A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Psychological Realism and Poker

During my post-doctoral years I played poker very seriously. For a while, my poker library grew much faster than my psychology library, and I became a profitable mid-level player. I have played very little since my post-doc ended, but I think the experience was valuable. For one thing, the mathematics of poker is fascinating, and I still nurture a hope of one day teaching a "Statistics of Poker" seminar. For another thing, I think poker provides an excellent context for thinking through theories of psychology. On the surface, poker seems like it is a game about cards, and on the surface it is. However, you don't need to get much below surface-level to see that poker is primarily a game about the behavior of the other players. The player on your right just put in a big bet: Does he have a big hand? Is he bluffing? What does he think you have, and how does he think you will respond? Given what he might have and what he thinks you might have, if you put in a huge re-reraise, how will he respond? The layers of analysis that can be applied to these situations is fun, but not really on topic for this post (though I talked a little about it here). Instead, I want to delve into a very typical poker situation from the point of view of a psychological realist vs. a dualist.

Note that this is a preliminary analysis that I hope to develop further, and I would love any feedback.