Sounds Good To Me: How Communication Mode and Framing Affect Audit Quality

Date
2018-08-31
Authors
Durkin, Mary
Jollineau, Jane
Lyon, Sarah
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Abstract
In the audit process, audit associates seek explanations from clients, follow-up to corroborate or refute these explanations, and document their findings. Throughout these interactions with the client, auditors must focus on the task at hand and maintain their professional skepticism. This paper examines whether (i) communication mode (face-to-face or email) and (ii) the frame of the client’s response (as explanation or fact) affect the ability of auditors to appropriately assess the quality of client communications and follow-up when necessary. We use professional auditors and conduct a 2x2 between-participants experiment. We find that auditors receiving a face-to-face response from the client that is framed as an ‘explanation’ assess the response as higher quality than auditors in the other three conditions. As a result, these auditors are less likely to follow-up with additional questions, likely impairing audit quality and increasing audit risk. We attribute the decrease in auditor performance to distractions causing the auditors to accept the client’s story at face value rather than applying appropriate skepticism. Our recommendations are that auditor associates (a) use email communication where feasible and (b) prime themselves to listen for ‘facts’ and ask the client to respond with ‘facts’ when face-to-face meetings are unavoidable or otherwise desirable.
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Auditor-client interactions, Distraction-Conflict theory, Framing, Skepticism, Mode of communication, Computer mediated communications
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