Originally posted by Paul Leggett
This leads to my not-so-rhetorical question- why do we play?
There's a behavioral modification study done with rats in which the rat is taught that by pressing a pedal in its cage, it can cause a food pellet to slide down a chute. The researchers found that the surest way to inspire a rat to compulsively keep pressing the pedal was to introduce a randomness into whether the food pellet actually came down the chute. If the pellet always came down the chute, the rat would eventually stop striking the pedal until it got hungry again. If no pellet came down, the rat would give up on striking the pedal. But if sometimes a pellet came down and sometimes it did not, the rat compulsively kept striking the pedal even in circumstances where it didn't actually want to eat the food pellet.
I think why we play, at least those of us who have acquired a moderate or greater compulsion, is not
to win the games, ironically, but for the sheer joy of finding a particularly good position, such as forced mate in three, for example. I far more enjoy discovering
a mate in three than I do actually winning the same game. The anticipation of victory is far more delicious than the victory itself; knowing that there is no escape for my opponent and he may not even know it yet. I think it is for these 'pellets' of delight that we keep coming back to it. And the randomness of finding them is what seals the deal. With the start of every game, a wee voice inside whispers: Perhaps in this one, I'll be brilliant.
I don't mean to suggest that chess players are rats, of course, only that there are parallels between the two species that inform the creation of compulsive behavior.
Enjoy the pellets,