Rock Paper Scissors

64 pages • 2 hours read

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  • Chapters 1-15
  • Chapters 16-30
  • Chapters 31-45
  • Chapters 46-61
  • Character Analysis
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In her first love letter to Adam, Robin says that reading his screenplay Rock Paper Scissors was like reading secrets he wasn’t ready to share; however, she says, they should never keep important secrets from one another. Even as she says this, she’s concealing important truths from him. How can keeping important secrets doom a relationship from the outset? When big secrets, long kept, are revealed, what effect does it have on a relationship?

Reflecting on Adam’s ability to schmooze with the film-industry people he works with, Robin says that Adam is two different people and that she likes the quiet, shy version of him the best. To what extent are most of us different people depending upon the setting we’re in? Does everyone have one true self without pretense that is their true version of themselves? Do you think that people can live happy, fulfilling lives without being their truest self? Support your views.

On their anniversary, Adam buys Robin a ticket to a play she’s to attend without him. He does this knowing that he’s going to bring the gorgeous star October O’Brien to their home alone while Robin is at the theater. How innocent is Adam’s intention? How should Robin feel when she sees Adam and October in her kitchen?

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rock paper scissors essay

Example College Essay: “Rock, Paper, Scissors”


Essay written for the University of Chicago prompt which asks you to create your own prompt.

Dear Christian, the admissions staff at the University of Chicago would like to inform you that your application has been “put on the line.” We have one spot left and can’t decide if we should admit you or another equally qualified applicant. To resolve the matter, please choose one of the following:

Rock, paper, or scissors.

You will be notified of our decision shortly.

Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock.  Wait … paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors?  What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?

Maybe it’s all a metaphor for larger ideals. Perhaps paper is rooted in the symbolism of diplomacy while rock suggests coercion. But does compromise necessarily trump brute force? And where do scissors lie in this chain of symbolism?

I guess the reasoning behind this game has a lot to do with context. If we are to rationalize the logic behind this game, we have to assume some kind of narrative, an instance in which paper might beat rock. Unfortunately, I can’t argue for a convincing one.

As with rock-paper-scissors, we often cut our narratives short to make the games we play easier, ignoring the intricate assumptions that keep the game running smoothly. Like rock-paper-scissors, we tend to accept something not because it’s true, but because it’s the convenient route to getting things accomplished. We accept incomplete narratives when they serve us well, overlooking their logical gaps. Other times, we exaggerate even the smallest defects and uncertainties in narratives we don’t want to deal with. In a world where we know very little about the nature of “Truth,” it’s very easy—and tempting—to construct stories around truth claims that unfairly legitimize or delegitimize the games we play.

Or maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing …

Fine. I’ll stop with the semantics and play your game.

But who actually wants to play a game of rock-paper-scissors? After all, isn’t it just a game of random luck, requiring zero skill and talent? That’s no way to admit someone!

Studies have shown that there are winning strategies to rock-paper-scissors by making critical assumptions about those we play against before the round has even started. Douglas Walker, host of the Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships (didn’t know that existed either), conducted research indicating that males will use rock as their opening move 50% of the time, a gesture Walker believes is due to rock’s symbolic association with strength and force. In this sense, the seemingly innocuous game of rock-paper-scissors has revealed something quite discomforting about gender-related dispositions in our society. Why did so many males think that brute strength was the best option? If social standards have subliminally influenced the way males and females play rock-paper-scissors, than what is to prevent such biases from skewing more important decisions? Should your decision to go to war or to feed the hungry depend on your gender, race, creed, etc.?

Perhaps the narratives I spoke of earlier, the stories I mistakenly labeled as “semantics,” carry real weight in our everyday decisions. In the case of Walker’s study, men unconsciously created an irrational narrative around an abstract rock. We all tell slightly different narratives when we independently consider notions ranging from rocks to war to existence. It is ultimately the unconscious gaps in these narratives that are responsible for many of the man-made problems this world faces. In order for the “life of the mind” to be a worthwhile endeavor, we must challenge the unconscious narratives we attach to the larger games we play—the truths we tell (or don’t tell), the lessons we learn (or haven’t really learned), the people we meet (or haven’t truly met).

But even after all of this, we still don’t completely understand the narrative behind rock-paper-scissors.

I guess it all comes down to who actually made this silly game in the first place … I’d like to think it was some snotty 3rd grader, but then again, that’s just another incomplete narrative.

Click here for another amazing personal statement : “The Porcelain God.”

rock paper scissors essay

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rock paper scissors essay

The Psychological Depths of Rock-Paper-Scissors

rock paper scissors essay

Unless you have lived in a Skinner box from an early age, you know that the outcome of tic-tac-toe is utterly certain. At first glance, rock-paper-scissors appears almost as bad. A four-year-old might think there’s some strategy to it, but isn’t it basically random?

Indeed, people often turn to rock-paper-scissors as a way of making random, arbitrary decisions — choosing who’ll buy the first round of drinks, say. Yet there is no quantum-uncertainty collapse, no tumble of a die, no random number generator here; both players make a choice. Surely this is wholly non random?

rock paper scissors essay

All right, nonrandom it is, but perhaps it’s arbitrary? There’s no predictable or even statistically calculable way of figuring out what an opponent will do next, so that one choice is as good as another, and outcomes will be distributed randomly over time — one-third in victory for one player, one-third to the opponent, one-third in a tie. Yes?

Players quickly learn that this is a guessing game and that your goal is to build a mental model of your opponent, to try to predict his actions. Yet a naïve player, once having realized this, will often conclude that the game is still arbitrary; you get into a sort of infinite loop. If he thinks such-and-so, then I should do this-and-that; but, on the other hand, if he can predict that I will reason thusly, he will instead do the-other-thing, so my response should be something else; but if we go for a third loop — assuming he can reason through the two loops I just did — then . . . and so on, ad infinitum. So it is back to being a purely arbitrary game. No?

The reason rock-paper-scissors is not a purely arbitrary game, and the reason that an excellent player will win more often than chance would predict, is that human psychology is not random, and some behaviors are — not necessarily predictable, but likely to occur more often than chance would dictate.

A player who has studied the game will unquestionably win more than chance would dictate against a naïve player.

One heuristic of experienced players is “Losers lead with Rock.” This is demonstrably true; naïve players will lead with Rock more often than one-third of the time. Your hand begins in the form of a rock, and it is easiest to keep it that way. The name of the game begins with “Rock,” and if you are mentally sorting through the options, it is the first one that will occur to you. And the word “rock” itself has connotations of strength and immovability. These factors lead players to choose Rock on their first go more often than chance would dictate. An experienced player can take advantage of this. Against a player you know to be naïve, you play Paper.

Similarly, players rarely choose the same symbol three times in a row, and almost never four times; it feels wrong to human psychology. An extended streak feels nonrandom and unlikely, even though in a purely random game, each new throw is stochastic, not dependent on the outcomes of previous throws. Thus in a truly random game, no matter how many times “Paper” has come up in a row before, there is a 1 in 3 chance of it coming up again. Given the nature of human psychology, if Paper has come up twice, there is far less than a 1 in 3 chance that the player will choose it again.

Even players who know this have to consciously try to overcome their bias against streaks — particularly if they lose with one gesture on the previous round. If you have played Paper twice in a row, and lost the last time you played, the human instinct is to try something different, and thus players will at that point choose Paper far less than one-third of the time.

In short, a player who has studied the game will unquestionably win more than chance would dictate against a naïve player, because he understands how human psychology is likely to affect the choices of his opponent. Of course, two players who both understand these factors are on a more even plane; but even here, there is the factor of human readability. It is hard to maintain a perfect “poker face,” and some are better at it than others. Some are better at noticing subtle cues in the expressions or body language of others. These skills are not always sufficient to ensure triumph, but they do produce a bias in favor of those more observant — and more socially adept at reading others.

In other words, at first glance rock-paper-scissors appears to be a guessing game, with victory going to the player who can outguess his opponent; at second glance, it appears to be purely arbitrary; and at third glance, the original supposition is justified. It is , in fact, a guessing game with victory going to the player who can outguess his opponent, but there are strategies to “outguessing.”

Where is the uncertainty in rock-paper-scissors ? That should be obvious. It is in the unpredictability of opposing players. In fact, that is all there is in rock-paper-scissors ; a first-player shooter played in deathmatch mode may rely to some degree on player unpredictability, but it also relies on player performance. Rock-paper-scissors is a game of player unpredictability in its purest form, for this single factor is the sole determinant of the game’s uncertainty, its raison d’être, and its cultural continuance.

Greg Costikyan , an award-winning designer of board, tabletop, roleplaying, computer, online, mobile, and social games, and the author of several books, including “ Uncertainty in Games ,” from which this article is excerpted.

Rock, Paper, Scissors Goes Back To Ancient China

rock paper scissors essay

Can't decide where to have dinner? Need to determine who will take out the trash? Battling over who gets the front seat? All of these disputes can be easily solved by using an ancient Chinese method of decision making. That's right: Rock, paper, scissors. The origins of rock, paper, scissors can be traced back to China around 200 BC . The game has evolved over the years, but the basic premise has remained the same, and it's never waned in popularity. In fact, the game is hugely popular in Japan. Let’s look at the early versions of rock, paper, scissors and how it became a global decision-making method. 

rock paper scissors essay

China's Han Dynasty

The origins of rock, paper, scissors have been traced back to China's Han Dynasty. The game was originally called shoushiling , meaning "the three who are afraid of each other," and  the three choices were "frog, slug, and snake." Like today's version of the game, the choices are represented by hand gestures: An extended thumb represents the frog, the pinky finger represents the slug, and an outstretched index finger is the snake.

For hundreds of years, shoushiling was an exclusively Chinese game, but as you're no doubt aware, it eventually made its way around the world. On its journey, it underwent some ... bizarre changes.

rock paper scissors essay

Rock, Paper, Scissors Comes to Japan

In the 1700s, the people of Japan were first introduced to shoushiling, where it is now known as janken . In the historical Japanese version, a fox (called kitsune ) beats the village chief, the village chief beats a hunter, and the hunter beats the fox.

Rock, paper, scissors is a common game across the world, but it is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It is often used to settle disputes or help make important decisions in the worlds of business, politics, and technology. It's possible that the many Japanese immigrants who came to the west coast of the United States brought janken with them.

rock paper scissors essay

A Famous Use of Rock, Paper, Scissors

In fact, the game showed up in a well-publicized story about a Japanese businessman named Takashi Hashiyama in 2005. That year, he had decided to auction off his impressive collection of art, and two famous auction houses vied for his business. He couldn't decide which of the two auction houses to use, so he asked representatives of the two auction houses to play janken  to help him decide, insisting "I believe this is the best way to decide between two things which are equally good." Christie's went with scissors, and Sotheby's went with paper. Christie's win earned the auction house several million dollars in commissions from the sale of the paintings, making it potentially the most expensive game of rock, paper, scissors in history.

rock paper scissors essay

The Morbid Indonesian Version

As the game spread around Asia, it evolved even further. In Indonesia, it took a dark and morbid turn. The three options were an elephant who beat a man by trampling him to death, a man who crushed a tiny earwig, and an earwig that climbed up the elephant’s trunk to feast on his brain, driving him crazy and/or killing him. Indonesia is pretty hardcore.

rock paper scissors essay

At some point, the game took on a new name, "Rochambeau" or "Ro Cham Bo." Although some stories claim that the names "Ro," "Cham," and "Beau" were meant to represent the rock, paper, and scissors, it is unclear exactly how this came about. Some claim it harkens back to a Revolutionary War figure, Comte de Rochambeau, a Frenchman who helped the Americans fight the British. There is no evidence, however, that Comte de Rochambeau had any connection with the game at all. Still, in many regions, the game is known as Rochambeau instead of rock, paper, scissors. 

rock paper scissors essay

New Research

The Ultimate Rock, Paper, Scissor Strategy

60 percent of the time, it works every time

Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz

05_02_2014_rock paper scissor.jpg

In China, a team of researchers tapped 360 students to try to crack  the ever-important nut: how do people play Rock, Paper, Scissors? And what's the best strategy?

Based on their study , says the Washington Post , at the population level, Rock, Paper, Scissors strategies follow a relatively simple pattern:

People start by picking each variable (rock, paper or scissors) about one-third of the time. You can’t really game this stage. BUT after the first round: If a player wins, he will usually stick with the same play. If a player loses, he will usually switch actions in “a clockwise direction”: rock changes to paper, paper to scissors, scissors to rock.

So that's it. If you know what someone will play next, it's easy to counter and achieve a grand victory.

But wait, what if they know the strategy, too? And they try to predict and out-smart your next move? But then you, knowing that they know, try to preempt their prediction? Then they, knowing you know they know...

When playing with someone who is not experienced at the RPS, look out for double runs or in other words, the same throw twice. When this happens you can safely eliminate that throw and guarantee yourself at worst a stalemate in the next game. So, when you see a two-Scissor run, you know their next move will be Rock or Paper, so Paper is your best move.

The researchers in China weren't just trying to work out the strategy to a schoolyard game, though. They were using Rock, Paper, Scissor as a way to study people's behavior when making decisions in “non-cooperative strategic interactions.” They were testing which of two different broad strategies people use: either trying to play truly randomly, or playing in an evolutionary way with strategies shifting depending on the outcome. (It was the latter.)

Still, though, as good as your strategy may be, you're never going to beat this Rock, Paper, Scissor-playing robot . Sorry.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.

Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz | | READ MORE

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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Rock Paper Scissors

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         Midnight snow swirls in the courtyard—                  you wake and mark the steel-gray light of dawn,

                           the rhythm in your hands                            of scissors cutting paper;

         you pull a blade against ribbon,                     and the ribbon springs into a spiraling curl                                          when you release it;

         here, no one pulled a blade against the ribbon of desire,                   a downy woodpecker drilled into a desiccated pear tree; 

         you consider how paper wraps rock,                                          scissors snips paper,

         how this game embodies the evolution                                          of bacteria and antibiotic;

         you can’t see your fingerprints on a door handle,                    but your smudging,

                                       like trudging footprints in snow,

         track where and how you go—

                             wrapping                              a chrysoprase heart in a box—

         how you look at a series of incidentals                                and pull an invisible thread through them all.

Copyright © 2021 by Arthur Sze. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

More by this poet

Río chamita.

Mule deer browse in the meadow                            and meander in clusters down the slope                                           across a dry pond bed;

at a shooting range, we stare at a machine                 loaded with orange-centered circular targets

                                          but are not here to practice firing at ducks;

Jaguar Song

—Just after you sign and envision building homes on this tract you smell me in the dark know that I move through this terrain at night   though you only think of building  and selling   even now you believe you can borrow my spirit by wearing a mask of my face on your face   look at me   delve into your fears   is your deepest fear to be hacked 


Trudging uphill, I turn onto a deer path then follow the switchbacks you marked with orange streamers until I arrive

at a cairn and overlook where I view the gold run of cottonwoods through the city; western tanagers migrate through the city.

What the Angels Left

At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless. They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house, at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs, lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

The Whole World Is Gone

Driving alone at night, the world’s pitch, black velvet stapled occasionally by red tail lights on the opposite highway but otherwise mild panic when the eyes’ habitual check produces nothing at all in the rearview mirror, a black blank, now nothing exists but the dotted white lines of the road,

Mean Free Path [excerpt]

For the distances collapsed.             For the figure failed to humanize the scale. For the work, the work did nothing but invite us to relate it to             the wall. For I was a shopper in a dark             aisle.

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Rock Paper Scissors

Alice feeney.

294 pages, Hardcover

First published August 19, 2021

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Promises lose their value when broken or chipped, like dusty, forgotten antiques.
Secrets are only secrets for the people who don't know them yet.
That's the problem with following in someone else's footsteps; if you leave a bigger mark than they did they tend to get upset.
Sometimes the early bird eats too many worms and dies.

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We’ve tried date nights, and marriage counseling, but spending more time together isn’t always the same as spending less time apart. You can’t get this close to a cliff edge without seeing the rocks at the bottom, and even if my husband doesn’t know the full story, he knows that this weekend is a last attempt to mend what got broken. What he doesn’t know, is that if things don’t go according to plan, only one of us will be going home.


We’re both pretty good at keeping up appearances and I find people see what they want to see. But behind closed doors, things have been wrong with Mr. and Mrs. Wright for a long time.
Adam has a neurological glitch called prosopagnosia, which means he cannot see distinguishing features on faces, including his own.
Adam was right, there are no ghosts or gargoyles, but the place definitely feels spooky. Everything is made of ancient-looking stone—the walls, the ceiling, the floor—and it’s so cold down here that I can see my breath. I count three rusted metal rings embedded in the wall, and do my best not to think about what they were used for.
The light from the old-fashioned candlestick holder he is carrying casts ghostly shadows around the bedroom, so that now I feel like I’m in a Charles Dickens novel.
Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife. Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts--paper, cotton, pottery, tin--and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after. Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.
The first match I strike goes out almost instantly—it’s an old box. I use the second to try and get my bearings, but I still can’t see the steps, and I’m struggling to get enough air into my lungs. The third match I strike briefly illuminates part of the wall, and I notice all the scratch marks on the surface. It looks like someone, or something, once tried to claw their way out of here. I try to stay calm, remember to breathe, but then the flame burns the tips of my fingers and I drop the final match on the floor. Everything is black. And then I hear it again. My name being whispered. Right behind me. Amelia. Amelia. Amelia. My breaths are too shallow, but I can’t control them and I think I’m going to faint. No matter what direction I look in, all I can see is darkness. Then I hear the sound of scratching.
I work in my garden shed now with my cowriter, a giant black Labrador who is scared of feathers.

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How to Beat Anyone at Rock, Paper, Scissors

Last Updated: July 24, 2023 References

Playing a Rookie

Playing experienced opponents, learning the basic rules.

This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Luke Smith, MFA . Luke Smith is a wikiHow Staff Writer. He's worked for literary agents, publishing houses, and with many authors, and his writing has been featured in a number of literary magazines. Now, Luke writes for the content team at wikiHow and hopes to help readers expand both their skillsets and the bounds of their curiosity. Luke earned his MFA from the University of Montana. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 1,141,045 times. Learn more...

Rock, Paper, Scissors is often used to decide everything from who’s buying lunch to who has to wash the dishes. While the game is primarily decided by chance and there’s no surefire to win every time, there is a fair amount of strategy you can use to improve your odds, and maybe avoid dishwashing duties while you’re at it. We’ll walk you through how to win against both rookies and pros, as well as how to get the game started. And while these are some serious strategies, just remember that the game is for fun!

Things You Should Know

  • Throw paper against men, and throw rock against women, since inexperienced men and women are themselves more likely to throw rock and scissors, respectively.
  • Switch up your own move after your opponent plays the same move twice—if they play rock twice, they may play paper next, so play scissors yourself.
  • Manipulate your opponent by miming the move you want them to throw while you explain the rules, or by announcing which move you’ll throw next.
  • Take advantage of physical tells that might indicate your opponent’s next move, like a tucked thumb for a rock, or a loosened grip for paper.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 1

  • Statistically, rock is the most frequent move, with a throw rate of 35.4%.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 2

  • Scissors is the throw that’s used the least, with only a 29.6% chance of being thrown in an average Rock, Paper, Scissors game.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 3

  • For example, after your opponent has played scissors twice in a row, they’ll most likely move on to rock. Throw paper because it will either beat your opponent’s rock—or result in a stalemate in the event they choose paper.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 4

  • For example, explain that rock beats scissors using the scissors gesture to show this (instead of rock), and then use the scissors gesture again when explaining that scissors beats paper. This will subtly influence them to play scissors, so be prepared to throw rock!

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 5

  • Experienced players also tend to think that beginners will most likely throw a rock, so the experienced player often throws paper. Throwing scissors will place you one step ahead of their thinking.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 6

  • For example, if your opponent just beat you with rock, switch your next move to paper to beat the rock that your opponent will likely use again, or stalemate the less likely scissors.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 7

  • For example, a tucked thumb in the crook of the index finger might suggest that your opponent will throw rock.
  • A loose, unclenched hand may indicate paper.
  • A hand that has the first two fingers loose is likely going to be scissors.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 8

  • This will only work once or twice before your opponent catches on, so after a couple of times, switch up your tactic. Announce something that you won’t actually throw to keep them on their toes.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 9

  • On the other hand, paper is seen as the most passive move, so don’t expect this from an opponent who’s losing.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 10

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors is often played as a “best of 3” game, meaning whoever wins at least 2 out of 3 rounds wins the overall game.

Image titled Win at Rock, Paper, Scissors Step 12

  • Some players throw their move on the word “scissors.” Clarify when you’ll both throw your moves to avoid any confusion or mismatched timing.
  • If the same move is thrown by both players, it results in a stalemate. Neither player wins the round, and you play the round again!

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • Beware of "shadowing" where the opposing player may pretend that they’re going to make a certain gesture and then rapidly changes it at the last possible moment. This is frowned upon as cheating. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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rock paper scissors essay

  • ↑ https://www.wired.co.uk/article/master-rock-paper-scissors
  • ↑ https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27228416
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-blame-game/201504/the-surprising-psychology-rock-paper-scissors
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-blame-game/201504/the-surprising-psychology-rock-paper-scissors
  • ↑ https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna44162400
  • ↑ https://www.technologyreview.com/2014/04/30/13423/how-to-win-at-rock-paper-scissors/
  • ↑ https://www.rpsgame.org/
  • ↑ https://thegeniusofplay.org/genius/play-ideas-tips/play-ideas/rock-paper-scissors.aspx

About This Article

Luke Smith, MFA

If you want to win at Rock, Paper, Scissors, pay attention to the gender of your rival. If they are a boy, they are more likely to play Rock and if they are a girl, they are more likely to play Scissors. If your opponent has a red face or looks frustrated, expect them to throw Rock because it is the most aggressive symbol. People usually play Scissors the least, so use that to your advantage by switching between Rock and Scissors. To learn how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to master rock-paper-scissors

This article was taken from the July 2012 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online .

Rock-paper-scissors isn't simply a random and childish way to decide trivial outcomes: it's serious stuff, and completely winnable -- if you know a few tricks. Douglas Walker, co-author of The Official Rock-Paper-Scissors Strategy Guide and organiser of the RPS World Championships , explains why "rock is for rookies".

Spot the sequence

"People see it as too predictable to throw a rock five, six or seven times," says Walker. Beginners tend to throw only three of the same shapes in a row. If they've been throwing rock, that means they will throw either scissors or paper. Throw a scissors yourself and you'll earn at least a draw.

Walker's research suggests that rock is the favourite move, at 37 percent of all throws. Paper is 35 percent and scissors 29 percent.

When all else fails, go for paper. Or go with gender: "Guys are close to 50 percent likely to open with rock. Females tend to start with scissors."

On the first throw, come in obviously late on the count. Apologise profusely, but take note of your opponent's throw. "Most people are likely to play the same throw again." It's frowned upon in competitions, but in a street match, well, it all depends on what you can get away with."

Use Jedi mind-tricks

"I tell you I'm going to play rock. Then I look into your eyes and see if there's a smile there, because that indicates you don't believe me, making scissors a safe bet. A lot of it is about eliminating the likelihood of a certain throw, turning an unknown situation into a tie or a win."

Read your opponent

A clenched jaw and generally aggressive stance is often indicative of rock about to come. A more reserved, open stance can suggest paper. "Scissors -- that's hard to predict," says Walker. Don't trust your gut, though: "Because your gut is probably leading you to be predictable yourself."

Play blindfolded

Richard Cook at UCL found that sighted players threw their moves about 200 milliseconds after a blindfolded opponent, suggesting imitation, and blindfolded players scored more wins. Walker also recommends speeding the game up. "People are most predictable when you speed up play."

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