Trustworthy people can get away with bluffing more

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Posted on Nov 3rd 2010  -  Subject: Trustworthy people can get away with bluffing more

Recent research by Erik Schlicht funded by a Japan Science and Technology grant have determined that people who look trustworthy are more likely to be believed when they bluff and therefore get more folds from opponents.

Previous research in competitive games has focused on how opponent models are developed through previous outcomes and how peoples' decisions relate to normative predictions.

The goal of the research was to determine whether an opponent's face influences players' wagering decisions in a zero-sum game with hidden information. Participants made risky choices in a simplified poker task while being presented opponents whose faces differentially correlated with subjective impressions of trust (untrustworthy looking, neutral/blank, and trustworthy/friendly). Surprisingly, having a threatening face has little influence on wagering behavior, but faces relaying positive emotional characteristics impact peoples' decisions. Thus, people took significantly longer and made more mistakes against emotionally positive opponents.

According to these results, the best “poker face” for bluffing may not be a neutral face, but rather a face that contains emotional correlates of trustworthiness. Moreover, it suggests that rapid impressions of an opponent play an important role in competitive games, especially when people have little or no experience with an opponent.

"The current study suggests that poker players make a rapid assessment of opponents’ facial expression and use that information to make a decision about the opponents’ behaviors and their intentions. Other studies indicate that this assessment occurs within the first tenth of a second and may involve the amygdala, the brain region known to process information about memory and emotions. We size someone up, so to speak, based on our first impression of his face, and assume that he will behave according to how he looks. In this case, we assume that a trustworthy-looking person would not bluff as much as a neutral- or untrustworthy-looking one."

The research was conducted in a vacuum of sorts (e.g. controlled environment). In an actual poker game, poker players observe and mentally record betting and bluffing patterns after each round to factor into their resulting decisions. But if you are playing with opponents who don't understand or follow those strategies, then appearing trustworthy (rather than appearing threatening or keeping a passive/blank poker face) will induce your opponents to make mistakes and fold more often.

Source:  Brainblogger

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