Nerd alert: How to win at rock-paper-scissors

SCIENTISTS in China have discovered a pattern that allows you to succeed at rock-paper-scissors by anticipating your opponents' moves.

Researchers at Zhejiang University in China have used classical game theory to analyse the moves of 360 volunteers in a rock-paper-scissors tournament.

Classical game theory suggests players make random choices.

In the case of rock-paper-scissors it is believed players select one of three options with equal probability in each round. 

However, the researchers found another pattern - the one that will actually help you win - and it's based on the 'win-star lose-shift' strategy.

In this strategy, players who win a round stick to their winning option more often than expected.

Losers, on the other hand, switch to a different action in the following round, but tend to do it the order of the game.

If, for example, they lost with paper, players are more likely to choose scissors in the next round; if they lost with rock, chances are they will play paper.

The 'win-star lose-shift' strategy is a conditional response in game theory that researchers believe is hard-wired into the human brain.

Anticipating these moves could give you a winning edge, scientists say.

The BBC reports that while it is only a simple game, rock-paper-scissors is seen as a useful model for studying competitive behaviour in humans - in financial trading for example.

A previous experiment found that players unconsciously mimicked the actions of their opponents - a surprising result because advantage is usually gained by acting differently.

The Chinese scientists now plan to investigate the underlying psychology behind the seemingly irrational choices players make when competing.

Read more on that here. You can read the full study here.

Topics:  china editors picks psychology science

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