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Not a Poker Face But Arms That Signal Confidence

Not a Poker Face But Arms That Signal ConfidenceIn a new study, college students were better able to measure the confidence of a poker player by watching arm movements versus facial movements.

Rather than simply working on their “poker face” (in which a player tries to show no facial emotions), players may want to brush up on hiding their emotions in their body language as well — particularly in their arms as they are pushing chips forward during bet making.

For the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers from Tufts University conducted three experiments in which participants watched video clips designed to examine the confidence level of poker players.

In order to see whether players unknowingly expressed their confidence (or lack of it) with their arm movements, the researchers recorded professional poker players during a tournament. They then recruited 78 college students to watch 20 two second videos edited from the tapes to see if they could guess how the players felt about their hands.

Participants were divided into three groups, with each group watching a different type of video.

The first group watched videos that showed just the faces and torsos of players in action. While watching these clips, the participants did worse than chance at guessing player confidence.

The second group watched clips that showed just the arms and torsos of players in action.

This time, the volunteers did much better than chance at guessing the confidence of the players (based on how the game turned out after the players revealed their cards).

The third group watched the same clips that featured only the arms and torsos and then rated how confident they felt the player appeared and how smoothly they moved their arms.

Those with a better stack of cards were rated as more confident, and they moved more smoothly than did those with poor cards.

Based on these results, the researchers suggest that in spite of years of working on their poker face, professional poker players have not eliminated other obvious types of body language that can give away their confidence levels.

The findings show that even simple body language clues, such as the way a person moves their arms, can reveal how confident a person is feeling.

Source:  Psychological Science

Not a Poker Face But Arms That Signal Confidence

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Not a Poker Face But Arms That Signal Confidence. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 21 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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