Now You Know

The Tactic behind Rock, Paper, and Scissor


The rules are simple: Rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper, paper covers rock.  Each option perfectly balanced the strategy?  You’d think there is none, but you’d be wrong.  There is a bit of sensibility behind our choices, which Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) “experts” feat to their advantage.

According to the World RPS Society, which ran the 2009 World RPS Championships last fall, there are a few factors which, if browbeaten, can help you win.  Men incline to open with rock, but that’s only typical of beginners, another bad habit of the dilettante?  New players rarely toss the same thing three times in a row.  So if your challenger plays paper twice, you should drop a rock the next time — it’s most likely safe.  And finally, inexperienced players tend to “replay” the last hand after a loss or draw, throwing the option that would have just beaten them.  For example, if your opponent played a rock in the previous round and lost, they are much more likely to go with paper (which beats rock) than with the other two options.

There are tips that work on more proficient players, too.  The World RPS Society notes that in competitive play — yes, there are lots of rock paper scissors tournaments – scissors appears only 29.6% of the time.  And regardless of skill (to use the term loosely) or experience, all players are somewhat predisposed to inherent suggestion — simply talking about one option more than the others can subconsciously cause your opponent to play that suggested move.


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