Auditors’ ethical reasoning: Insights from past research and implications for the future

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The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the empirical research on auditors' ethical reasoning within a framework that considers cognitive development, individual characteristics and contextual factors. In so doing, it wishes to facilitate an understanding of the extant literature and provide a basis for improving auditors' ethical reasoning. Auditors' ethical reasoning encompasses cornerstone concepts of the auditing profession, such as: due care, independence, objectivity, professional skepticism, and integrity. It reflects auditors' ability to render judgment unaltered by self-interest and to recognize the potential impact of the judgment on the welfare of others. This paper uses Rest's Model of Ethical Action as an organizing framework. Grounded in the cognitive-developmental perspective, Rest's Model of Ethical Action has been applied to describe the key components of the ethical decision process in a management context and in an audit context. Rest's Model of Ethical Action theorizes mat ethical reasoning consists of four components: 1. Identification of an Ethical Dilemma, 2. the Ethical Judgment, 3. Intention to Act Ethically, and 4. Ethical Action/Behavior.


Copyright 2003 University of Florida, Accounting Research Center

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Journal of Accounting Literature

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Jones, J., Massey, D. W., & Thorne, L. (2003). “Auditors’ ethical reasoning: Insights from past research and implications for the future.” Journal of Accounting Literature, Volume 22, pp. 45-103.

Peer Reviewed