Ego depletion: Applications and implications for auditing research

  • Patrick J. Hurley
  • Journal of Accounting Literature, October 2015, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.acclit.2015.10.001

Applying Ego Depletion Theory to Auditing Research

What is it about?

This paper focuses on applying ego depletion theory - from the psychology literature - to a financial statement auditing setting. Ego depletion theory indicates that self-control relies on a limited cognitive resource and that using self-control on one task therefore makes it harder to exercise self-control on a subsequent task. I summarize causes and consequences of ego depletion, as well as methods of mitigating or avoiding ego depletion. I suggest avenues of future research by applying ego depletion theory to an auditing setting. The aim of this paper is to provide a valuable resource to accounting researchers who wish to study the impact of ego depletion in accounting settings.

Why is it important?

This study is important because ego depletion is potentially pervasive in an auditing setting, due to long hours (e.g., busy season), complex cognitive tasks, and other self-control requirements inherent in auditing tasks. In order to more fully investigate auditors' and accountants judgment and decision-making quality, it is important for future research to determine the impact of ego depletion on these individuals. This study is designed to generate interest, provide resources, and stimulate future research on ego depletion in accounting settings.


Dr Patrick J Hurley
Northeastern University

This article is the first of three papers from my dissertation study. Having done a thorough literature review for the purposes of informing my dissertation studies, I felt it was important to share the resources that I gathered and analyzed with other academics in the hopes that we can more fully understand the impact of ego depletion on professionals' judgment and decision-making quality. It is my hope that this paper will serve as a valuable resource to all researchers who do work in the area in the future.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Patrick J Hurley