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negligent. And, due to the perceived knowledge superiority of the experts, jurors are likely to trusttheir recommendations.However, based on preference-consistent processing research (Ditto and Lopez 1992;Ditto,Scepansky, Munro, Apanovitch, and Lockhart 1998;Ditto, Munro, Apanovitch, Scepansky, andLockhart 2003), we contend that whether jurors defer to independent experts’ recommendationsdepends on the type of recommendation (i.e., negligent or not negligent). When individualsencounter evidence consistent with their preferences, they readily accept it and do not examine theevidence’s validity. Conversely, when individuals encounter evidence inconsistent with theirpreferences, they question the evidence’s validity by actively seeking preference-consistentevidence.5Prior research clearly indicates that jurors have a strong preference to find auditors negligent.Kadous (2000,2001) finds that, in order to maintain a belief in a just world (Lerner and Simmons5A medical diagnosis example clarifies the distinction. A patient receiving a clean bill of health readily accepts thediagnosis without questioning the validity of the diagnosis. On the other hand, a patient receiving an unfavorablediagnosis will generate reasons why the diagnosis may be incorrect and actively seek out second opinions in anattempt to refute the unfavorable diagnosis. In accounting,Hales (2007)andThayer (2011)find that nonprofessionalinvestors tend to engage in preference-consistent processing.The Effects of Independent Expert Recommendations on Juror Judgments of Auditor Negligence161Auditing: A Journal of Practice & TheoryNovember 2015
1966), jurors have significant motivations to blame the auditors (Walster 1966), which desensitizesthem to audit quality cues when there are severe consequences associated with an undetected fraud.Similarly, research on the audit expectations gap indicates that evaluators typically expect absolute,rather than reasonable, assurance and frequently ask,‘‘where were the auditors?’’when materialmisstatements go undetected (Epstein and Geiger 1994;McEnroe and Martens 2001). Likewise,research on outcome bias finds that jurors are often overly harsh on auditors in auditor negligencelawsuits (cf.Lowe and Reckers 2006;Peecher and Piercey 2008).According to preference-consistent processing, this preference to find the auditors negligentwill affect how jurors respond to expert recommendations. In particular, due to preferenceconsistency, we expect that jurors will have lower motivation to question the merits of expertrecommendations indicating that the auditors were negligent. As such, jurors who receive a‘‘negligent’’recommendation from independent experts are unlikely to thoroughly consider specificcase facts, such as whether the auditors used a specialist. On the other hand, due to preferenceinconsistency,jurors should be less inclined to defer to independent experts’‘‘not negligent’’recommendations. In this case, jurors will be inclined to diligently evaluate and consider specificcase facts to potentially disconfirm the preference-inconsistent expert recommendation.