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Functional fixation : experimental evidence on the presentation of financial information through different digital formats

By Stuart Tooley, Erlane Ghani and Fawzi Laswad


This study examines whether, in the presentation of financial information, digital formats address the concern over users’ functional fixation. The accounting literature indicates that the presentation of financial information either within the financial statements or in the notes to the financial statements often creates functional fixation where users of financial statements fail to adjust for differences in accounting policy. This leads users to judge what would otherwise be identical financial situations as being different due to the different accounting policies and methods adopted. It has been suggested that the use of digital formats in presenting financial reports may overcome functional fixation. Using an experimental design involving accountants in public practice, the results indicate that the use of digital formats to present financial reports does not fully overcome the issue of functional fixation in the processing of financial information. Although the participants were able to identify and extract relevant information, irrespective of whether or not the information was presented within the financial statements or in the notes to the accounts, the evidence indicates that functional fixation remained when the participants made final decisions based on available information. This suggests that functional fixation may not be caused by access to or extraction of information but by the level of perceived significance based on where the information is reported in the financial statements. In general, the results indicate that current technology may not be able to fully reduce functional fixation in the evaluation of financial information prepared in accordance with different accounting policies and methods

Topics: 150199 Accounting Auditing and Accountability not elsewhere classified, Recognition, Disclosure, Functional fixation, Digital formats, Accountability
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/
OAI identifier:

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