This study investigates how accountability type (process or outcome) and causal chain framing influence information search processes and decision-making quality. Drawing on the accountability literature and causal reasoning theory, we predict that process accountability stimulates information search effort and enhances decision quality. Additionally, we posit that causal chain usage enhances focus on relevant cues, and increases search effort and decision quality under outcome accountability. In contrast, we argue that employing a causal chain under process accountability decreases search efforts and does not spur a similar increase in decision quality. We conduct an eye-tracking experiment in which participants decide on the amount of funding for a value-creating project after observing prior balanced scorecard performance data. Our results are consistent with our expectations and reveal that accountability type and causal chain framing interact. Under outcome accountability, providing a causal chain is paramount to achieve high decision quality. When process accountability is employed, however, providing a causal chain reduces information search effort and does not improve decision-making. We discuss important implications of our findings for management accounting research and practice.

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Accounting, Organizations and Society
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Dalla Via, N., Perego, P., & van Rinsum, M. (2018). How accountability type influences information search processes and decision quality. Accounting, Organizations and Society. doi:10.1016/j.aos.2018.10.001