The impact of auditor task difficulty and audit quality indicators on jurors’ assessments of audit quality

Arnold M. Wright, Yi Jing Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study examines the effect of auditor task difficulty on jurors’ overall assessment of audit quality following an alleged audit failure (i.e., a restatement) given audit quality indicators (AQIs). We focus on assurance of fair value estimates, a pervasive, difficult-to-audit area. Employing an experiment with prospective jurors, we manipulate auditor task difficulty (moderate or high), input AQI (high or low), and process AQI (high or low). Consistent with expectations from Attribution Theory, we find evidence, as reflected in jurors’ assessments of audit quality, that higher task difficulty elicits the salience of external causes for the alleged negative audit outcome (i.e., factors beyond auditors’ control) while lower task difficulty induces the salience of internal causes (i.e., factors within auditors’ control). Together, our results suggest that jurors recognize the difficulty associated with auditing complex estimates, and in turn adjust their expectations regarding the level of auditor diligence that must be demonstrated, demanding a very high level of diligence (both AQI input and process) for the less difficult task while generally exhibiting lesser demands for the more difficult task. We also find that jurors’ audit quality assessments are significantly linked to subsequent evaluations of auditor responsibility and to verdict decisions of auditor negligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalBehavioral Research in Accounting
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Audit quality indicators
  • Audit task difficulty
  • Auditor litigation
  • Fair value measurements


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