Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Business Administration

Major Professor

Uday S. Murthy

Keywords

analytical procedures, analytical review paradox, audit fieldwork, cognitive load theory, experimental, working memory

Abstract

There is considerable evidence in the audit literature that even though auditors usually identify the relevant information needed to propose and select the correct cause of an unexpected fluctuation, they frequently do not propose the correct cause, and even when they do propose the correct cause, they often fail to select it. I suggest that working memory limitations might be a factor contributing to this analytical review paradox. Consequently, this study investigates whether two new decision aids, designed from Cognitive Load Theory, reduce auditors' cognitive load during analytical review, freeing cognitive resources for problem solving, and ultimately leading to improved auditor analytical review effectiveness. My first decision aid, an activity relationship diagram (ARD), gives the auditor a graphical depiction of common accounting relationships. My second decision aid, a pattern-consideration aid (PCA), automatically recalls and textually displays the auditor-identified relevant information cues. In an experimental setting, I find that auditors who rely on either decision aid significantly improve their analytical review effectiveness compared to auditors who conduct analytical review unaided. However, contrary to my predictions, auditors who rely on both decision aids do not outperform auditors who rely on only one decision aid. Although I find empirical evidence that cognitive load is negatively related to analytical review effectiveness, I do not find evidence that my decision aids reduce cognitive load.

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