The effects of client identity strength and professional identity salience on auditor judgments

Tim D. Bauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable recent audit regulation, both proposed and mandated, and accounting research has focused on auditor independence threats arising over long auditor tenure. Psychology research, however, suggests independence threats also likely arise when auditor tenure is short because auditors can quickly develop a strong client identity, raising questions about the effectiveness of mandatory audit partner or firm rotation to address independence concerns. Relying on Social Identity Theory, I examine mechanisms for promoting auditor independence that can be implemented regardless of auditor tenure or rotation. I conduct two experiments in a setting with no prior auditor-client history. As predicted, auditors who identify more strongly with their clients, by sharing their values, agree more with the client's preferred accounting treatment, unless the salience or arousal of their professional identity is heightened. Further, as predicted, heightening professional identity salience increases professional skepticism. My results provide an improved understanding of the joint effects of identity strength and salience on auditor judgments and suggest a cost-effective alternative to auditor rotation to maintain auditor independence, even when auditor tenure is short.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-114
Number of pages20
JournalAccounting Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Auditor independence
  • Client identity
  • Identity salience
  • Identity strength
  • Professional identity
  • Professional skepticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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