Can simple metaphors be used as decision aids to promote professional skepticism?

Mary P. Durkin, Jacob M. Rose, Jay C. Thibodeau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the potential for metaphorical priming to promote professional skepticism. Results of an experiment with 99 senior auditors from two Big 4 audit firms indicate that reading metaphors that are entirely unrelated to audit evidence can promote professional skepticism and influence auditors’ judgments. Relative to auditor participants who did not read a metaphor, participants who read a metaphor related to concerns about the honesty of the sources of information (client-skeptical metaphor) or concerns about one’s own ability to detect problems (self-skeptical metaphor) assessed higher levels of fraud risk. These auditors also perceived that fraud-based explanations were more likely to cause fluctuations in client ratios. Importantly, metaphorical primes improved auditors’ fraud-related actions and caused them to focus on issues that were the most likely explanations for the audit evidence. Results suggest that metaphorical priming may represent a powerful and efficient tool for promoting high-quality and professionally skeptical judgments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-60
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of Information Systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Checklist
  • Decision aid
  • Fraud risk
  • Metaphor
  • Non-conscious prime
  • Professional skepticism

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