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Auditors’ professional skepticism: traits, behavioral intentions, and actions

Part of the Accounting, Finance and Law Virtual Research Seminar

  • 17 Feb 2021, 2.00pm to 17 Feb 2021, 3.15pm GMT
  • This is an online event.
  • This event is free

Professor Ann Vanstraelen, University of Maastricht, will discuss their research.


We integrate existing conceptual models of auditors’ professional skepticism with the Theory of Planned Behavior to develop an empirically testable model that explains the processes underlying the association between trait skepticism and skeptical actions. We use data from a sample of 663 auditors across all ranks who each completed an experiential questionnaire. The results reveal that partners and managers are more skeptical than seniors and staff and that individual differences and personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, narcissism, and psychopathy) are associated with differential levels of trait skepticism. In empirical tests of our conceptual model, we find that trait skepticism is positively associated with attitudes, subjective norms (i.e., social pressure to behave skeptically), and perceived behavioral control over skepticism (i.e., self-efficacy), which in turn affect intentions to act skeptically. Subjective norms are the strongest predictor of intentions. Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are positively associated with skeptical actions (in terms of evidence collection and evaluation), and intentions to act skeptically positively mediate these associations. Results of testing the associations in our conceptual model do not differ by rank, revealing that antecedents to skeptical action do not differ based upon auditor experience.

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