Model-free causality detection: An application to social media and financial data

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • University College London


According to behavioral finance, stock market returns are influenced by emotional, social and psychological factors. Several recent works support this theory by providing evidence of correlation between stock market prices and collective sentiment indexes measured using social media data. However, a pure correlation analysis is not sufficient to prove that stock market returns are influenced by such emotional factors since both stock market prices and collective sentiment may be driven by a third unmeasured factor. Controlling for factors that could influence the study by applying multivariate regression models is challenging given the complexity of stock market data. False assumptions about the linearity or non-linearity of the model and inaccuracies on model specification may result in misleading conclusions.

In this work, we propose a novel framework for causal inference that does not require any assumption about a particular parametric form of the model expressing statistical relationships among the variables of the study and can effectively control a large number of observed factors. We apply our method in order to estimate the causal impact that information posted in social media may have on stock market returns of four big companies. Our results indicate that social media data not only correlate with stock market returns but also influence them.


Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Early online date4 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2017


  • causality , social media , stock market , sentiment tracking , time-series