South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, Vol 13, No 4 (2010)

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The concept of a scale in accounting measurement

Saltiel Wedzerai Musvoto, Daan Gouws


Accountants generally believe that accounting is a measurement discipline. Every process of measurement should specify a scale of some kind that makes it possible to distinguish the extent to which every object in a particular class possesses a specified property. However, accounting theory has not specified the scales of measurement that can be used to distinguish the extent to which every object in a particular class of accounting phenomena (e.g., class of current assets) possesses a specified property.

The objective of this article is to investigate the nature of the application of the concept of a scale in accounting measurement. This study compares the practices of accounting measurement with the principles of the representational theory of measurement to determine if the attributes of accounting phenomena are measured on well-founded scales. The results of this study indicate that the concept of the representational scale is misapplied in the accounting discipline. Since, the principles of representation measurement are hinged on the assumption that a discipline can only be considered to be a measurement discipline if the dimensions and qualities the phenomena that are being studied are measurable on well-founded scales, then, these findings suggest that accounting is not a measurement discipline.

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