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Title:Enhancing Auditor Expertise: Using Cognitive Load Theory to Examine a Reinforcing Feedback Loop Between Knowledge and Ability
Author(s):Brewster, Billy
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Peecher, Mark E.
Department / Program:Accountancy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Behavioral
Abstract:Understanding how the knowledge and ability interaction affects task performance is essential for comprehending how accountants learn and develop expertise. The current expertise model assumes this ability is predominately static in the short-term and as a corollary that the influence of this interaction on performance is also essentially fixed. In this study, I draw on Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) to propose a more dynamic relationship exists between knowledge and ability. CLT suggests that better organized knowledge structures reduce the load on working memory, thereby improving information processing ability. I predict that this enhanced processing ability improves updating of existing knowledge structures (mental models) in light of new information, hence establishing a reinforcing feedback loop between knowledge and ability. I test for the feedback loop's existence within a laboratory experiment in which participants learn about a dynamic business environment for an audit analytical procedures task. I manipulate whether participants take a systems thinking or reductionist approach in this task. Results show that participants taking a systems thinking perspective (i.e., a holistic view focusing on causal interactions) of the industry develop better organized mental models that improve their ability to identify management representations that were inconsistent with industry evidence. Consistent with the conjectured knowledge-ability feedback loop, systems thinking participants are better able to use their working memory to perform more accurate mental simulations of the industry environment. This improved processing ability also improves the participants' assimilation of newly learned evidence into their prior mental models, thereby completing the reinforcing feedback loop. Taken as a whole, the results are consistent with CLT, and show that better organized knowledge structures can enhance ability and speed the path to expert judgment and decision performance in complex audit environments.
Issue Date:2008
Description:111 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3337705
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2008

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