Date of Award

Fall 2002

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


School of Accountancy

First Advisor

Thomas Phillips


The purpose of this study is to identify the strengths of a specific motivator for judgment and decision-making, referred to as “need for closure” and determine how the strength of that motivator affects materiality judgments of auditors.

The extent to which auditors seek and process information prior to forming a judgment can have important consequences in the conduct of an audit. In this regard, psychology researchers have identified a personality characteristic—a motive for judgment and decision making—that influences the decision making process. This motive, referred to as the need for closure, pertains to the desire of individuals to clear up confusion and ambiguity on a given subject. A strong need for closure is assumed to promote prompt decision making thus bringing closure to an ambiguous situation. Individuals with such tendencies have a strong sense of urgency, discomfort with ambiguous circumstances and an inclination to “seize” on closure quickly and to “freeze” or hold onto past knowledge. In turn, a person with a strong need for closure, once he/she makes a decision, will cease to search for alternative hypotheses and evidence and will demonstrate a high level of confidence in the decision. This study focuses on the effect of this personality characteristic on the materiality assessment decision.

Subjects for this study are all auditors for big five accounting firms. Firm of the auditor is not found to be significant in determining materiality scores. This study reveals a relationship between rank in the firm and dispositional need for closure (DNFC), with upper level ranks being lower in dispositional need for closure than lower level ranks. Similar differences are found between experience levels, with those with more experience lower in DNFC, while those with less experience are higher in DNFC. The study also reveals that an individual's materiality judgment is affected by DNFC differently at the various ranks within the firm and various experience levels of the subjects.