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Psychol Bull. 1999 Mar;125(2):255-75.

Accounting for the effects of accountability.

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  • 1Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-3890, USA.


This article reviews the now extensive research literature addressing the impact of accountability on a wide range of social judgments and choices. It focuses on 4 issues: (a) What impact do various accountability ground rules have on thoughts, feelings, and action? (b) Under what conditions will accountability attenuate, have no effect on, or amplify cognitive biases? (c) Does accountability alter how people think or merely what people say they think? and (d) What goals do accountable decision makers seek to achieve? In addition, this review explores the broader implications of accountability research. It highlights the utility of treating thought as a process of internalized dialogue; the importance of documenting social and institutional boundary conditions on putative cognitive biases; and the potential to craft empirical answers to such applied problems as how to structure accountability relationships in organizations.

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