Accounting systems' design matters: Evaluability and mode influence environmental performance judgments

Hank C. Alewine, Dan N. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The increasing use of complex, nonfinancial environmental performance measures in managerial decisions motivates consideration of contextual influences that potentially impact managerial judgments in environmental settings. This study extends general evaluability theory (GET: Hsee & Zhang, 2010) to environmental accounting by investigating the combined effects of evaluation mode and incomplete supplemental evaluability information (SEI; e.g., benchmark data) on management decisions. To elaborate, evaluation mode is the display format in which the accounting information system (AIS) provides available information for analysis; e.g., a manager's or business unit's performance is assessed either comparatively (i.e., in joint mode) or individually (i.e., in separate mode). GET suggests more decision weight on measures containing SEI in separate mode because that evaluation mode contains less context in which to analyze information. On the other hand, more decision weight should result for measures that do not contain SEI in joint mode because that mode already contains more context for analysis (e.g., comparing multiple performances with each other). To test these predictions, experimental participants (n = 53) evaluated environmental measures for factories withsimilar environmental performances. To operationalize the information available in many environmental AIS, some, but not all, performance measures contained benchmark data (incomplete SEI); factories were evaluated either jointly or separately. Participants evidenced decision intransitivity; i.e., in separate evaluation mode, factories rated higher when a favorable measure contained SEI, while in joint evaluation mode, factories rated higher when a favorable measure lacked SEI. The results extend previous AIS and management accounting research by investigating contextual influences, and potential systems design elements, in judgments using environmental AIS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-62
Number of pages40
JournalAdvances in Accounting Behavioral Research
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For financial support, we thank the Von Allmen School of Accountancy, the Gatton College of Business and Economics, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. For comments on previous drafts, we thank David Atwood, Glenn Blomquist, Jason Brown, Ann Dzuranin, Sean Peffer, Bob Ramsay, anonymous reviewers, participants at the 2010 AAA annual meeting, the 2011 MAS Research Conference, and the 2012 ABO Research Conference, and workshop participants at the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Northern Kentucky University, Valdosta State University, and Western Michigan University.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 by Emerald Publishing Limited.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Accounting systems
  • Attribute evaluability
  • Environmental accounting
  • Evaluation mode
  • General evaluability theory
  • Managerial decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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