The impact of trait skepticism and ego depletion on auditor judgment

Amy M. Donnelly, Steven E. Kaplan, Jeremy M. Vinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research finds that trait skepticism influences auditors’ judgments but that situational variables may interact with trait skepticism. We examine whether ego depletion, an exhaustion of individuals’ self-control resources which limits one’s ability to vigilantly process information and apply critical thinking, moderates the relationship between trait skepticism and auditor judgment. We contend that when not depleted, auditors’ trait skepticism will influence judgment; conversely, when depleted, auditors’ trait skepticism will not influence auditors’ judgments due to a lack of necessary cognitive resources to vigilantly process information. Rather, depleted auditors are expected to adopt a less cognitively demanding strategy and simply make more skeptical judgments, as they expect this is the more acceptable, safer judgment when accountable. Results from an experiment involving a risk assessment task support our expectations: when not depleted, auditors’ judgments are in-line with their trait skepticism but, when depleted, auditors make more skeptical judgments regardless of their trait skepticism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalBehavioral Research in Accounting
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Auditing
  • Ego depletion
  • Risk assessment
  • Trait skepticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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