The Accountable Animal: Naturalising the management control problem Defended on Thursday, 2 July 2015

In this dissertation we investigate two themes around the topic of social relations in management control structures. We use developments in neuroscience and eye-tracking to supplement the traditional psychological and economic perspective on management accounting.

First, process accountability changes processes of judgement and problem solving. Some mental processes are more difficult to access introspectively than others, and this opacity makes it troublesome to account for them, even if they are useful for making judgements and solving problems. Process accountability drives people away from affective judgements and insight solutions, leading to impoverished performance on various tasks. This goes against the received wisdom that process accountability improves judgements and decisions. We supply unique evidence on this shift through EEG and eye-tracking measures.

Second, neuroscience has recently made important advances on emotion recognition. We use this theoretical perspective to explain controller behaviour. It is important to know what determines a controller’s propensity to compromise on integrity under social pressure from business unit management. We look at the suppression of EEG mu waves in the sensorimotor cortex while observing emotional facial expressions, and find it explains a substantial part of variation in controllers’ responses to professional dilemmas.


Accountability; affective judgement; affect disruption; insight solutions; hemispheric differences; controllers; reporting integrity; mirror neurons; EEG; eye-tracking

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