Australasian Accounting Business and Finance Journal

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to replicate the research of Davis (1989) to test the decision usefulness of different information presentations as alternatives to financial information that would normally be represented as numbers. A laboratory experiment, based upon Davis’ (1989) study, was conducted using a within subject experimental design to test for information effects. The experiment consisted of two groups with fifteen subjects in each. Decision usefulness was measured from the perspective of a user’s efficiency and effectiveness (operationalised as accuracy and response time) in answering questions of different levels of complexity. Evidence of the superior effectiveness and efficiency of one form of information presentation over another was found only at the lowest level of question complexity. The results of this study are not consistent across the range of findings expressed by Davis (1989) and So and Smith (2004). The model does however provide a robust tool for assessing the decision usefulness of different forms of information presentations. The restricted number of subjects and the use of surrogates may present as a limitation to generalisability. However, the nature of the financial information and the task were suitably matched to the expectations of the knowledge and experience of the student surrogates. The results suggest that tables, bar graphs and line graphs are appropriate information presentations to use in general purpose financial reports when decision performance is being measured in terms of a user’s efficiency and effectiveness.

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