171.

    Professional skepticism, scale development, trait skepticism
    Purpose of the Study:

    Professional standards have stressed the importance of individual auditor professional skepticism from the earliest codification. Although the concept of professional skepticism is widely accepted, there has been little research on exactly what comprises skepticism and how it can be measured. Professional skepticism is a complex characteristic; scales previously used to measure skepticism were not developed with the multi-dimensionality of professional skepticism in mind.  It can therefore, become difficult to draw appropriate conclusions or make comparisons with these measures. The study identifies two distinct types of professional skepticism: 1) trait skepticism, (defined as: relatively stable, an enduring quality of an individual) and 2) state skepticism (defined as: a temporary condition aroused by a given situation).  This particular study focuses only on the former and further delineates six character components of trait skepticism.  These characteristics are drawn from a careful review of the auditing standards as well as research in auditing, psychology, philosophy, and consumer behavior. The six characteristics are as follows:

    • A questioning mind
    • A suspension of judgment
    • A search for knowledge
    • Interpersonal understanding
    • Self-esteem
    • Autonomy      

    The author considers each of these component characteristics and develops a scale to more adequately and appropriately measure the trait skepticism of auditors. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The author gathers 220 potential questions measuring each of the component characteristics identified. This large group of questions was further reduced based on several pre-tests performed on groups of varying size of undergraduate and graduate level business students. Once the scale had been reduced to a 30-item test, it was administered to 200 auditors from a major international accounting firm. To ensure that the scale was reliable, the test was re-administered to 88 auditors from the same international firm.  It is important to note that the scale was validated using auditors from only one major firm and was validated prior to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

    • The results provide preliminary evidence that the skepticism scale developed here is an instrument with appropriate reliability and validity.  
    Auditing Procedures - Nature - Timing and Extent, Auditor Judgment
    Auditors’ Professional Skepticism, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind
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