Many thanks for the kind comments about my little bit in Derren Brown’s great show last night.  I have had lots of questions about the purple shirt I was wearing.  It is from here.

Let’s imagine that we are going to play Rock Scissors Paper.  If you don’t know it, this is the classic two person game where each of you put your hands under a table or behind your back, and bring them out as a fist (rock), flat (paper) or with two fingers extended (scissors).  The combination dictates who wins, with Scissors cutting Paper, Rock blunting Scissors and Paper covering Stone.  So, if possible, actually place your hand under the table, imagine that you are going to play, and that this is the first round.  Bring out your hand…which did you choose?  Vote now and let’s see if there is a difference between men and women….


  1. I predict that you will get almost equal numbers of all items.

    Personally, I vary my opening throw based on the person I’m facing.

  2. Sorry Richard but even though I’m a lass, I have read the QI annual so went with the classic opening move.

    1. me tooh! rock is for rookies so all peeps dont do it so choose rock
      and erm…… everypne plays sissors cause its the end of the sentence so do rock! and erm….. o yeah! to know if people are going to play rock they’ll clench their jaw cause its in ur adrenalin when you throw a punch to clench ur jaw, and the official way to play paper is to put your palm of ur hand facing DOWN so if you see the other peeps hand kinda twisting their playing paper. and for scissors you might see the players thumb moving inwards or index or middle coming out. and erm….. it says you could say i know your gonna play paper again! and then they wont play paper, and then say i know u gonna play rock and then they stop playing rock and so on. and then erm… i forget… i could just copy it from the book but im too lazy to get up off the couch, take 3 steps up to the bookshelf and 3 steps back. cause that ruins your coziness of a relaxing couch sit down! I know you dont really care bout the couch but id thought id let you know! 😛

  3. I am a male and I choose paper. Why? I don’t know, maybe because I’m appreciative of all the cultural and scientific advances we’ve had thanks to the invention of paper. Maybe because I have a feeling the other person would choose rock, for some reason. Maybe because it’s the easiest of the three to make with your hand, and I’m lazy. Maybe I just picked one at random. But paper is my choice.

    1. Hey SGC, then I beat you….lol….if I understand the game that is… beat paper you had to have scissors and I had rock….yes?

    2. wait a minute….if the three of us had paper….scissors ….rock…paper beats rock, but scissors beats paper, but rock beats scissors….in this case who wins or what is the point? This is why I never played this game….I can’t make heads or tails of it……uh…heads or tails is a whole norther game sorry….lol….

    3. its best out of 3 and who eva wins 2 or more, well, wins the game, or something…..

  4. If you’ve ever seen Derren Brown play and win every round of this game, then the opening move depends on the pre-amble you give in order to set up your opponent 🙂

  5. Well as the second gal here I’ll tell I went with Rock… this is one game I never really ever played….never really could seem to figure out the fun of it….. and if the instructions weren’t posted I wouldn’t have known what was…

  6. I’m female and I chose paper, although, like Zach I also vary the opening move depending on who I’m playing against.

    1. if you play paper your more thinkable or something…. i just read it out of the QI annual : P

  7. Rock.

    Psychologically, I’d expect that people would disproportionately tend to think of scissors as the most dominant choice, because they are associated with blades and hence weapons. Conversely, paper is likely to be perceived as the most vulnerable choice, because it seems so flimsy. Assuming all that, if any particular option is the best, it’s rock.

    I had a dream about Derren Brown a few months ago. He was to give a lecture in the town hall about quantum physics or something, and I edited his speech – deleting analogies I didn’t like and substituting my own. Which is implausible on so many levels. Actually, I don’t think Derren ever appeared in person; he was more a sort of off-camera presence.

    I can live without Derren Brown in my dreams. What I want is Derren Brown on Australian television. Tragically, however, our networks have kept us starved since approximately 1543. Want! Now!

    1. i choose rock tooh! according to da QI annual it means your more aggressive, but thats just MR. Fry’s opinion

  8. I think I have read or heard that paper is the most common choice, so I went with scissors. However, looking at the results (scissors are winning in both polls as I write), either it’s a fallacy, or everyone else has read the same thing I did!

  9. (Male) Never read anything about strategy of this game (if there’s any), but I went with scissors, which seem to be most popular among both sexes right now.


  10. I read somewhere that most people pick scissors (I think it’s to do with people wanting to make a distinct shape with your hand as you play), so I picked rock.

  11. So … I should use rock if I know I’m playing against a reader of Richard Wiseman’s blog, since they seem to choose scissors. But, if they’re a reader, then they’ll know that scissors is most popular, so they’ll choose rock, so I should choose paper. But they mostly choose scissors, so paper is out. Which means … I don’t know.

    But here’s my question: is the fascination with the game the same thing (psychologically speaking) as the fascination with gambling – say, at roulette, where there is no particular skill involved? Or is it something else, like we all want to be able to do what Derren Brown does?

  12. I once played that with my little cousin. she then formed a pistol with her hand and said “Peng, I beat your stone and won.”

  13. I once heard about a really interesting strategy for psyching out your opponent. Just before you play, say to him, “I’m going to play rock.”

  14. See, that’s why I win most first rounds. With so many people choosing scissors, my mighty rock crushes them time and time again.

  15. Weird! The results are almost exactly the same! (At least as of this comment.)
    The male breakdown: R 30% S 44% P 26%
    The female breakdown: R 29% S 45% P 26%

    How bizarre is that? Especially since it isn’t a clear, even, random split of ~33% each, like you might expect. I wonder why.

  16. How much of this is just selection bias due to scissors being the middle choice? I wonder if the results would be different had he caused the order of the choices to be randomized with each pole?

  17. Any ideas about scissors-rock-paper being a simple game, I lost after seeing the anime Kaiji. It is amazing how they used that game to propel the series, episode after episode, in such a strong way I quit in the end: I couldn’t stand anymore the tension and anxiety in it.

  18. if it was rock paper scissors sledgehammer, ud know what id choose!
    PAPER!!!!!! XD

  19. I always choose rock because that usually means I won’t win. Then again, most of the time I play rock, paper, scissors I am playing against children. When a decision resorts to rock, paper, scissors I tend to loose interest – unless the winner doesn’t have to scoop the litter box, then it turns vicious.

    When I lived in Japan and taught elementary school we used to have massive jan-ken-po (Japanese version of rock, paper, scissors) competitions. I don’t know how they managed it, but even in a group of 60+ kids they would be able to whittle it down to just one kid. Absolutely amazing.

  20. Ow Richypitchy this is a good one!

    So 44% chose scissors, is it good to choose what most people choose?
    44 ties 26 win 30 loose = 92 points (2 points for a win, 1point for a draw)
    chosing rock = 30 + 88 = 118 points
    chosing paper = 26 + 60 = 86 points

    so is it alway best to choose the second most chosen?
    can some mathemagicians help me out?

    Most people choos scissors becaus it is in between rochk and paper I think. When in doubt you choose kind of both (no open no closed hand)

    1. I don’t know the mathematical proof, but we rocks are certainly winners, because we have the highest possibility of winning (more people to defeat) and the lowest of losing (less people to loose to).

  21. It was between scissors and paper for me. I think I wouldn’t choose rock becuase you already start with a clenched fist and it feels natural to move from that to something else to me.

  22. Scissors, for a really strange reason: It involves the most hand-movement. Assuming your hand behind your back is in a fist, making “rock” involves doing nothing, which feels weird. Paper is a simple move, still doesn’t feel like I’ve “done” something. Scissors is a definite move, a change.

    I think it feels more aggressive than the other two, as well. Lumps or flat sheets versus sharp pointy things. See?

  23. Derren Brown explained:

    Try this next time you play. It works about 85% of the time for me. So you ask them to play and then say something like “So we’ll go 1, 2, 3 ok?” And do say scissors when you say 3.
    I don’t quite know why, but when you play them, the person will usually pick the same action for whatever you did when you said 3 – so scissors in this case. You’d pick rock and win.
    For the second go- They’ll often pick what you just beat them with. So Rock in this case. Play paper and win.
    It doesn’t always work third time around but often they’ll pick paper- so you play scissors and beat them 3/3 times.

    It’s a bit sneaky – just don’t be obvious when you’re doing it. And don’t repeat it either. Like I said, It works on the majority of people I’ve done it to.

    Good luck and have fun!

    1. *edit* I meant mime scissors, not say it when you say 3. So yeah just mime it out when you the 3 numbers, ending with the scissor sign on the last one etc

    2. Oh no, you’ve given away the secret 🙂

      As long as you keep moving onto the next round quickly you can build up a winning streak, as your opponent will keep mimicking your previous winning selection 🙂

  24. Both boys and girls seemed to choose scissors. Seems it has to do with it being the middle choice. I remember reading that one of the ways our minds tend to work is having a slight preference for choosing the middle ground when given one. I think it was Gary Marcus’ Kluge (

  25. I chose a Minuteman III. Figured with the 8,000+ mile range and three MIRVs, it’s a cinch to win. Plus you can get ’em dirt cheap on ebay.

    Is that wrong?

  26. I noticed Richard and most people are calling the game Rock Scissors Paper, but here in Australia I’ve only ever heard it called Scissors Paper Rock. Do you think the order of words is a cultural difference or a personal one?

    Oh, and I’m a scissors person.

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  28. What happens if you do it again, but put a random generator in the website so that the three options are not always in the order “Rock, Scissors, Paper”? I think most people are choosing the second option, which, I have heard it said, we are programmed to do.

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