Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody

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Overview

A practical guide to outguessing everything from multiple-choice tests to the office football pool to the stock market.

People are predictable even when they try not to be. William Poundstone demonstrates how to turn this fact to personal advantage in scores of everyday situations, from playing the lottery to buying a home. ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS is mind-reading for real life.

Will the next tennis serve go right or left? Will the market go up or ...

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Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody

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Overview

A practical guide to outguessing everything from multiple-choice tests to the office football pool to the stock market.

People are predictable even when they try not to be. William Poundstone demonstrates how to turn this fact to personal advantage in scores of everyday situations, from playing the lottery to buying a home. ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS is mind-reading for real life.

Will the next tennis serve go right or left? Will the market go up or down? Most people are poor at that kind of predicting. We are hard-wired to make bum bets on "trends" and "winning streaks" that are illusions. Yet ultimately we're all in the business of anticipating the actions of others. Poundstone reveals how to overcome the errors and improve the accuracy of your own outguessing. ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS is a hands-on guide to turning life's odds in your favor.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/14/2014
In this intriguing and immensely useful volume, Poundstone (Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?) examines how to outguess and outwit others in order to more accurately guess the outcomes of a variety of situations. In the first half of the tome, Poundstone examines those kinds of scenarios that are seemingly ruled by randomness—winning the lottery, guessing computer passwords, outwitting Ponzi schemes , and even besting other players in the childhood playground game from which this tome takes its name. But, he cautions, what seems to be random may be anything but. Quoting the mid-20th-century philosopher Hans Reichenbach, Poundstone notes that “‘persons not acquainted with mathematics... are astonished at the clustering that occurs’ in a true random sequence.” In the book’s second half, the author explores the idea of the “hot hand” theory, which posits that winning streaks are predictable. In that context, he explores such things as how to get the better of office football pools and how to outguess the stock market while offering educated strategies for coming out the victor in these situations. For anyone wanting to turn most of life’s odds in their favor, this is a solid, enjoyable read. (June)
From the Publisher
"An ingenious guide to outsmarting others by predicting their choices when they are trying to be unpredictable." — Kirkus (Starred Review)

"Of all of the books I've received for The Post, none has received as much over-the-shoulder reads than ROCK BREAKS SCISSORS."
Susannah Callahan, The New York Post

Praise for Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?

"Poundstone displays his scientific knowledge, mathematical fluency, and knack for explaining the arcane in playfully precise sentences."—Bloomberg Businessweek

"A smart, engagingly written account of how to capitalize on other peoples' predictability . . . clearly explained and easily accessible to the general reader. An enlightening book."—Booklist

"Delightful, fun, and worth a read."—Seth Godin

"Incredibly gratifying....There's an art to these invasive questions, as Poundstone reveals in this neat little manifesto."—New Scientist

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-03-16
An ingenious guide to outsmarting others by predicting their choices when they are trying to be unpredictable. Being predictable is difficult, writes business and science writer Poundstone (Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?, 2012, etc.). When taking tests in which they are asked to write a series of random numbers, almost everyone avoids repeats such as 4444, but true randomness requires them. The authors of these tests fall into this trap, so if a correct answer in a true-false test is true, the following is more likely to be false and vice versa. If doubt remains, guess true, since 56 percent of true-false answers are true. Test authors must invent many wrong answers for every right one, and it's tempting to use shortcuts. The easiest is to insert "never," "always," "all" or "none," into a reasonable statement. Never choose these. On the other hand, if one answer is "all of the above" or "none of the above," the test author must carefully write the other answers around them, so why waste all that work? These are correct an astonishing 52 percent of the time. Many genuine insights on gambling, betting pools and the stock market have limited appeal, but the string of surprises continues. Thus, hot streaks (consecutive wins in any sport and other examples) occur as often as they do in roulette. In other words, they're purely random. "All of this book's applications are founded on one simple idea," writes the author. "When people make arbitrary, random, or strategic choices, they fall into unconscious patterns that you can predict." Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers (2008) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan (2007) fascinated readers with evidence that reality regularly contradicts common sense. Poundstone delivers modestly useful advice for taking advantage of this, but mostly his book is another delightful addition to the everything-you-thought-you-knew-is-wrong genre.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316228060
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 193,201
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Poundstone is the author of thirteen previous books, including Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?, How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, and Fortune's Formula. He has written for the New York Times, Harper's, Harvard Business Review, and the Village Voice, among other publications, and is a frequent guest on TV and radio. He lives in Los Angeles. Follow Poundstone on Twitter (@WPoundstone) and learn more at his website, home.williampoundstone.net.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014

    This is a whole book about the idea that no one can act randomly

    This is a whole book about the idea that no one can act randomly. Though it sounds crazy, the book shows how this is important in many walks of life. A quick read, surprising throughout and eye-opening.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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