Win at Rock-Paper-Scissors With This Scientific Method

By Gerald Lynch on at

Whether you're a hardcore rock player, or a secret scissors ninja, we've all got our own preferred rock-paper-scissors technique. Or at least we think we do. New research has found that the hands we play in the age-old game aren't quite as random or individually tactical as we'd like to think. Which means there's a trick to help you win almost every time.

According to a large study into play patterns of the game and the thought processes that drive them, it's been found that players pick their moves based on cyclical systems and "conditional responses".

According to scientists at China's Zhejiang University:

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...

Whether conditional response is a basic decision-making mechanism of the human brain or just a consequence of more fundamental neural mechanisms is a challenging question for future studies.

What this means in layman's terms is that winners are more likely to stick with the hand that saw them win the last round, while losers will change up their patterns and look to mimic the previous round's winner.

So if your opponent plays scissors and you lose by playing paper, switch to rock for the next round. Your oponnenet is likely to stick to scissors, giving you a rock-based win. The next round will likely see your opponent move to the next hand in the cycle (in this case paper, as it wasn't used in the previous round) and you can then beat them with scissors.

Unless, of course, they've also read this post. In which case I'd recommend a game of Russian Roulette instead. [Ars Technica]

Image Credit: 3 statuettes showing the hand-game rochambeau from