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    How Partners’ Views Influence Auditor Judgment
    research summary posted September 10, 2013 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, last edited September 10, 2013, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.09 Individual & Team Conduct - e.g., premature signoff, underreporting hours, 09.0 Auditor Judgment, 09.10 Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind, 10.0 Engagement Management, 10.03 Interaction among Team Members 
    How Partners’ Views Influence Auditor Judgment
    Practical Implications:

    While the audit partner is ultimately responsible, an audit opinion relies upon the work and judgments of numerous auditors at different levels throughout the firm (NYSSCPA 2009). Therefore, it is important that audit teams have access to independent judgments of individual auditors throughout the audit process. However, the authors’ findings provide evidence that “knowledge of superiors’ views biases auditors’ reports of their prior independent judgments, potentially inhibiting discussion and resolution of contrary views.”

    Whether judgment subordination is intentional or attributable to unconscious biases is not clear from the study. However, it is clear that it is insufficient for an auditor simply to formulate an opinion prior to hearing that of a superior. Rather, auditors should formulate and document their opinions prior to consulting with superiors and colleagues.


    It is not clear from this study whether the behavior described is prevalent among audit managers. It is possible that experience mitigates the likelihood of auditors to rely upon superior’s opinions. In addition, the judgment task involved a conservative alternative; it is possible that the effect will diminish when the partner’s opinion represents a less conservative alternative. 


    Peytcheva, M. and P.R. Gillett. 2011. How Partners’ Views Influence Auditor Judgment. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory 30 (4): 285-301.

    Audit judgment, motivated reasoning, cognitive bias
    Purpose of the Study:

    Prior research suggests auditors are likely to concur with the opinion of superiors if they learn of a superior’s opinion before forming their own judgments. This study examines the malleability of auditor judgments to the opinion of a superior after-the-fact. When given the opportunity to formulate an initial independent judgment, do auditors report later that they concurred with an audit partner’s contrary opinion?

    Design/Method/ Approach:
    • Participants were practicing auditors (27% audit seniors and 73% associates) as well as senior-level auditing students.
    • The study employed an experiment in two parts with participants divided into two experimental groups and one control group.
    • In part one, a judgment task was presented to each participant (whether to capitalize or expense an asset) and each participant was required to make a judgment but to wait to record that judgment until later:
    • Before Group: the experimental group that received an audit partner’s opinion (to expense the item) before they made their initial judgment
    • After Group: the experimental group that received an audit partner’s opinion (to expense the item) after they made their initial judgment
    • Control Group: made their judgment without receiving a partner opinion at any stage
    • In part two, the participants were asked to record the individual judgments they remembered making in part one.

    The authors find that around 80% of both experimental groups (the ‘before’ group and the ‘after’ group) selected to expense the item, versus only around 30% of the control group. Even among the sample of practicing auditors the percentage selecting to expense was around 75% in both experimental groups compared to 25% in the control group. There is no significant difference between the before and after groups, but there is a significant difference between the experimental groups and the control group. Therefore, the authors find that the audit partner’s opinion affects individual auditor judgments in a similar manner whether or not the auditor forms an independent opinion prior to learning of the partner’s opinion.



    Auditor Judgment, Engagement Management, Independence & Ethics
    Individual & team conduct (e.g. premature signoff - underreporting hours), Interaction among Team Members, Prior Dispositions/Biases/Auditor state of mind