Jerry Yang, a 29 year-old psychologist and social worker who works for a fostering agency, has won a cool $8.25 million at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Yang put some of his success down to his training in psychology, but do psychologists make better poker players?
There’s no direct evidence that they do, despite what they might try to tell you at the table, but some research suggests they might have an advantage in a few of the key skills.
In terms of dealing with the interaction between social influence and risky financial decisions, a study by Dr. Andreas Roider found that psychologists made, on average, three times as much money as economists and physicists in an online trading game because they were less swayed by the ‘herd instinct’
The scientific paper [pdf] contains an interesting snippet:
Maybe it does not come as a surprise that when we look at selected fields of study, physicists perform the best in terms of “rationality” (i.e., performance according to theory) and psychologists the worst. However, since “rational” behavior is profitable only when other subjects behave rationally as well, good performance in terms of “rationality” does not imply good performance in terms of profits. Indeed, the ranking in terms of profits is just the opposite: psychologists are the best and physicists the worst.
In other words, psychologists were better at understanding how people actually behave, as opposed to how they should behave if they were choosing the most mathematically correct strategy.
How much this applies to a game influenced heavily by chance, is, of course, another matter.
Link to Forbes article on Yang’s win.
Link to ScienceDaily on psychologists’ skills in lie detection.
Link to Medical News on psychologists as traders.
Link to Science News article on detecting deception.