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Is there a strategy to rock-paper-scissors ?


Posted on Sunday, 4 May, 2014 | Comment icon 18 comments

Rock beats scissors. Image Credit: James Bamber
The game might seem to offer equal odds of victory but there is actually a way to obtain an advantage.
The odds of winning any given round of rock-paper-scissors when each player chooses an action at random should be 1 in 3, however in practice most people tend to stick to certain behaviors and patterns which makes predicting their next move much easier.

In a recent study scientists held a rock-paper-scissors tournament at Zhejiang University in China involving 360 students who each played 300 rounds. The researchers documented the actions played in each of the games and then examined the results to look for any obvious patterns.

Their findings showed that players who had won a hand tended to use the same action again on the subsequent turn, while players who lost a hand tended to change their next action to something else.

This "win-stay lose-shift" strategy may in fact be hard-wired in to the brain and by carefully observing and predicting an opponents actions during a match it is indeed possible to gain a distinct advantage over the course of the game.

Source: BBC News | Comments (18)

Tags: Rock, Paper, Scissors

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by ancient astronaut on 5 May, 2014, 3:29
I prefer Roshambo.
Comment icon #10 Posted by paperdyer on 5 May, 2014, 11:32
Did you even read the article? These results have applications in psychology, game theory and neuroscience. It's a study in noncooperative strategic interactions, but you just see rock paper scissors. Much more data would need to be derived. I would prefer to use the term "programmed" rather than hardwired. With the current educational systems, children are being taught what to think and how to get to those "logical" conclusions and how to think. Granted a framework for logical thinking needs to be introduced in education. The only "good" I can see coming out of this is new ways to control the... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by highdesert50 on 5 May, 2014, 12:03
Perhaps a bit of behavioral insight into evolutionary psychology ... if you observe your buddy successfully evading a predator, would you also perform the same evasion strategy? This is an evolved psychological adaptation to recurring problems in the ancestral environment.
Comment icon #12 Posted by :PsYKoTiC:BeHAvIoR: on 5 May, 2014, 14:23
So how much money was thrown at these "scientists" for this ever so important study? Haha. I'm sure this study is funded by Casino owners so they can optimize their odds in their favors.
Comment icon #13 Posted by DigitalDreamer on 5 May, 2014, 15:04
Ah yes another pseudo science fact that will will awe the masses, really? Trying to find out if there is skill in a game with only 3 outcomes? i couldn't face palm at the force i want to or i would fracture my skull
Comment icon #14 Posted by Kenemet on 5 May, 2014, 15:32
Many thanks for the link! I'm studying game theory... and this has some interesting ties to the Monty Hall problem. The Nash Equilibrium is something that completely fascinates me. I will have to go find and download the original paper.
Comment icon #15 Posted by YukiEsmaElite0 on 5 May, 2014, 17:10
Looks like I now stand a higher chance of first for the shower around my house...
Comment icon #16 Posted by The Black Ghost on 5 May, 2014, 23:57
What everyone forgets is that rock-paper-scissors IS perfectly fair if you only go one round. But popularly we always do the "best out of three" which actually reduces the chance for a fair outcome.
Comment icon #17 Posted by seeder on 6 May, 2014, 18:17
Meet the "rock, paper, scissors" robot that never loses.
Comment icon #18 Posted by White Crane Feather on 7 May, 2014, 15:51
When I was a kid I cheated. You start with rock and you time your hand just a moment after the other persons hand, and you open or close or make scissors after the other position is already revealed. Sneaky I know... My friends could never beat me. I don't cheat anymore but I think my oldest son has figured out because he always beats his brother.


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