Can there be a physics of financial markets? Methodological reflections on econophysics
1 ETH Zurich, Department of Management, Technology and Economics, Scheuchzerstrasse 7, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2 Swiss Finance Institute, 40, Boulevard du Pont-d‗Arve, Case Postale 3 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland
Received: 10 May 2016
Revised: 15 September 2016
Published online: 22 December 2016
We address the question whether there can be a physical science of financial markets. In particular, we examine the argument that, given the reflexivity of financial markets (i.e., the feedback mechanism between expectations and prices), there is a fundamental difference between social and physical systems, which demands a new scientific method. By providing a selective history of the mutual cross-fertilization between physics and economics, we reflect on the methodological differences of how models and theories get constructed in these fields. We argue that the novel conception of financial markets as complex adaptive systems is one of the most important contributions of econophysics and show that this field of research provides the methods, concepts, and tools to scientifically account for reflexivity. We conclude by arguing that a new science of economic and financial systems should not only be physics-based, but needs to integrate findings from other scientific fields, so that a truly multi-disciplinary complex systems science of financial markets can be built.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag, 2016