This study is the first in an auditing context to examine auditor susceptibility to memory conjunction errors, a type of systematic memory error that is related to the memory reconstruction process. Conjunction errors occur when memory traces associated with one event are incorrectly attributed to another event during memory reconstruction. Auditors may be particularly susceptible to memory conjunction errors due to their simultaneous exposure to multiple audit clients and their use of standardized audit forms and checklists to capture information. Unrecognized, such errors could adversely affect the efficiency and/or effectiveness of the financial statement audit process. We conducted an experiment that employed practicing audit professionals addressing multiple audit clients. Consistent with our hypotheses, the results indicate that memory conjunction errors in an audit environment are a complex function of (1) the consistency between the audit evidence recalled from an unrelated audit and the characteristics of the client that is the target of the memory reconstruction, (2) the consistency between this recalled audit evidence and the characteristics of the client to which the evidence is actually associated, and (3) the level of risk present in the audit environment that is the target of the memory reconstruction. While research has shown that audit risk factors can generally serve to decrease some types of auditors' memory recognition errors in single client situations (e.g., Sprinkle and Tubbs 1998), our results show that increases in audit risk can actually exacerbate memory errors involving multiple audit clients and memory conjunction errors. Finally, the findings of the study suggest that auditors are not only susceptible to memory conjunction errors, but also that such errors may play a significant role in elements of the audit‐planning process related to auditors' likelihood of material error assessments.

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