This paper was published as a Faculty Working Paper (no. 213A) for the Lubin School of Business, Center for Applied Research, December 2003. Also, this paper was presented at the 55th International Economic Conference Vienna, Austria, March 12-16,2003.

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Although auditing behavioral research has explicitly or by implication examined specific aspects of the relationship between environment and auditor judgment, decision making, and behavior, the link has never been subjected to empirical examination in a dynamic and broadly generalized manner. In this paper a model of the interaction among environment, accessible knowledge, and task behavior is presented, together with a methodology for quantifying the properties of that portion of an auditor’s knowledge being accessed at various points during the solution process. The model is then used to analyze how the accessible knowledge of four first-year auditors is affected by environment-induced changes in their knowledge properties as they perform audit-related tasks in simulated auditing environments. The evidence suggests that these novice auditors are not a homogeneous group in terms of how their knowledge base responds to changes in the environment as they progress toward a task solution. Findings reported show considerable inter-auditor variation in the effects of environmental evolution on both the properties of these auditors’ accessible knowledge and the pattern of the specific properties affected. The findings disabuse us of the naive assumption that everything an auditor knows or has learned as a result of professional education and experience is always accessible for use whenever needed. Indeed, the findings suggest that a significant component of expertise may lie in knowledge of how to so arrange a task environment as to bring relevant knowledge to an available state.