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Auditing Stories about Discomfort: Becoming Comfortable with Comfort Theory


  • Thomas Carrington
  • Bino Catasus


The sociological strand of auditing research has pointed to some difficulties of the American Accounting Association's (AAA) (and mainstream) definition asserting that auditing is about 'objectively obtaining and evaluating evidence regarding assertions about economic actions' (AAA, The Accounting Review, Suppl., 1972, p. 18). Instead, auditing has been described as rituals of verification that produce comfort. In this paper we seek to widen the understanding of the production of comfort by investigating the processes that end up as an audit. The processes are investigated by addressing the research question: how do auditors perceive the production of comfort? Twenty seniors were interviewed on the subject of identified discomforts in the audit process. The interviews were designed to identify the main allies and foes in the processes that make up an audit. In the presentation of the interviews, comfort theory is employed as a device to interpret the seniors' statements in terms of comfort as state, comfort as relief and comfort as renewal. Our conclusion is that the state of comfort that is demanded to become comfortable with an audit changes in relation to which actors get involved in the comfort production. Attaining a state of comfort involves a decision that sufficient discomforts have been relieved. In addition, as the definition of what it means to attain a state of comfort changes, more or less comfort as relief is required, and the audit, understood as becoming comfortable, is renewed. Suggested by comfort theory, the paper in this way develops the idea of auditing as a comfort-producing activity by examining three dimensions of audit comfort.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Carrington & Bino Catasus, 2007. "Auditing Stories about Discomfort: Becoming Comfortable with Comfort Theory," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 35-58.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:16:y:2007:i:1:p:35-58 DOI: 10.1080/09638180701265846

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ackert, Lucy F. & Tian, Yisong S., 2001. "Efficiency in index options markets and trading in stock baskets," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 25(9), pages 1607-1634, September.
    2. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92.
    3. Tian, Yisong S., 2004. "Too much of a good incentive? The case of executive stock options," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1225-1245, June.
    4. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-654, May-June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guénin-Paracini, Henri & Malsch, Bertrand & Paillé, Anne Marché, 2014. "Fear and risk in the audit process," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 264-288.
    2. Federica De Santis, 2016. "Auditing Standard Change and Auditors' Everyday Practice: A Field Study," International Business Research, Canadian Center of Science and Education, vol. 9(12), pages 41-54, December.

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