Rock Paper Scissors is a seemingly random schoolyard game, but a group of Chinese researchers believe they have found an airtight formula to winning.
The study came from Zhejiang University and had 360 students playing 300 rounds of the game, with an added incentive of a cash reward for winners. The researchers then cataloged the thousands of rounds played, revealing a pattern that showed a secret to winning the game.
The rock paper scissors research found that the first round of the game was more or less random, with the players throwing each choice about one-third of the time. But by the second round, a pattern began to emerge. Those who won in the first round tended to repeat their same pattern of moves, while those who lost switched their moves in what researchers called a “clockwise direction,” meaning going from rock to paper, paper to scissors, or scissors to rock.
There had been previous research on the game before the latest rock paper scissors study, but lead researcher Dr. Zhijian Wang said others were on a much smaller scale. He believes the findings of this study are the strongest yet and have pointed to a pattern that can give players an advantage.
Wang said he wasn’t sure the reason behind the pattern or whether some part of the response is “built in” to the brain, but said the rock paper scissors study could be very important.
“Our theoretical calculations reveal that this new strategy may offer higher payoffs to individual players” he said.
So how exactly do you win rock paper scissors using the information from the study? Wang said players must pay careful attention to their opponent’s previous move. If they offered up paper and lost, the opponent has a higher likelihood of offering scissors the next time. And if they offered up paper and won, there’s a good chance they will try to throw paper again.