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How to win rock paper scissors: the science tips to beat your opponent

How to win rock paper scissors

Outlines the psychology steps for how to win rock paper scissors — and what to do when playing against men to win from the start.

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Who takes down the garbage, who pays the bill, who does the dishes? In addition to the coin toss, the good old ‘rock-paper-scissors game’ is the decision-making aid of choice. Sure, compared to tossing a coin it is even more fun and challenges our mind … if you want.

Whoever plays rock paper scissors — or Schnick, Schnack, Schnuck, Ching-Chang-Chong, or Klick-Klack-Kluck as it is called in parts of Europe and in Asia — as the decision-making aid usually assumes incorrectly that only luck helps for how to win paper scissors rock. 

But is it really like that? Such decision-making situations have long been part of science. Mathematicians and economists take care of the most promising strategies in the field of game theory.

In a large-scale field test, the Zhejiang University of Hangzhou has now adopted the ultimate puzzle tactic. Under scientific observation, 360 students played in pairs of two for 300 rounds of Schnick-Schnack-Schnuck.

How to win rock paper scissors

Two main results emerged: Winners tend to repeat a successful strategy. Losers, on the other hand, tend to switch tactics.

The computer scientists at the Zhejiang University have found out which tricks you can use to gain a statistically significant advantage – i.e. usually win. 

Men like to choose the stone in the first game. Open up against men with paper, because men like to choose the hard “stone” – which is then wrapped up by the “paper” and defeated.

An experienced player knows that! Therefore open it with scissors against an experienced player, as the professional wants to defeat the layman with the paper at the beginning.

Winners usually stay with the same symbol, losers change it. So you often switch to “stone” if he won the previous round. And when one symbol loses, losers often choose another. “Professionals” are less changeable.

Beginners are reluctant to use the same sign more than twice. This means that if a casual player has chosen “stone” more than twice in a row, the experienced player can be almost certain that his opponent will choose “paper” or “scissors” the next time. And if the layman lost the last time (to “paper”), he will probably choose “scissors” according to rule no. 2 – against which the professional wins with “stone”. We don’t necessarily appreciate being considered predictable. So if your opponent has chosen the stone twice, he will switch to scissors to hit the expected paper. Therefore choose the stone yourself if this is the case.

Our fingers subconsciously react treacherously in advance to the mental decision made. It is worth paying attention to the opponent’s fingers. If all fingers are tense, it will become the stone. All loose? More like paper! If only two are tense, it’s the scissors

In general, paper is rarely chosen, here it is only 29.6%. The scissors are more likely at 35%. However, the stone is the most common choice, coming in at 35.4%.

A UK team discovered another rule: make your pick, then play with your eyes closed. This is how you make sure that your opponent does not influence you. Because certain movements of the other person are enough to dissuade us from our actual choice. Protected against such manipulation by your opponent, you derive a small statistical advantage from it.

You will probably find it difficult to consciously do everything right so quickly. You don’t have to, because you have an ally! Your intuition! It lets you do the right thing in important situations. You have to train it, otherwise it won’t know what to do.

How to win rock paper scissors: Always play scissors first

Sounds complicated – but it’s not nearly as complex as the university put it in a paper ( it’s really hardcore math). The strategy is more simply explained in this video.

There are also three useful tips from there, which should also help with 1 on 1 with the hand:
# Always play scissors first (according to statistics, this opening move should win the most often).
# Men are supposed to tend to open with stones (man’s fist, of course)
# It doesn’t hurt to announce the move. Nobody believes that you are honest anyway.

How to win rock paper scissors: The trick

Even if he is not aware of it, the other person probably acts in a similar way. The researchers derived a trick from this: Confuse your opponent! You do it differently than everyone else: If you have won the first duel with a stone, you don’t play a stone again, but the symbol with which your opponent has just lost. So: scissors.
What if you lost with a stone in the first round? That means: Your opponent won with paper and will – because that worked out well – probably play paper again.

 So for the next round you choose the only symbol that paper can beat and was not played in the first round: scissors. You do the same with the other signs. Now all you have to do is practice well so that you can memorize the strategy in your head. Soon someone else will be allowed to take the garbage away.

Small caveat at the end: All of the above tips are wasted if you use a frequently played puzzle variant and add a fourth symbol – fountain. That confuses the statics, because you face two chances to win (stone falls into well, scissors fall into well) and only one chance of loss (paper covers well).