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Here's how to win at rock-paper-scissors, life

Here's How To Win At Rock-Paper-Scissors, Life

This could be the most important strategy you'll ever learn: how to win at rock-paper-scissors. Oh, yeah - it's on.

Scientists at the Zhejiang University in China studied hundreds of throwdowns between 360 participants to put some actual science in the game. The players were given money for wins.

Nature World News reports before, it was thought players used the Nash equilibrium strategy, where they randomly thew out each of the three options an equal number of times in order to confuse opponents - essentially making RPS a game of luck.

Turns out, it's much more of a mind game than you ever gave it credit for.

Here's what the scientists found: It doesn't really matter what players pick the first round - that's where it's pretty random. Here's a hint, though. Rookie males will usually pick rock to start with.

The Washington Post reports winning players followed a general rule of "win, stay; lose, shift," meaning if they won a round with rock, they'll stick with rock for the next round. But if they lost, players followed a predictable pattern of what they chose next.

That pattern is a clockwise direction of power. It's kind of confusing, but basically it goes like this: rock at the top, paper beating rock, scissors beating paper, rock beating scissors, and we're back to the top.

So, this means if you lose to rock the first round, the next round you should probably play paper. Since your opponent will probably be all confident and stick with rock, you'd win!

According to MIT Technology Review, the strategy follows a game theory principle called conditional response, and it hasn't been observed before in the game before now.

But Ars Technica explains the million-dollar advice: If you win, don't stay with your choice. Instead, throw what will beat what your opponent will most likely move on to.

So, if you win with scissors, a smart opponent will probably play rock next. That means you should go with paper.

And just so you know, when you play RPS, you're playing the same game used by members of the Han dynasty in China between about 200 B.C. and 200 A.D. Pretty cool, huh?

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
ftuna2u2 May 04 2014 at 9:54 AM

Glad to see that science spends time and energy on something like this.

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2 replies
jaybeach8 ftuna2u2 May 04 2014 at 10:26 AM

Maybe we can get the Obama Administration to throw a few million bucks on a study.

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1 reply
Tia jaybeach8 May 04 2014 at 11:42 AM

Give it a rest.

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dunedinmatt ftuna2u2 May 04 2014 at 10:33 AM

Many Leaders, Generals, and Warriors throughout history have use conditional response and knowledge of human reaction to defeat their enemies and rule their nations. And you thought it was just another silly game? You should only partake in discussions you actually have knowledge of or you'll only make a fool of yourself, like here.

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Edwin Moore May 04 2014 at 11:19 AM

I think all conflicts in the world should be decided by rock, paper, scissors.

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fredpoet May 04 2014 at 7:26 PM

My grandson, then 4, began playing RPS with me where the playing became way too agressive on his end, almost violent. So he and myself worked out a system in RPS where both players would always win.

First play for BOTH is always Rock, which results in a fist bump. Next is Paper for both hands, resulting in a hi-five. Finally, it's Scissors, resulting in a mutual "Peace".

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muffin May 04 2014 at 12:51 PM

WOW! Such an important study. Next they will be telling us that major battles were won/ lost using this strategy. Maybe Putin is using this today. Maybe even Obama. If not, someone please inform them ASAP.

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dwtomczyk May 04 2014 at 1:20 PM

never played rock-paper-scissors

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John May 04 2014 at 7:13 PM

oh goody, another useless scientific study for Today Show to talk about for an hour.

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1 reply
faithrada John May 04 2014 at 11:11 PM

Useless science? Not necessarily. To understand HOW the mind really works and how our reasoning developes hasthe potential to unlock many of this universe's deepest secrets. Sure its just one small step in a much larger process... but that is how science typically works.

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stepnet3 May 04 2014 at 6:25 PM

They had scissors during the Han Dynasty?

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fgaryg May 04 2014 at 8:27 PM

and how much money was wasted on this stupid study

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2 replies
doodlebug2002stacie fgaryg May 04 2014 at 8:29 PM


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posthuf fgaryg May 04 2014 at 9:33 PM

That's ok, it's only taxes. Government can always get more, and it doesn't matter which government!

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patriot1too May 04 2014 at 5:14 PM

No doubt this game is far too difficult for liberals to play. Its too violent and not everyone gets to be a winner all the time. It would have a negative effect on ones self esteem and could even be racist. LOL.

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1 reply
Norm DeSha patriot1too May 04 2014 at 5:29 PM

Are you referring to liberals who don't really believe the President is a Muslim from Kenya?

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3 replies
Mike May 04 2014 at 2:37 PM

Only if all wars were fought this way!

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1 reply
brsad100 Mike May 04 2014 at 5:24 PM

Mike, don't you realize all wars are fought this way? If you are winning, keep going. If you are losing, pick another strategy.

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1 reply
faithrada brsad100 May 04 2014 at 11:20 PM

Exactly brsad. The weapons change.. the Mind's stratagy remains the same. TO not GET the significance of these findings is imho mind blowing ignorance.

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