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Option traders use (very) sophisticated heuristics, never the Black-Scholes-Merton formula

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  • Haug, Espen Gaarder
  • Taleb, Nassim Nicholas

Abstract

Option traders use a heuristically derived pricing formula which they adapt by fudging and changing the tails and skewness by varying one parameter, the standard deviation of a Gaussian. Such formula is popularly called "Black-Scholes-Merton" owing to an attributed eponymous discovery (though changing the standard deviation parameter is in contradiction with it). However, we have historical evidence that: (1) the said Black, Scholes and Merton did not invent any formula, just found an argument to make a well known (and used) formula compatible with the economics establishment, by removing the "risk" parameter through "dynamic hedging", (2) option traders use (and evidently have used since 1902) sophisticated heuristics and tricks more compatible with the previous versions of the formula of Louis Bachelier and Edward O. Thorp (that allow a broad choice of probability distributions) and removed the risk parameter using put-call parity, (3) option traders did not use the Black-Scholes-Merton formula or similar formulas after 1973 but continued their bottom-up heuristics more robust to the high impact rare event. The paper draws on historical trading methods and 19th and early 20th century references ignored by the finance literature. It is time to stop using the wrong designation for option pricing.

Suggested Citation

  • Haug, Espen Gaarder & Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, 2011. "Option traders use (very) sophisticated heuristics, never the Black-Scholes-Merton formula," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 97-106, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:2:p:97-106
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. N. N. Taleb & R. Douady, 2013. "Mathematical definition, mapping, and detection of (anti)fragility," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(11), pages 1677-1689, November.
    2. Turner, John D., 2014. "Financial history and financial economics," QUCEH Working Paper Series 14-03, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    3. Cole, John A. & Cadogan, Godfrey, 2014. "Bankruptcy risk induced by career concerns of regulators," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 259-271.
    4. Timothy Johnson, 2015. "Reciprocity as a Foundation of Financial Economics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(1), pages 43-67, September.
    5. Bos, Frits & Zwaneveld, Peter, 2014. "Reële opties en de waarde van flexibiliteit bij natte infrastructuur
      [Real options analysis and the value of flexibility for (wet) infrastructure]
      ," MPRA Paper 61506, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Millo, Yuval & Schinckus, Christophe, 2016. "A nuanced perspective on episteme and techne in finance," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 124-130.
    7. Wallace, Rodrick & Fullilove, Robert E., 2014. "State policy and the political economy of criminal enterprise: mass incarceration and persistent organized hyperviolence in the USA," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 17-31.
    8. Forbes, William & Hudson, Robert & Skerratt, Len & Soufian, Mona, 2015. "Which heuristics can aid financial-decision-making?," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 199-210.
    9. Timothy C. Johnson, 2013. "Reciprocity as the foundation of Financial Economics," Papers 1310.2798, arXiv.org.
    10. Jovanovic, Franck & Schinckus, Christophe, 2017. "Econophysics and Financial Economics: An Emerging Dialogue," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780190205034.

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