To what extend is the going concern judgment influenced by the self-fulfilling prophecy?

We examined whether auditors' attitude to the evidence may be driven by their perception of the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Following previous research on motivated reasoning, we assumed that the self-fulfilling prophecy effect could be interpreted as a potential motivational/incentive factor supporting auditor's reluctance to release going concern opinions. We contribute to the literature by demonstrating in a laboratory experiment that auditors' perceptions of the self-fulfilling prophecy effect can bias their professional judgment. To this extend, the Hogarth and Einhorn's belief-adjustment model was employed in order to estimate auditors' attitudes in regards to both aggravating and mitigating evidence. Our results indicate that the fear of provoking the self-fulfilling prophecy creates a directional goal which leads auditors to process the audit evidence in a manner more likely to yield the desired conclusion. Auditors' motivated by the fear of causing the self-fulfilling prophecy effect offered a greater sensitivity to the positive evidence and, at the same time, a lower tendency to favor negative evidence. We also provide a discussion of the implications of our results for both regulators and the auditing profession.
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