Does intent modify risk-based auditing?

Steven J. Kachelmeier, Tracie Majors, Michael G. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Risk-based auditing implies that auditors invest more (fewer) resources as reporting risks increase (decrease). We find from an interactive experiment that participants in an audit-like role reflect this reasoning to a lesser extent when risks arise from intentional actions of human reporters than when the same risks arise from an unintentional source. We interpret this pattern as reflecting an emotive "valuation by feeling" when risks arise from human intent, meaning that the presence of risk is more influential than the magnitude of risk, whereas unintentional risks reflect a "valuation by calculation" that conditions audit resources on risk magnitudes. Because our experiment constrains intentional and unintentional risks to have equivalent magnitudes, probabil-ities, and consequences, these results could seem irrational in a strict economic sense. Outside the laboratory, however, reporters can strategically increase the level of intent- based risk in response to the auditor's low-risk strategy, such that an audit strategy that is relatively insensitive to the level of intent-based risk would be less vulnerable to strategic exploitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2201
Number of pages21
JournalAccounting Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Experimental economics
  • Fraud
  • Intent
  • Risk
  • Risk-based auditing
  • Scale insensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics

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