Managerial Optimism: New Observations on the Unifying Theory

European Financial Management (2019)

Posted: 19 Apr 2019 Last revised: 22 Nov 2020

Date Written: June 12, 2019


Managerial optimism is behavioral finance's greatest achievement. It explains two prominent features of corporate financial behavior - over-investment and pecking order capital structure preferences - that otherwise require two different theories with mutually incompatible assumptions about managerial loyalties to shareholder-value maximization. After reviewing the development of managerial optimism as a unifying theory, I use a simple change-of-measure to transform risk-averse optimism to risk-neutral probabilities that can be pessimistic or optimistic depending on wealth changes. This unexplored feature has implications for, among other things, pay for performance when managers are excessively optimistic.

Keywords: behavioral corporate finance, managerial optimism, agency cost theory, asymmetric information theory, pay for performance

Suggested Citation

Heaton, J.B., Managerial Optimism: New Observations on the Unifying Theory (June 12, 2019). European Financial Management (2019), Available at SSRN: or

J.B. Heaton (Contact Author)

One Hat Research LLC ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States


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