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Impression Management and Retrospective Sense-Making in Corporate Annual Reports: Banks’ Graphical Reporting During the Global Financial Crisis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
Early online date9 Jun 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 1 May 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 9 Jun 2017


This study investigates two potentially complementary reporting scenarios in annual reports: reactive impression management and retrospective sense-making. It examines stock market performance graphs in European listed banks’ annual reports before and during the global financial crisis. Our results indicate that banks reacted to the global financial crisis by omitting stock market performance graphs from the annual report and from its most prominent sections. On the other hand, banks reduced favorable distortions and favorable performance comparisons. No significant evidence of retrospective sense-making is found. Overall, the findings are consistent with impression management incorporating human cognitive biases, with companies preferring misrepresentation by omission over misrepresentation by commission. Under high public scrutiny, banks appear to seek to provide a more favorable view by concealing negative information rather than by favorable distortions or comparisons. The study contributes to the development of impression management theories. It uses a psychological interpretation that incorporates human cognitive biases, rather than adopting a purely economically based perspective.

    Research areas

  • Graphs, impression management, omission bias, retrospective sense-making, stock market performance

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Sage at Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 712 KB, PDF-document


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