Bagley, Penelope Lee
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Accounting research finds that auditors perform better when they are required to account for their actions to a superior. However, this research assumes that the auditor is accountable to one superior, when in practice auditors are accountable to multiple parties. Psychology research suggests that when an individual is accountable to multiple parties, they suffer negative affect (emotional distress). In this study, I experimentally examine whether the multiple accountabilities inherent in the audit environment cause auditors to experience negative affect in the form of evaluation apprehension. Consistent with my expectations, I find that as accountabilities increase, auditors’ evaluation apprehension increases. The psychology literature implies this evaluation apprehension can negatively influence the performance of complex audit tasks through its influence on the cognitive encoding of information. However, I was unable to document an influence of evaluation apprehension on the performance and cognitive encoding of a high-complexity audit task. Additional research should be performed to determine whether the evaluation apprehension resulting from accountability negatively influences other audit tasks and auditor attitude, as indicated in the psychology literature.