Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 39–71 | Cite as

Ethical Exemplification and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct: An Empirical Investigation of Auditor and Public Perceptions

  • Phil A. Brown
  • Morris H. Stocks
  • W. Mark Wilder


This research applies the impression management theory of exemplification in an accounting study by identifying and measuring differences in both auditor and public perceptions of exemplary behaviors. The auditors were divided into two groups, one of which reported self-perceptions (A-S) while the other group reported their perceptions of a typical auditor (A-O). There were two separate public groups, which gave their perceptions of a typical auditor and were divided based on their levels of accounting sophistication. The more sophisticated public group was comprised of bank loan officers (LO) while the less sophisticated public group consisted of investment club members (IC). Comparisons were made on 30 behaviors contained in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, which served as the basis for the research instrument. Profile analysis, a special form of MANOVA technique, was used to analyze the results. A-S perceptions were the highest of the four treatment levels and were significantly higher (i.e., more exemplary) than the perceptions of both the A-O and LO groups. The more sophisticated user group (LO) provided the lowest perceptions of the four treatment levels. For at least four of the six measures, the LO treatment group perceived the typical auditor to be less exemplary than both the IC and A-O treatments. There were no differences in perceptions between the A-O group and IC. Additional analysis revealed that auditors overrated the degree to which the public relied on financial statements. However, both public groups reported a reasonably high level of reliance on financial statements when making decisions.


accounting code of ethics professional conduct impression management exemplification 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phil A. Brown
    • 1
  • Morris H. Stocks
    • 2
  • W. Mark Wilder
    • 2
  1. 1.School of BusinessHarding UniversitySearcyUSA
  2. 2.Patterson School of AccountancyUniversity of MississippiMississippiUSA

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