Auditor Task Selection under Time Pressure

Bart Dierynck, Christian Peters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperOther research output


We start from the observation that auditors have discretion to order their tasks and investigate whether auditors use their task discretion to prioritize easy over difficult tasks and to reduce more effort in difficult tasks. Drawing on Conservation of Resources theory, which states that humans are motivated to protect their current cognitive resources and acquire new cognitive resources, we argue that auditors weigh potential resource losses more than potential resource gains. As difficult tasks deplete more cognitive resources than easy tasks, we expect auditors to prioritize easy tasks. Our results are consistent with this hypothesis. We also find that auditors reduce more effort in difficult tasks but this effect is driven by the prioritization of easy tasks. We propose psychological ownership as a mechanism that can alleviate this proclivity to prioritize easier tasks. We do not find any evidence for a role of psychological ownership. In a supplemental experiment, we examine whether time pressure curbs feelings of psychological ownership. We show that time pressure significantly reduces feelings of psychological ownership and hence is an important factor to consider when working on the facilitation of psychological ownership in the audit environment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019


  • Auditing
  • Task Ordering
  • Psychological Ownership
  • Task Complexity
  • Audit Operations

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