Science behind Rock-Paper-Scissors

Scientists in China have found patterns in the age old game of Rock-Paper-Scissors employed by players.  Scientists found that, most players play with the about the same number of frequency of rock paper and scissors in a game, with each ‘weapon’ appearing 1/3 of the time.  However, they found that when a player wins, they will tend to stay with the ‘weapon’ that they are having success with.  The scientists argue that the best ‘move’ for a player to make during a game is to chose with random.  By using game theory, the scientists found that the best chance to win is presented when a player chooses a ‘weapon’ at random.  When not chosen at random, players create a pattern that can be recognized and exploited by other players.  All in all it is an interesting article regarding the game that everyone knows how to play.


3 thoughts on “Science behind Rock-Paper-Scissors”

  1. This actually makes a lot of intuitive sense. Repeated strategies in any game are easily caught onto by opponents. Since rock-paper-scissors has such a limited number of strategies, it’s not hard to see patterns. It also seems easier to model! Trying to find repeated strategies and building payoff matrices for, say, boxing is probably much harder despite the ability to randomize unique strategies as well as repeat certain strategies.

  2. I have been playing rock-paper-scissors ever since I can remember. Even when I went to visit family in Europe, many little disputes were settled via this simple yet elegant 1/3 strategy game. Of course in theory randomizing your weapon would give you the best chances of winning but in reality we seem to be creatures of habit and choose what worked for us previously. That not only goes for the winner but the opponent seems to choose his previously loosing weapon as well. So maybe in the end human nature takes over regardless that we already know we should randomize.

  3. It would seem that most people, including myself, understand that the best way to win in rock-paper-scissors is to truly be unpredictable. From the economic point of view, using a randomized mixed strategy would be the equivalent method. In most other games, a player would try to define a pattern in their opponents strategy and choose best-responses. As an experienced player of rock-paper-scissors, the game most often comes to luck anyway, so playing a random style would equally counter the odds of the game. In any case, I’m not surprised that the average throw for every option is 1/3.

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