Machiavelli as a poker mate - a naturalistic behavioural study on strategic deception

Palomäki, Jussi and Yan, Jeff and Laakasuo, Michael (2016) Machiavelli as a poker mate - a naturalistic behavioural study on strategic deception. Personality and Individual Differences, 98. pp. 266-271. ISSN 0191-8869 (

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Machiavellianism has been considered in the literature as the symbol for manipulative strategies in social conduct. However, it has been rarely studied via behavioural experiments outside the laboratory, in more naturalistic settings. We report the first behavioural study (N = 490) evaluating whether Machiavellian individuals, high Machs, deceive more than low Machs in online poker, where deception is ethically acceptable and strategically beneficial. Specifically, we evaluated Machiavellianism, bluffing patterns, and emotional sensitivity to getting "slow-played" ("stepping into a trap"). Bluffing was assessed by realistic poker tasks wherein participants made decisions to bluff or not, and sensitivity to slow-play by a self-report measure. We found that high Machs had higher average bluffsizes than low Machs (but not higher bluffing frequency) and were more distraught by getting slow-played. The Machiavellian sub-trait "desire for control" also positively predicted bluffing frequency. We show that online poker can be utilized to investigate the psychology of deception and Machiavellianism. The results also illustrate a conceptual link between unethical and ethical types of deception, as Machiavellianism is implicated in both.