Recursive Adversarial Reasoning in the Rock, Paper, Scissors Game

AbstractIn this study, we investigate people’s ability to predict and adapt to the behavior of others in order to make plans of their own, a cornerstone of cooperative and competitive behavior. Participants played 300 rounds of rock, paper, scissors against another human player. We investigate the degree to which participants are able to identify patterns in their opponent's behavior in order to exploit them in subsequent rounds. We find strong evidence that participants exploit their opponents over the course of 300 rounds, suggesting that people identify dependencies in their opponent's move choices during the game. Nonetheless, analysis of dependencies across participant move choices reveals that people exhibit a number of regularities in their own moves. Based on these dependencies, we argue that participants are far from optimal in their exploiting, suggesting that there are substantial constraints on people's ability to identify and adapt to patterned opponent behavior across repeated interactions.

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