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The Benefit of Mean Auditors: The Influence of Social Interaction and the Dark Triad on Unjustified Auditor Trust


  • Jessen L. Hobson
  • Matthew T. Stern
  • Aaron F. Zimbelman


Regulators and researchers have expressed concerns that social interaction leads auditors to unjustifiably trust managers, constituting a lack of sufficient professional skepticism. Using both an abstract laboratory experiment and a contextually rich experiment with practicing auditors we predict and find that higher Dark Triad auditors (those with higher levels of the shared core between psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism) are relatively more resistant to lapses in professional skepticism due to the effects of social interaction. This is likely driven by higher Dark Triad auditors' callousness, lack of empathy, and lack of response to social stimuli. In contrast, while higher social interaction initially increases lower Dark Triad auditors' unjustified trust in managers, this effect reverses in subsequent interactions when lower Dark Triad auditors observe evidence suggesting managers have reported aggressively. These findings add to research on the effect of auditor personality traits, audit‐client social interaction, and the interaction of these two variables, and suggest that practitioners and researchers account for the interplay of Dark Triad traits and social interaction and their effect on professional skepticism. L'avantage des « vilains » auditeurs : L'influence des interactions sociales et de la « triade noire » sur la confiance injustifiée accordée par les auditeurs Des responsables de la réglementation et des chercheurs se disent préoccupés de l'influence des interactions sociales qui portent certains auditeurs à accorder une confiance injustifiée aux gestionnaires, compromettant ainsi leur scepticisme professionnel. À l'aide d'une expérience abstraite en laboratoire et d'une expérience contextuellement riche avec des auditeurs en exercice, nous confirmons nos prédictions voulant que les auditeurs affichant un degré plus prononcé des traits de la triade noire (psychopathie, narcissisme et machiavélisme) sont relativement moins susceptibles de voir leur scepticisme professionnel compromis à la suite d'interactions sociales. Cela est probablement attribuable à leur plus grande insensibilité et à leur manque d'empathie et de réaction aux stimuli sociaux. En revanche, dans le cas des auditeurs chez qui les traits de la triade noire sont moins prononcés, un niveau d'interactions sociales plus élevé augmente initialement la confiance injustifiée accordée aux gestionnaires, mais cet effet s'inverse dans les interactions subséquentes lorsque ces auditeurs observent des éléments d'information portant à croire que les gestionnaires ont surévalué leurs résultats. Ces constatations viennent enrichir la recherche sur l'influence des traits de personnalité des auditeurs et les rapports sociaux entre auditeurs et clients, ainsi que sur l'interaction de ces deux variables, et laissent entendre que les praticiens et les chercheurs prennent en compte l'action réciproque des traits de la triade noire et des interactions sociales, de même que la façon dont ces facteurs influencent leur scepticisme professionnel.

Suggested Citation

  • Jessen L. Hobson & Matthew T. Stern & Aaron F. Zimbelman, 2020. "The Benefit of Mean Auditors: The Influence of Social Interaction and the Dark Triad on Unjustified Auditor Trust," Contemporary Accounting Research, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 37(2), pages 1217-1247, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:coacre:v:37:y:2020:i:2:p:1217-1247
    DOI: 10.1111/1911-3846.12511

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    References listed on IDEAS

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