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Social Poker

July 25, 2012

Neuroscientists used poker games and MRI scans to separate social from purely strategic decision making.



Poker as a scientific tool.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Brain scans of people playing poker are helping neuroscientists understand decision-making.  Researchers at Duke University, including Scott Huetell, wanted to find out if the brain handles social information separately when making a decision. So they had volunteers play video poker, either against another person or the computer. Huetell says the volunteers’  brains behaved similarly in both conditions, except in a region called the temporal-parietal junction.

SCOTT HUETELL (Duke University):

That is, this region predicts how people were going to play the poker game, but only when they’re playing a real human opponent.

Specifically, the region indicated whether or not players would try bluffing their  opponents – even though they bluffed against the computer as well.  The results suggest that our brains may play by different decision-making rules when other people are involved.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.