This paper was published as a Faculty Working Paper (no. 196) for the Lubin School of Business, Center for Applied Research, March 2001.

Document Type



The broad issue addressed in this paper is the effect of experience on an auditor's potential for expert performance in the future. The specific aspect of this issue examined is the effect field experience has on certain measures of an auditor's knowledge that can be used to anticipate changes in the level of that auditor's expertise in performing future tasks. The paper builds on extensive prior research by Russo to further expertise research in auditing in two ways. First, it extends previous findings from the realm of realized expertise in a current task to that of an auditor's potential for greater expert performance in an arbitrary future task. Second, it examines the relationship between experience and its differential effects on the types of knowledge that drive an auditor's expert-like behaviors during performance of field tasks.

A descriptive model of auditor behavior and learning during performance of a field task is presented that shows how the effects of experience on an auditor's potential for further expert development can be quantified. Expectations of the future level of expertise are modeled as functions of the magnitude and pattern of change in knowledge properties induced by current task experience. The model is then applied to an analysis of the task behaviors of four first-year auditors who performed audit-related tasks in simulated environments. Findings reported reveal both the highly individualistic effects of experience on knowledge driving expert behavior and analytical differences between effects along the structural and substantive dimensions of knowledge. The findings also provide diagnostic information about the progress of expert development and insight into limits on the rate at which expertise is acquired.