Does Graph Design Matter To CPAs And Financial Statement Readers?

Deanna Oxender Burgess, William N. Dilla, Paul John Steinbart, Todd M. Shank


We asked CPAs and financial statement readers if they believe distorted graphs influence judgments and if they think there is a need for standards governing their presentation and attestation in annual reports. We consider these important questions because decades of studies document that distorted graphs commonly appear in annual reports even though there is considerable evidence that such graphs influence readers’ judgments.  Our results show that professionals are aware of the potential influence of graphical distortion, believe that standards are needed to assist in preparing graphs of financial information to be included in annual reports, and agree that auditors should be required to provide assurance about the accuracy of such graphs.

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