Rock-paper-scissors, a game played by millions around the world, is thought to be a simple, chance-based game. However, a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Tokyo challenges this common perception. The study found that cultural factors strongly influence the strategies employed by players.
Rock-paper-scissors is a game of strategy and luck. Players simultaneously make a hand gesture, forming either a rock for paper, scissors for scissors, or paper for rock. The winner is determined by rock beating scissors, scissors beating paper, and paper beating rock. The game is usually played in a best-of-three format, with the winner taking the round. While the game is often seen as a fun and easy way to pass the time, it has also been used in more competitive contexts, such as decision-making situations and professional tournaments.
The researchers observed players from Japan, the United States, and China playing rock-paper-scissors. They found that the players from each culture displayed distinct and characteristic strategies, suggesting that cultural values are deeply embedded in the way people approach the game.
Japanese players, for instance, were more likely to play rock on their first move, potentially reflecting the value placed on stability and consistency in Japanese culture. American players, on the other hand, were less predictable in their first move, potentially reflecting the value placed on innovation and creativity in American culture. Chinese players showed a preference for scissors in their first move, potentially reflecting the importance of balance and symmetry in Chinese culture.
Interestingly, the researchers found that these cultural differences in strategy were stable even when players were incentivized to win. This suggests that the strategies are not just a result of players trying to win, but are deeply ingrained in their cultural norms and values.
The study also found that players from the same culture tended to imitate each other’s moves, leading to more predictable outcomes in subsequent rounds. This phenomenon, known as “cultural conformity,” is seen in many other areas of human behavior and suggests that culture play a powerful role in shaping the way individuals approach a given situation.
This study demonstrates the importance of considering cultural factors when studying human behavior. It also highlights the role of culture in influencing even seemingly trivial games like rock-paper-scissors. As the researchers suggest, cultural norms and values can shape the strategies we employ in many different situations, leading to vastly different outcomes in various contexts.