Black Swan Gratification

Psychologists say that random rewards are more addictive than steady, predictable rewards. But I believe this only applies to relatively frequent feedback. If rewards are too infrequent, there’s no emotional connection between behavior and reward. The connection becomes more intellectual and less visceral as feedback becomes less frequent and less predictable.

Nassim Taleb distinguishes between delayed gratification and random gratification in his foreword to the book Safe Haven by Mark Spitznagel.

There are activities with remote payoff and no feedback that are ignored by the common crowd. … So what this idea is about isn’t delayed gratification but the ability to operate without gratification — or rather, with random gratification.

Choosing a course of action that is certain to pay off a year from now is opting for delayed gratification. Choosing something that is likely to pay off eventually, maybe two years from now, or maybe next week, is opting for random gratification.

Random rewards encourage an addictive response to frequent feedback, and discourage a rational response to infrequent feedback.

The solution is to act on principle, rather than respond like the rats in the psychological studies alluded to above.