Auditor information foraging behavior

P. Commerford Benjamin, Richard C. Hatfield, Richard W. Houston, Curtis Mullis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In this study, we examine how information foraging by auditors affects audit evidence collection in two distinct contexts, and show how a small change to audit methodology mitigates the potentially harmful effects of foraging. Information Foraging Theory explains how, while navigating an information environment, individuals learn to acquire information through personally experiencing the costs incurred and the values obtained from information. Consistent with the theory, we find that auditors react to the immediately felt costs of information collection (e.g., time and effort) at the expense of a more global consideration of information value (i.e., auditors collect lower-quality audit evidence). However, foraging behavior is moderated by removing the personal cost to the individual auditor (identifying audit evidence for another member of the audit team to collect), further demonstrating that these personally felt costs influence auditor choices in a way that reduces the quality of information collected. We contribute to the literature by demonstrating how information foraging can influence evidence quality and, thus, audit quality, and how a slight alteration of audit methodology can mitigate this behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-160
Number of pages16
JournalAccounting Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2017


  • Auditing
  • Evidence collection
  • Information foraging
  • Sampling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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