The Effects of Information Acquisition Effort, Psychological Ownership, and Reporting Context on Opportunistic Managerial Reporting

Katlijn Haesebrouck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Within the context of managerial reporting, the tasks of acquiring and reporting information are logically connected. Although the accounting literature acknowledges their importance, it often treats these tasks as distinct processes. I investigate how the effort exerted to acquire information influences managers’ reporting. Managers’ information acquisition effort can induce psychological ownership that can lead to a sense of deservingness that increases opportunistic reporting or to a sense of responsibility that reduces opportunism. I predict that the reporting context determines the ultimate effect of information acquisition effort on reporting behavior. I test this prediction with a 2×2 budget reporting experiment. Managers are either endowed with information to report or required to exert effort to earn it, with the latter expected to generate more psychological ownership. In addition, I manipulate the saliency of honesty in the reporting context by framing reporting in terms of a business dilemma (less salient honesty) or an ethical dilemma (more salient honesty). I find that when honesty is less salient, managers build more slack into their report under earned information than endowed information. In contrast, more salient honesty alleviates the effect of earned information on slack. In a supplemental experiment, I find similar results when all managers are endowed with information to report but psychological ownership is manipulated via different firm messaging. These results have important implications for theory and practice. For example, in a less salient honesty context, technological investments that reduce managers’ effort needed to acquire information can also help decrease opportunistic reporting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3085-3112
Number of pages28
JournalContemporary Accounting Research
Issue number4
Early online date25 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • information acquisition effort
  • opportunistic reporting
  • other-regarding preferences
  • honesty preferences
  • psychological ownership
  • experiment

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