Friday, December 23, 2016

Biased Coin (Haghani & Dewey, 2016)

A recent paper by Haghani & Dewey (2016) sheds an unflattering light on subjects formally trained in finance as to their lack of basic knowledge with respect to probability and uncertainty – “If a high fraction of quantitatively sophisticated, financially trained individuals have so much difficulty in playing a simple game with a biased coin, what should we expect when it comes to the more complex and long-term task of investing one’s savings?” Though an otherwise interesting study, there are a couple of key points which do not receive adequate attention in the paper:
  • Financial: Though the median final bankroll of $10,504 is derived in the footnotes, there is not sufficient attention drawn to it in the paper itself. Time-Value automatically generates this value whereas Expected-Value generates the wholly unrealistic $3,220,637.
  • Psychological: The fallacy of “Playing With House Money” – “…you are offered a stake of $25 to take out your laptop to bet on the flip of a coin for thirty minutes.” What would have happened if the subjects had to pay $25 to play instead of being given it for free? 

No less a luminary in both the financial and gambling worlds than Ed Thorp says: “This is a great experiment for many reasons. It ought to become part of the basic education of anyone interested in finance or gambling.