Introduction and position in the current literature
Many professionals are facing challenges to develop and maintain expertise in their field. According to decision-making literature, expert judgment can only be trusted if it was built in a regular environment with sufficient practice, including e.g. feedback and repetitive tasks (Kahneman and Klein, 2009; Shanteau, 1992). However, many professionals, such as auditors, acquire their expertise in environments which are less conducive for their expertise development (Ericsson, 2006), despite the necessity of adequate experience for good job performance (Libby & Luft, 1993). According to Kahneman and Klein (2009), “auditors who have expertise in ‘hard’ data such as accounts receivable may do much less well with soft data such as indications of fraud” (p.522). It is critical for professionals to recognize the limits of their expertise and engage in deliberate strategies for developing, supported by climate, feedback and reflection (Salas and Rosen, 2010; Kahneman, 2011; Marsick and Watkins, 2003). Current literature in auditing, however, focuses mostly on auditor traits, such as professional scepticism (Nelson, 2009), which appear to be less than stable when taking experience into account (Hurtt, Brown-Liburd, Early & Krishnamoorthy, 2012).
Research questions & hypothesis
This project aims to understand environmental influences on expertise development in the audit setting, such as quality of experience, learning climate, feedback-seeking and reflection.
A case-study was developed in which 53 participants from a leading auditing firm across three hierarchical levels were asked to evaluate two seemingly similar organizations, of which one was actually a special case. Additionally, a questionnaire on experience, learning climate and professional scepticism was administered to this group and 84 additional auditors. Among those auditors who solved the case correctly, we identified a risk group that made uninformed judgments, and may have been lucky. Indeed, these individuals had experienced less critical incidents, were less reflective and had perceived the experiment as a routine task. Experience had an ambiguous effect on case performance, and confidence in one’s judgments was not a significant predictor of case performance. Thus, our results emphasize the importance of task environment and quality of experience for expertise development.