Three Decades of Behavioral Accounting Research: A Search For Order

Jacob G. Birnberg and Jeffrey F. Shields
The intent of this paper is to cluster the Behavioral Accounting Research (BAR) since the work of Argyris [1952] into meaningful groupings based on the underlying research issue which the studies pursue. For convenience, these clusters are referred to as "schools within BAR." Five schools are identified and discussed. These schools are: Managerial Control, Accounting Information Processing, Accounting Information System Design, Auditing Research, and Organizational Sociology. Several other clusters were considered and rejected as possible schools of BAR for a variety of reasons.

The Managerial Control and Accounting Information Processing schools are the earliest examples of BAR. The former draws directly on the seminal work of Argyris [1952]. The latter is an outgrowth of problems present in financial accounting during the 1950s and 1960s. Over the past 30 years, both the questions researched by these two schools and the methods used to research them have changed. The other three schools are more recent in their origins. The first two date from the mid-1970s and the Organizational Sociology school in BAR began in the 1980s. Special note is taken in the discussion of the Organizational Sociology's unique orientation among BAR schools both intellectually and methodologically. It is conjectured that in the future this could be a significant factor in organizing and understanding BAR.

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