Trade Like a Scientist

Doc Steenbarger has a terrific 3 part series on trading like a scientist. All three posts are short and easily digestable, but here’s what stood out to me:

• Observation and deduction are the key to developing a trading strategy;

• Understand what is meaningful and what is random.

• Scientists have humility; They know their best theories are only approximations of reality.

• Knowledge, for a true scientist, is always provisional;  Ongoing empirical tests generate further additional observations and revisions.

• Scientists remain open to data that may invalidate their hypothesis.

• Scientists focus on the process and not the outcome. A single winning or losing trade does not prove a strategy works — but it does provide some additional data.

• The aim of Science is to understand through observable phenomna, what is going on in reality. This, Scientific traders do not "Trade Without Understanding;"

• Since all scientists understand probabilities, they never Oversize positions;

• Recognizing errors is key to an objective mind. Thus, why Traders should be prepared to admit error: never average down, and always use stop losses. 

Good stuff, Doc. Thanks!


Trade Like a Scientist – Part One: The Scientific Mindset
Brett Steenbarger
TraderFeed, June 15, 2007

What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. ECONOMISTA NON GRATA commented on Jun 24


    Doc Steenbarger omited the most important part.

    Reading “The Secret” and imagining yourself as the owner of a private equity firm.

    Best regards,


  2. drsqueeze commented on Jun 24

    Speaking of website design, BS easily has the ugliest site, with that green on green scheme.

  3. tom B commented on Jun 24

    “• Knowledge, for a true scientist, is always provisional; Ongoing empirical tests generate further additional observations and revisions.”

    Exactly right. As a scientist, when my ideas aren’t working, I am forever ready to “move on” and re-think my position. You gotta be.

  4. Charles Faulkner commented on Jun 24

    From what I have read, i find both you and Steenbarger intelligent and seriously attempting to be helpful. And with this posting, I have reason to believe neither of you know any real scientists, especially ones of any repute. How science is made and how it is reported is much closer to how fortunes are made and how they are explained than the ideals presented for school children and the last fool. See the fine work of James Montier whom you quote or almost anything by Nassim Taleb.

  5. Wallus Flyus commented on Jun 24

    Charles F,
    not attempting to start a slingfest here, and I have to admit that I have no idea what you mean by “How science is made and how it is reported is much closer to how fortunes are made and how they are explained than the ideals presented for school children and the last fool.”

    But I must defend ‘real’ scientists as hard working, honest, and open minded.
    I must surmise that _you’ve_ never worked with or met a ‘real’ scientists of repute.

    Further I suspect you’ve never worked with Taleb. When you say ‘see the fine work’ I suppose you are referring to the books he’s written, as opposed to the returns his theories have earned for his clients.

  6. Charles Faulkner commented on Jun 25

    No “slingfest” intended. If you look at Behavioral Finance researchers (kahneman, Tversky, Thaler et al) or ‘users’ like Montier & Taleb, you’ll find that objectivity is very difficult to achieve, even for honest, hard-working, well-intended scientists. Scientists, as humans, have biases. Great science has been done when scientists have insisted their hypothesis was correct despite current evidence … and also great errors.

    My point was that Steenbarger’s appeal to this laudable ideal did not accurately represent the intense thought and extensive effort required nor the unlikeliness of ever finally achieving it.

    Meanwhile, my reference to “fine work” referred to the actual published research of James Montier.

  7. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jun 25

    I am no scientist — I was originally an Applied Mathematics and Physics double major undergrad, before switching to *B&B in my zenior year.

    But I know plenty of scientists, engineers, programmers — people who use the scientific method or some variation of it to do their work.

    The concept I am referencing for Traders is the idea of objective perspectives, validating a thesis through research and testing, and avoiding hunches or emotional trading…


    * B&B = beer & broads

  8. Bill a.k.a. NO DooDahs commented on Jun 25

    Have you back-validated the processes which led you to the various, repeated Business Week year-end projections of future stock market crashes? I mean, we’ve got four days left still, but the Dow would have to fall about 2,700 points to meet your mid-year prediction …

    BR: No, Bill, I don’t believe in forecasts

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