Managing Threats to Identity: The Accountability Triangle and Strategic Accounting

Vivian C SHEER, Michael F. Weigold

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Individuals generate accounts to deflect threats to identity posed by undesired events or outcomes. The triangle model of accountability proposes that an actor's accountability is a function of the combined strength of three linkages: a prescription-event link (the clarity of the rules of conduct for the event), a prescription-identity link (the applicability of the rules to the actor), and an identity-event link (the perceived control the actor has over the event). Subjects were asked to choose among various accounts related to each of the three linkages. We predicted that when only one link was weak or ambiguous, preferred accounts would focus on the ambiguous link. Results were consistent with our hypotheses. The strengths of individual linkages of the accountability triangle are an important determinant of strategic accounting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-611
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1995

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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