Best Poker Face?

A new study out of Wellesley University led by Dr. Erik Schlicht investigated “whether and opponent’s face influences players’ wagering decisions in a zero-sum game with hidden information”. In this case, the game they used in their study was Texas Hold’em Poker.   

Schlicht and his team asked participants to make “risky” choices while simultaneously being presented with opponents whose faces “differentially correlated with subjective impressions of trust”. In short, participants were forced to make difficult decisions while seeing a face that was either untrustworthy, neutral or trustworthy.

But what exactly is an untrustworthy or trustworthy face?

According to research out of Princeton University, a trustworthy face looks like this:

Credit: Oosterhof & Todorov

The expression seems to have a slight smile and the eyebrows turned slightly up.

By using an expression simliar to the one shown above, Schlicht and his team of researchers found that “threatening face information has little influence on wagering behavior, but faces relaying positive emotional characteristics impact people’s decisions”.

According to the abstract of the study, Schlicht concluded that “the best “poker face” for bluffing may not be a neutral face, but rather a face that contains emotional correlates of trustworthiness”.

The study which was published on July 21, 2010 in PLoS One is titled “Human Wagering Behavior Depends on Opponent’s Faces”.

The complete article can be found here.

Complete information regarding Princeton’s study of trustworthy and untrustworthy faces can be found here.

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