The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 11, No. 1 Spring 1984
Lee D. Parker
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
THE BEHAVIOURAL IMPACT OF BUDGETS: EARLY ACCOUNTING CONTRIBUTIONS
Abstract: Accounting writers have invariably referred to the accounting literature of the 1960s and 1970s as the earliest source of discussion about the impact of budgets upon manager behaviour. This short paper identifies a number of account-ing writers of earlier decades, whose contribution to this subject has to date been overlooked.
Beyond the seminal work on behavioural aspects of budgeting published by Argyris1 in 1957, accounting writers have looked to the accounting literature of the 1960s and 1970s as the source of ob-servations and discussion about the behavioural impact of budgets. This short paper pays due recognition to the insights offered by ac-counting writers in earlier decades. While they formed a decided minority relative to the mainstream of accounting writers, the pre-science of their contribution should not be ignored. Accordingly, this paper seeks to establish their unique place in the behavioural accounting tradition.
From the 1930s onwards, just a few accounting writers observed the budget's growing unpopularity. McGladrey2 noted for budgets that "their value is about in inverse ratio to their popularity." Such unfavourable attitudes were observed to exist in businessmen and laymen alike, particularly where budgets had been used to exert re-lentless pressure for improved performance. For many, budgets had become a symbol of oppressive action to be regarded with sus-picion and mistrust.3 Yet the writers who observed such budgetary unpopularity often failed to recognise the associated range of causes. Discussion of causes mostly came from others who did not appear to have considered to what extent the resulting problems had caused budgetary unpopularity.