Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Business Administration

Major Professor

Jacqueline Reck

Keywords

Cognitive Load Theory, Defined Pension Cost, Disaggregation, Financial Reporting, Information Complexity, Presentation Format

Abstract

My study is motivated by standard setters interest in better understanding (and the gap in research as to) the effects of item complexity and disaggregation across a financial statement on users' decision processes (Bonner 2008; Glaum 2009; FASB 2010b). I examine whether complexity of an item and the method used to present the item on a financial statement influences nonprofessional investors' judgments. Specifically, I examine two issues raised concerning IAS 19 Employee Benefits. The first is to examine whether there are differences in nonprofessional investors' judgments when individual components of a complex item (defined pension cost) are disaggregated across a financial statement (the statement of comprehensive income) versus when individual components of a complex item are aggregated on the face of the same statement. Differences may arise since disaggregation across a statement provides information about how an item relates to different economic events and this information could help nonprofessional investors to better interpret and use the information in judgments. A second objective is to examine whether increasing the complexity of an already complex item affects the usefulness of information. I find that nonprofessional investors weigh higher levels of item complexity in certain judgments. Additionally, I find that when a complex item (defined pension cost) is disaggregated across a financial statement (the statement of comprehensive income) nonprofessional investors are able to acquire more information about the item and are able to more accurately understand the function of the item. This, in turn, helps the nonprofessional investors decide whether the information is useful in certain judgments.

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