News

Here’s How to Win Your Next Crucial Rock, Paper, Scissors Battle

Tampa Bay Rays outfielders Kelly Johnson, Desmond Jennings and Sam Fuld, from right, play the children's game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" after beating the Boston Red Sox 3-0 in a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, July 22, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Tampa Bay Rays outfielders Kelly Johnson, Desmond Jennings and Sam Fuld, from right, play the children's game "Rock, Paper, Scissors.”Charles Krupa/AP

There are many strategies for winning a heated game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. As most people do, you can attempt randomization. You can take a more pyschological route and try to confuse your opponent. Or, if you’re not morally bound to peaceful interactions, you can try to physically intimidate any adversaries. Unfortunately, researchers say all of those strategies are wrong.

A team at China’s Zhejiang University studied the game only to find that there is a pattern to what option people choose, even when they are trying to keep selections randomized.

The study, which was published in MIT’s Technology Review, found that players who win a round tend to throw the same action the next round. Those who lose move to the next action in this order: rock, paper, scissors, rock, paper, and so on.

Advertisement—Continue Reading Below

From Technology Review:

This is known in game theory as a conditional response and has never been observed before in Rock-Paper-Scissors experiments. Zhijian and co speculate that this is probably because previous experiments have all been done on a much smaller scale.

"This game exhibits collective cyclic motions which cannot be understood by the Nash Equilibrium concept but are successfully explained by the empirical data-inspired conditional response mechanism," say Zhijian and co.

In fact, a "win-stay, lose-shift" strategy is entirely plausible from a psychological point of view: people tend to stick with a winning strategy.

That could be useful the next time you find yourself in a heated battle of rock, paper, scissors, but keep in mind the trend might not pan out unless you’re playing a best-of-375 series.

(H/T Policy Mic)

Share