The Psychology Of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Andrew Sullivan —  May 7 2014 @ 7:15pm

A new study on the game has found that “the strategy of real players looks random on average but actually consists of predictable patterns that a wily opponent could exploit to gain a vital edge”:

On average, the players in all the groups chose each action about a third of the time, which is exactly as expected if their choices were random. But a closer inspection of their behavior reveals something else. Zhijian [Wang] and co say that players who win tend to stick with the same action while those who lose switch to the next action in a clockwise direction (where R → P → S is clockwise). This is known in game theory as a conditional response and has never been observed before in Rock-Paper-Scissors experiments. Zhijian and co speculate that this is probably because previous experiments have all been done on a much smaller scale. … In fact, a “win-stay, lose-shift” strategy is entirely plausible from a psychological point of view: people tend to stick with a winning strategy.

More Rock-Paper-Scissors tips, from a couple years ago, here. Just don’t try them on this robot.