Salience theory and stock prices: Empirical evidence

Mathijs Cosemans, Rik Frehen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


We present empirical evidence on the asset pricing implications of salience theory. In our model, investors overweight salient past returns when forming expectations about future returns. Consequently, investors are attracted to stocks with salient upsides, which are overvalued and earn low subsequent returns. Conversely, stocks with salient downsides are undervalued and yield high future returns. We find strong empirical support for these predictions in the cross-section of U.S. stocks. The salience effect is stronger among stocks with greater limits to arbitrage and during high-sentiment periods and not explained by common risk factors and proxies for lottery demand and investor attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-483
JournalJournal of Financial Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • salience theory
  • probability weighting
  • asset pricing
  • return predictability


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