Rock Paper Scissors

by | Sep 26, 2017

Is rock paper scissors a good way to settle disputes? A study a few years ago published in the Journal of Economics concludes that it is for non-important disputes. What the study found was:

1. People tend to be biased when playing rock paper scissors. In other words, you enter the game with a preconceived preference for the rock, paper or scissors. For instance, males have a tendency to throw a rock on their first throw. Paper is used the least of the three.
2. But, as people have a higher incentive to win, they are more likely to throw their biases out the window and concentrate on winning.
3. As the incentive to win increases, the results of rock paper scissors becomes close to, and then identical to, the results of a coin flip.

Thus, the conclusion of the economist in the study was that (1) where little is at stake in a game of rock paper scissors (e.g. who gets to ride shotgun), the person who cares more about winning is slightly more likely to win, thus leading to an “efficient” outcome from an economic perspective, and (2) where a lot is at stake in the game (e.g. playing rock paper scissors for the ownership of a car), the results are basically equivalent to a coin flip or chance, and thus is of no particular economic value.

Of course, the above conclusions by the economist are based on the assumption that you are NOT a dope rock paper scissors player. If you want to be better at the game, here are some strategy tips on winning from champion rock paper scissors players:


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