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Short memory can be good strategy

Predicting opponents’ moves based on long history can be disadvantage, analysis finds

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5:25pm, September 14, 2015
rock-paper-scissors game

OPTIMAL MEMORY  Strategizing based on results from the distant past can be detrimental in competitions like rock-paper-scissors, a game theory study suggests.

In some competitive situations, it pays to have a short memory. 

Banking on recent trends can be a winning strategy when everyone else is stuck in the past, a study to appear in Physical Review E demonstrates. Researchers used game theory to determine how to maximize the payout in a basic game and found that there’s a limit to the effectiveness of relying on prior results to predict other competitors’ behavior. When players look too far into the past, or when too many competitors rely on old data, shorter-term thinkers can swoop in and profit. “It’s really nice work,” says Damien Challet, an econophysicist at École Centrale Paris in Châtenay-Malabry, France.

Because the game studied is so simple, the results don’t neatly apply to most real-world competitive encounters. But the idea that there’s a threshold beyond which relying on the past becomes counterproductive

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