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Auditor performance variation: impact of sub-specialty knowledge differences between industry-specialists

Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research

ISBN: 978-1-84663-960-9, eISBN: 978-1-84663-961-6

Publication date: 28 July 2008


The extant literature has established that industry-specialist auditors gain performance-enhancing industry-specific sub-specialty knowledge (e.g., Solomon, Shields, & Whittington, 1999) via training and on the job experience. This knowledge has been shown to allow specialists to outperform non-specialists on a range of industry-specific tasks. The current study extends this line of research by comparing and contrasting the relative performance gains enjoyed by industry-specialist auditors in two different industry settings, one regulated and the other unregulated. When specializing in regulated industries, auditors gain very detailed industry-specific knowledge which is not the case for specialists in unregulated industries (Dunn & Mayhew, 2004). By comparing industry-specialists to non-specialists with matching industry-based experience, this study measures the relative benefits of specialization in different industry settings, rather than the benefits of specialization per se, which has been well established in the literature. This study finds that the performance gains made by regulated industry-specialists significantly outweigh those made by unregulated industry-specialists on industry-specific tasks. The implications of these results for future research and practice are explored in the body of the chapter.


Dowling, C. and Moroney, R. (2008), "Auditor performance variation: impact of sub-specialty knowledge differences between industry-specialists", Arnold, V., Clinton, B.D., Lillis, A., Roberts, R., Wolfe, C. and Wright, S. (Ed.) Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research (Advances in Accounting Behavioural Research, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 59-79.



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