In this study, I examine the conditions that moderate auditor resistance toward and susceptibility to believing client-provided lies. In particular, I predict that auditors who cannot directly refute incorrect management explanations with their own evidence-related memories are susceptible to the misinformation effect. This effect describes a phenomenon where an individual recalls false memories, based on client lies, instead of his/her own real memories. I use a laboratory experiment involving professional auditors who must compile industry-related evidence to corroborate an invalid management explanation. As expected, I find that auditors with better-developed evidence memories provide lower evaluations of management credibility and explanation sufficiency when presented with a blatantly incorrect explanation. When subsequently prompted to access the related information, auditors with poorly developed evidence memories give responses that are consistent with management-provided false memories instead of their own previously gathered evidence memories. Auditors identifying the incorrect explanation did not succumb to the misinformation effect and exhibited recall more consistent with their own evidence memories. Overall, results show that client discussion can produce a delayed effect by inducing a form of memory error when the auditors subsequently retrieve evidence stored in their memory.
Data Availability: Contact the author for data availability.