Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) is a classic childhood game that involves two players who simultaneously make a hand gesture representing either rock (a closed fist), paper (an open hand), or scissors (a hand with the index and middle fingers extended and separated). The game typically ends in a tie when both players make the same gesture, and it is won when one gesture beats the other (rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock).
While RPS may seem like a simple game of chance, psychologists have been fascinated by it for decades because it provides a unique window into the human mind. In fact, some researchers have even nicknamed RPS the “Rosetta Stone” of psychology because of its ability to reveal underlying psychological processes within its patterns of play.
One psychologist who has extensively studied RPS is Dr. Thomas Wehrle from the University of Zürich in Switzerland. Dr. Wehrle analyzed over 9,000 RPS games played online and found some fascinating statistics about the game. For example, he found that players were more likely to repeat the same gesture in the next round after a win (known as the “win-stay” strategy) and were more likely to switch to a different gesture after a loss (known as the “lose-shift” strategy).
These strategies make sense when you consider how humans respond to feedback. When we win, we want to repeat the same behavior that led to that success, and when we lose, we want to change our approach in hopes of doing better the next time. Similarly, Dr. Wehrle found that players were more likely to choose the gesture that would have beaten their opponent’s previous move.
Another interesting finding was that players were less likely to choose paper since it is the gesture that is most easily recognized by the opponent due to its distinctive shape. In fact, Dr. Wehrle’s analysis showed that players chose paper only 29% of the time, while rock and scissors were chosen 36% and 35% of the time, respectively.
These statistics suggest that RPS players are not just randomly guessing, but are instead applying complex strategies based on their opponent’s past behavior and their own emotional responses to wins and losses. This makes RPS a useful tool for psychologists studying decision making, social behavior, and even emotional regulation.
In fact, recent studies have shown that RPS can even predict measures of personality and cognitive ability. For example, one study found that people who scored higher on a test of visual-spatial perception were more likely to choose scissors, while people who scored higher on a test of verbal fluency were more likely to choose rock. Another study found that people who scored high on measures of extraversion and agreeableness were more likely to choose the socially expected gesture of paper.
Overall, RPS may be a simple game, but it provides a rich source of data that can help us better understand how the human mind works. Whether we’re examining the statistics behind RPS play or using the game as a tool to predict personality traits, RPS remains a fascinating and valuable resource for psychologists and anyone interested in understanding human behavior.