Illustration for article titled Why you can never win at rock-paper-scissors

Rock-paper-scissors (or paper-scissors-stone, depending on where you're from) is one of those wonderful games that's exactly as complex and psychological as you make it. You can try to understand your opponent, their thought process, what sort of person they are, and guess what they're going to put out — or you can just go with trusty, trusty rock.


However, new research has shown that we might be subconsciously mimicking our opponents, leading to an inordinate number of draws. What these researchrs found is that when both players were blindfolded, you saw the expected number of ties - 33.3% exactly. But blindfold just one of the players? Then it jumps up to 36.3%.

The researchers think that this is due to that tiny, fraction of a second disparity between when the two players make their move. When your opponent goes first, you subconsciously mirror their actions — too fast to think about, but enough to make a slight difference in the statistics of victory.


The other crucial fact we learned from this paper? Scissors was the most popular play (34.4%), followed by paper (33.3%) and rock (32.4%).

Share This Story

Get our newsletter