Auditor judgment, construal level theory, enterprise risk management, probability judgment, psychological distance


This dissertation comprises three studies, a literature review and two experimental studies, that center on the effects of psychological distance on judgment and decision-making in accounting. Construal level theory (CLT) of psychological distance (Liberman and Trope 1998; Trope and Liberman 2003), a framework recently developed in the field of social psychology, constitutes the theoretical foundation for each study. The first study reviews extant literature on CLT and illustrates the theory's potential for investigating previously unexplained phenomena within the accounting domain. Selected publications that apply CLT in contexts that are of particular interest to accounting researchers are emphasized and a series of broad, CLT-based research questions pertaining to various accounting domains are offered. The second study applies CLT to the audit context by investigating whether the performance of common auditing tasks that require varying degrees of abstract thinking affect decision-makers' overall mindset and hence their subsequent judgment. Results from the second study have important implications for audit practice as auditors work in environments that require frequent shifts in focus due to multiple client or project demands. The third study applies CLT to the enterprise risk management context by examining how spatial distance from a risk assessment object and risk category (i.e., the type of risk) affects decision-makers' assessment of the probability that the risk will materialize. The third study thus informs the corporate governance literature by identifying psychological distance as a potential source for judgment bias during the risk assessment process. Overall, the results reported in this dissertation suggest that psychological distance systematically affects individuals' judgment subject to the caveat that the judgment of concern falls within the domain of the decision-maker's routine cognition. By presenting empirical evidence from both the audit and the risk management domain, the studies contribute to our understanding of the heuristics and biases in judgment and decision-making in professional settings that are of interest to accounting research.


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Graduation Date





Sutton, Steven


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration

Degree Program

Business Administration; Accounting








Release Date

May 2016

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Accounting Commons