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The effects of continued use of intelligent decision aids upon auditor procedural knowledge
Student: Micheal Axelsen
Supervisor: Professor Peter Green, Dr Fiona Rohde
This research proposal builds upon the theory of technology dominance (Sutton & Arnold 1998), which has as one of its propositions that the continued use of intelligent decision aids may have the effect of deskilling auditors over time. A theoretical contribution is made through a consideration of this effect through the operation of the anchoring and adjustment heuristic (Epley & Gilovich, 2006; Kowalczyk & Wolfe, 1998; Tversky & Kahnemann, 1974) and cognitive load theory (Mascha & Smedley, 2007; Sweller, 1988). The anchoring and adjustment heuristic is a technique used by people in judgment tasks to remove cognitive burden. In making a judgment, the assessor ‘anchors’ upon the first value provided in making an estimate, and then ‘adjusts’ this estimate until a ‘reasonable’ estimate is reached. This heuristic has the effect of a systematic adjustment bias in the final estimate made. Cognitive load theory finds that an expert uses different and more efficient problem-solving strategies as a result of their past experiences in comparison to the novice. The expert draws upon their experience with past problems to develop their problem-solving strategies. Theoretically the argument is developed that the professional auditor’s ability to develop efficient problem-solving strategies is reduced as a result of their use of the anchoring and adjustment heuristics encouraged by the continued use of intelligent decision aids.
It is proposed that this integrated theory be empirically tested through a series of semi-structured interviews with audit professionals and a survey of public sector auditors designed to test the developed theoretical model. This investigation will consider the role of the continued use of intelligent decision aids and any deskilling effect such use may have upon auditor ‘know-how’, or procedural knowledge.
The contributions of this proposed research are several. Firstly, a theoretical contribution is made through extension and reconciliation of the theory of technology dominance with the anchoring and adjustment heuristic and cognitive load theory. Secondly, a practical contribution is made by extension of the testing of the theory to the field rather than experimentally. A third practical contribution is made through an empirical test of the theory of technology dominance in the context of procedural knowledge (auditor ‘know-how’), which has not previously been tested.
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