Patterns of Observable Strategic Behavior and Assessments of Expertise During Performance of Field Tasks
Document Type Article
This paper was published as a Faculty Working Paper (no. 203) for the Lubin School of Business, Center for Applied Research, October, 2001.
This paper presents basic descriptive research regarding observed patterns of auditor strategic behavior during performance of field tasks. It is proposed that what are perceived as distinctive patterns of task behavior are actually observations taken from a continuum of possible patterns ranging from linear to micro-repetitive. Ceteris paribus, the point on that continuum at which an auditor's behavior pattern is characterized is dependent on the level (as defined) at which that auditor's behavior is examined—the lower the level, the more likely it is that the behavior pattern will be characterized as micro-repetitive. Sequential progress through a task, beginning with information acquisition and progressing to or terminating with "end-stage" execution, is characteristic of linear process. Micro-repetitive behavior, the iterative application of linear process, is a consequence of an auditor's perception of a task as a sequence of hierarchically related sub-tasks. It is argued that a high-level linear pattern that progresses toward a task end-stage in conjunction with a lower-level micro-repetitive pattern is more likely to indicate a (relative) expert, while a lack of progress toward a task end-stage, along with an absence of micro-repetitive behavior, is more likely to indicate a (relative) novice. These conclusions are applied to analysis of the task behaviors of four first-year auditors who performed audit-related tasks in simulated auditing environments.