This is how you win at rock-paper-scissors

Scientists have used game theory to work out the best strategy for success in a game of rock-paper-scissors.

While technically there should not be a system to win this game, as rock, paper and scissors have equal probability of coming up, scientists in China have worked out a method which exploits human nature.

After asking 360 students to play rock-paper-scissors with one another, with 300 rounds in every game, taking up to two hours (yes, really), they worked out two things: People who win tend to repeat their strategy and losers tend to change their strategy.

Taking this into account, the best way to win at rock paper scissors is as follows:

If you win, play what your opponent just played as they will expect you to play the same thing again.

If you lose, play the thing that didn't come up (e.g. if you lose to paper after playing rock, play scissors) because there is a high chance they will play the thing they won with.

This video released by Numberphile, the YouTube series from the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) presented by Hannah Fry helps to explain:

The video also inspired Fry to look at more research about rock-paper-scissors, specifically its parallels with lizards.

What a time to be alive.

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