I learned something very interesting a few weeks ago. In football -- and in other sports, as well -- a coin toss is often used to break a tie, or make a decision about a tie-breaker. But how random is a coin toss? Researchers at the University of British Columbia have published a new study that proves coin tosses are not random at all, and the outcome of a toin coss can actually be manipulated. In their study, 13 ear, nose and throat residents were each asked to toss a coin 300 times and they were told that the two who achieved the highest percentages of "heads" would get free coffee vouchers. The participants were instructed in proper coin tossing technique, and the results were observed and recorded to prevent cheating. The result was heads came up 57 per cent more than tails. The winner of the coin toss achieved a 68 percent average.
"This study shows that when participants are given simple instructions about how to manipulate the toss of a coin and only a few minutes to practise this technique, more than half can significantly manipulate the outcome," the researchers wrote.
That begs the question: Should coin-tosses be used as tie-breakers in sports? What about other forms of gambling -- how random is it? When I watched the football game between Iowa and Ohio, where the coin toss was used to make a tie-breaking decision when the two teams were tied, and Iowa lost the coin toss, I thought, "It's all over for Iowa". Somehow it didn't seem fair to make a decision based on a coin toss. Now it seems even more unfair, knowing a coin toss can be manipulated.
When we were kids, Billy McLeod and I always used to toss a coin for my Crispy Crunch choclate bars, and he always -- always -- won. Hmmmm....
So, the next time someone says, "Let's toss a coin for it..." think twice. They just may have the edge.