Scientists Discover A Winning Strategy for Rock-Paper-Scissors

For centuries, game theorists have wondered about capitalizing on a strategy to attain a vital edge at Rock-Paper-Scissors. Well the conundrum scientists have been wrapping their heads around has finally been solved. Zhijian Wang, a game theorist at Zhejiang University in China claim there is more to Rock-Paper-Scissors than previously thought. Their work shows that behind a seemingly random acts lies a very consistent predictable pattern that an opponent could gain and exploit for a critical edge.

Zhijian and his team began experiments with 360 students from the university and split them into 60 groups of six players each. Every group of players played 300 rounds of the game against each other with their actions and choices carefully recorded. Winners were paid in local currency in proportion to their number of victorious rounds. To test how the currency altered strategy, Zhijian varied each payout amount for different groups. If a loss is worth nothing and a tie worth 1, the winning payout varied from 1.1 to 100.


Initially the behavior showed a interesting pattern, where each group chose each choice a third of the time, which is precisely as expected if their choices were random, but after a closer inspection, Zhijian noticed those who win tend to lean toward the same action while those who lose switch to the next action in a clockwise direction, where R → P → S is clockwise.

“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. Implying that it completely makes send that a winning strategy would become complacent and a losing strategy would need to mix things up. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Now that you know how to win at “rock-scissors-paper”, you may find this calculator useful for calculating the grade you need to get on your final exams.

Like it? Share it!