Quadratic indices are a general approach for the joint management of genetic gain and inbreeding in artificial selection programmes. They provide the optimal contributions that selection candidates should have to obtain the maximum gain when the rate of inbreeding is constrained to a predefined value. This study shows that, when using quadratic indices, the selective advantage is a function of the Mendelian sampling terms. That is, at all times, contributions of selected candidates are allocated according to the best available information about their Mendelian sampling terms (i.e. about their superiority over their parental average) and not on their breeding values. By contrast, under standard truncation selection, both estimated breeding values and Mendelian sampling terms play a major role in determining contributions. A measure of the effectiveness of using genetic variation to achieve genetic gain is presented and benchmark values of 0.92 for quadratic optimisation and 0.5 for truncation selection are found for a rate of inbreeding of 0.01 and a heritability of 0.25.