The Copycat Effect: Do social influences allow peer team members' dysfunctional audit behaviors to spread throughout the audit team?
Wetmiller, Rebecca J.
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Staff auditors often rely on team members as a source of information to determine the behaviors that are normal and acceptable. This may be one cause of the prevalence of audit quality reducing dysfunctional audit behaviors (DAB) within the profession. Social influence theory, applied in an auditing context, posits that staff auditors are influenced not only by the preferences of their superiors (i.e., compliance pressure) but also by their peers' DAB (i.e., conformity pressure). Given the importance of the work performed by staff auditors, I conduct an experiment to identify the role that a peer team member's behavior and a superior's preference plays in influencing staff auditors' behavior. I predict, and find, that staff auditors with a peer team member who engages in a DAB are more likely to engage in a DAB. I also predict, and find, that staff auditors with a superior who has a preference toward efficiency are more likely to engage in a DAB. Finally, I predict that a superior's preference toward efficiency will amplify the influence of a peer team member's involvement in a DAB. Interestingly, I find that a superior's preference amplifies the effect of a peer team member's behavior when it is toward efficiency only, not effectiveness, for a face-to-face request from the client, but not for an email request. These results suggest that peer behavior influences the effect of a superior's preference of staff auditors in the intimidating situation of having a face-to-face interaction with the client. This could be because of the cognitive dissonance staff auditors experience when their general understanding of the standards does not align with their peer's behavior. The results of this study provide insights into a potential risk introduced to the audit engagement through audit team dynamics.
- Doctoral Dissertations