The next best thing: Social presence and accountability's impact on auditor professional skepticism


Audit fieldwork is shifting from the client site to remote environments due to generational preferences, budget restrictions, and health mandates as seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. This may negatively impact professional skepticism without purposeful safeguards. Based in Social Presence Theory (SPT), our experiment uses Big 4 senior auditors to examine how the perceived level of social presence (high vs. low) influences an auditor's professional skepticism and how increasing one's feeling of accountability can increase auditor skepticism in a remote audit environment. We predict and find that auditors who feel a greater degree of social presence with their client are more skeptical. We also find that increasing an auditor's feelings of accountability can increase skepticism, and that increasing accountability in a low social presence environment can mitigate lower feelings of professional skepticism. This finding offers an effective and efficient method to help auditors remain skeptical in remote audit environments.

Publication Title

Journal of Corporate Accounting Camp; Finance