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Functional fixation and the balanced scorecard: Adaption of BSC users’ judgment processes

Joachim Schauß (Chair of Management Accounting, Bundeswehr University Munich, Munich, Germany)
Bernhard Hirsch (Chair of Management Accounting, Bundeswehr University Munich, Munich, Germany)
Matthias Sohn (Chair of Management Accounting, Bundeswehr University Munich, Munich, Germany)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




This paper aims to examine how balanced scorecard (BSC) users change their judgement processes according to qualitative changes in the BSC. Prior experimental studies have found that decision-makers do not fully adapt their judgements according to changes in financial reports, known as functional fixation. Although previous research has examined functional fixation in several management accounting-related disciplines, the research has not been completely successful in developing a deeper understanding of the cognitive processes that are responsible for the occurrence of this judgemental bias.


To fill this gap, a combination of structural modelling and a process tracing method that monitors participants’ information acquisition to better understand the underlying cognitive processes that affect BSC users’ judgements is used.


Overall, the results indicate that functional fixation is present both from an input–output (structural modelling) and a process tracing perspective. Stable general individual differences, particularly in terms of intuitive versus deliberative preferences in decision-making, influence the probability of functionally fixated behaviour. Additionally, previous findings concerning the over-reliance on financial information in the BSC setting is replicated. Using process data, it was found that BSC users rely more on financial measures than on non-financial measures in the pre-decisional phase of exercising their judgement.


This paper contribute to management accounting research on the BSC by investigating two cognitive biases (functional fixation and overreliance on financial measures) from an input–output and a process tracing perspective.



The authors would like to thank attendants at the Empirical Research in Management Accounting and Control Conference 2012 at Vienna University of Economics and Business and at the European Accounting Association Conference 2013 at Paris-Dauphine University for helpful suggestions on our paper. The authors also thank seminar participants at ESCP Europe Berlin and Bundeswehr University Munich for comments on an earlier draft. The editor and two anonymous reviewers were most helpful in improving the paper.


Schauß, J., Hirsch, B. and Sohn, M. (2014), "Functional fixation and the balanced scorecard: Adaption of BSC users’ judgment processes", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 540-566.



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