"Holier-than-thou" perception bias among professional accountants and accounting students in Germany

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


Research shows that individuals generally perceive themselves as being more ethical than their peers. This bias, known as "holier-than-thou" perception bias, has implications in accounting contexts because this bias may foster an unethical organizational culture. Specifically, individuals with "holier-than-thou" perception bias may justify their own unethical behavior as needed to compete with their peers. This study contributes to accounting research by examining German professionals from Big 4 accounting firms and German university accounting students. The first objective of this study is to examine whether "holier-than-thou" perception bias exists among both groups. The second objective of this paper is to examine whether the magnitude of "holier-than-thou" perception bias is larger for professionals compared to students. Data was collected through a survey questionnaire distributed to samples of professionals from big accounting firms and university accounting students. The results show that "holier-than-thou" perception bias exists in both groups. However, the magnitude of the difference in "holier-than-thou" perception bias between professional accountants and accounting students was not significant. The findings of this study contribute to the controversial and important topic of ethics in accounting. The findings also have implications for professional accountants, accounting firms, researchers and accounting education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364
Number of pages1
JournalProceedings of the IABE-2012 Venice- Summer Conference
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventInternational Academy of Business and Economics Meeting (17th : 2012) - Venice, Italy
Duration: 8 Jun 201210 Jun 2012


  • "Holier-than-thou" perception bias
  • 'Social Desirability Response Bias'
  • Organizational culture in Big 4 accounting firms
  • Germany


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