Analysis

Internal Auditors “Immune” to Beauty

If you are looking to pull a fast one past internal auditors, don’t rely on your looks.

A new study argues that, unlike most people, internal auditors are “immunized” from a person’s attractiveness and will move against fraud when presented with the facts.

“Independence and objectivity are the chief principles assumed to underlie internal auditors’ fraud-risk judgments.” the study released last week states. “However, a substantial body of evidence regarding attractiveness stereotyping and the attractiveness halo effect suggests that physical attractiveness of potential suspects may influence internal auditors’ fraud-risk judgments according to the proverb “what is beautiful is good.’”

The study, conducted by researchers at the a University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, attempted to test whether internal auditors are susceptible to “appearance-related biases.”

Researchers tested 193 internal auditors by presenting them with a misappropriation-of-assets scenario, “in which the attractiveness of a suspect was manipulated” by presenting them with both “attractive” and “unattractive” suspects. The internal auditor reactions were then tested against 240 control subjects with no auditing experience.

While both the internal auditors and non-auditors showed bias when presented with an attractive fraudster, only the internal auditors had a “high motivation to correct for the perceived influence of the attractiveness halo effect when making fraud-risk judgments.”

“Our findings demonstrate that internal auditors’ experience and motivation immunize them to the well-documented phenomena of physical attractiveness stereotyping and the attractiveness halo effect – at least when fraud risk judgments do not involve face-to-face interactions,” the study concluded.  “In line with our predictions attractiveness modulated naïve subjects’ fraud-risk judgments, whereas internal auditors did not show any indication for appearance-related biases.”