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An Examination of the Effects of Experience and Task Complexity on Audit Judgments

Mohammad Abdolmohammadi and Arnold Wright
The Accounting Review
Vol. 62, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 1-13
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/248042
Page Count: 13
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An Examination of the Effects of Experience and Task Complexity on Audit Judgments
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Abstract

Behavioral researchers have long been concerned about the effects of experience on decision making, especially in highly technical fields such as auditing. Relying on Simon's model of the decision process, this paper provides evidence that the experience effect is significant when task complexity is explicitly considered. It reports the results of a series of experiments examining structured, semi-structured, and unstructured tasks where subjects are pooled into two groups: "experienced" (those having reached the staff level where the required normative skills are developed) and "inexperienced" (lower staff levels or auditing students). Responses to a separate study of 88 partners and managers were used to independently establish the appropriate staff level for each task and complexity. Significant decision differences were found between the experimental groups on each task. Pooling all subjects together, however, showed only an isolated significant experience effect, highlighting the need to consider explicitly and control for task complexity and appropriate normative skills in studying the nature of expertise. These results further suggest that auditing students or less experienced junior auditors are questionable surrogates for CPAs in complex audit decision settings. Future corroborating research examining other audit judgments and other audit populations is encouraged, e.g., design of audit programs.

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