Interpersonal brain synchronization under bluffing in strategic games

Zhihao Wang, Yiwen Wang*, Xiaolin Zhou*, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


People commonly use bluffing as a strategy to manipulate other people's beliefs about them for gain. Although bluffing is an important part of successful strategic thinking, the inter-brain mechanisms underlying bluffing remain unclear. Here, we employed a functional near-infrared spectroscopy hyperscanning technique to simultaneously record the brain activity in the right temporal-parietal junction in 32 pairs of participants when they played a bluffing game against each other or with computer opponents separately. We also manipulated the penalty for bluffing (high vs low). Under the condition of high relative to low penalty, results showed a higher bluffing rate and a higher calling rate in human-to-human as compared to human-to-computer pairing. At the neural level, high relative to low penalty condition increased the interpersonal brain synchronization (IBS) in the right angular gyrus (rAG) during human-to-human as compared to human-to-computer interaction. Importantly, bluffing relative to non-bluffing, under the high penalty and human-to-human condition, resulted in an increase in response time and enhanced IBS in the rAG. Participants who bluffed more frequently also elicited stronger IBS. Our findings support the view that regions associated with mentalizing become synchronized during bluffing games, especially under the high penalty and human-to-human condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1326-1335
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number12
Early online date13 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bluffing
  • FNIRS hyperscanning
  • Mentalizing
  • RAG


Dive into the research topics of 'Interpersonal brain synchronization under bluffing in strategic games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this